Music Review: El Movimiento, bringing Latin jazz to the people

ElMovimiento“Those are the rules – No cell phones. Please dance. That’s all.”

It was the only introduction needed for Nashville’s only Latin jazz band, El Movimiento.  Taking the Nashville Jazz Workshop stage Saturday night to a full house, it was clear that no one would be on their cell phone during this performance anyway.  Founding members Giovanni Rodriguez and Imer Santiago (third founding member Rahsaan Barber was out of town) introduced the first piece, “Crossroads,” amid shouts and whistles.

With Santiago on trumpet and Rodriguez on percussion, the band was filled out with James DaSilva on guitar, Paul Horton on piano, John Estes on bass, Wendell Henry on drumset, and filling in for Barber was Court Martin, a gem of a saxophonist who has apparently been hiding in a middle school band room in Columbia, Tennessee.  Martin had big shoes to fill, but his smooth, melodic solos were a perfect complement, and his precision in execution was everything one expects from the members of El Movimiento.

The standout piece in the first set was definitively the Barber originial, “La Mordida,” a sensual, ballad tango that featured DaSilva’s best solo of the night. The slower pace allowed him to truly focus on his excellent melodic ideas and develop them fully. The second set began with what seems to be El Movimiento’s theme song, the crowd-pleasing “Clave Fanfare.” However, this was an abbreviated version that led straight into a newer piece, “Reminiscence,” from Santiago’s recently released solo album.  This relaxed piece grew in intensity with each solo, culminating in impressive and energetic percussion and drum solos from Rodriguez and Henry.

Now, I must confess that I have been a fan of El Movimiento for several years. I used to attend their weekly performances at the Frothy Monkey in 2008-2009 when the band had just formed. They were amazing performers back then, but the El Movimiento that played on Saturday was a more polished, more mature El Movimiento.  It’s clear that they have come into their own stylistically and compositionally.  They know exactly who they are and what they are trying to do: bring Latin jazz into focus in the Nashville jazz community. And, from the looks of things Saturday night, they are most definitely succeeding.

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About Lindsay George

Lindsay George is a native Nashvillian and is an avid supporter of the Nashville arts community. She has two Bachelor's degrees from Belmont University in Music and Public Relations. A musician and songwriter, George has released three albums and has had songs featured in several TV shows including “The Finder” and “Californication.” She is also an active member of Historic Nashville, Inc., and is an advocate for historic preservation and restoration. George reviews jazz and pop music, design, architecture and fashion.


  1. Scott says:

    What planet is Lindsay George on? It appears she is on planet ElMo! And that is a good place to be! This was a superb night of music regardless of genre and Lindsay has nailed the review. This was an inspiring performance by Elmo, which was evidenced by my son’s mid-show comment “NOW I know why you wanted us to see this!:” My son plays trumpet. His brother plays saxophone. They had a spirited horn debate all the way home! It is certain Rahsaan Barber was missed, but Court Martin is just simply fabulous. Every performer was awesome as a whole and in their highlight solos. However, John Estes had one highlight solo on bass, and it was awesome! Dear Nashville, if you are truly The Music City, you can’t honestly claim that title without supporting your Jazz community. And it is better than good!

  2. It was a fantastic show! Nice review, Lindsay!

    Quick correction – The saxophonist’s name is Cord Martin. He’s turning into one of my very favorite players and I really hope to see him stepping out into his own leader role soon.