Nashville Jazz Orchestra and Dance Theatre of Tennessee are set to salsa

njo2Percussionist Lalo Davila had the joint jumping at last season’s Nashville Jazz Orchestra Latin concert. A whirling, twirling improvisational dervish, Davila let out a festive howl before launching into a rollicking rendition of “Bemba Colora.” Within seconds, members of the audience stood and, seemingly involuntarily, began to dance.

Jim Williamson, NJO’s artistic director, expects to see people dancing in the aisles again this Friday, when his ensemble presents its annual Latin jazz concert at the Blair School of Music’s Ingram Hall. But this time, there will also be dancing on the stage.

That’s because NJO is partnering this season with Dance Theatre of Tennessee. The troupe, which just completed its first annual Ballet in the Park series, will dance to such familiar tunes as “Begin the Beguine” and “Ran Kan Kan.” Choreographers Christopher Mohnani, Ron De Jesus and Brian Williamson have created more than a half dozen dances, including duets and large ensemble pieces. The entire company of 22 dancers will be onstage for some songs.

“The dancers and musicians are all going to be onstage together,” says Williamson. “That’s going to create a lot of energy.”

laloSpeaking of vitality, Davila will be back with his timbales, cow bells and cymbal, all of which he plays with feverish intensity and unmitigated joy. The director of percussion studies at Middle Tennessee State University, Davila comes across in concert as a kind of one-man percussion band, using a variety of stick strokes, rim shots and finger rolls to produce performances of unexpected color.

NJO often features a guest vocalist at its concerts. This Friday, Dalia Garcia will join the ensemble. Garcia performed with Julio Iglesias for 8 years, joining the superstar nightly in the duet “All of You.” She now tours as part of the acoustic duo Garcia and Scott, performing a fusion of rock, pop, country and Latin.

“Dalia was with us the first year we performed at Blair,” says Williamson. “We are thrilled to have her back, because she is a great singer and because she creates so much excitement onstage.”

If you go

Nashville Jazz Orchestra and Dance Theatre of Tennessee present a night of Latin jazz. Percussionist Lalo Davila and vocalist Dalia Garcia will join in the performance. The concert is 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5 at Ingram Hall, 2400 Blakemore Ave. Tickets are $20 adult, $15 seniors, Vanderbilt faculty and staff, and $10 students with ID, and free for Vanderbilt students with ID. Tickets are available at the door.

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About John Pitcher

John Pitcher is the chief classical music, jazz and dance critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He has been a classical music critic for the Washington Post, the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, National Public Radio’s Performance Today (NPR), and the Nashville Scene. His writings about music and the arts have also appeared in Symphony Magazine, American Record Guide and Stagebill Magazine, among other publications. Pitcher earned his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied arts writing with Judith Crist and Phyllis Garland. His work has received the New York State Associated Press award for outstanding classical music criticism.