Sunday 8th July 2012
£20.00 - £28.50
‘Omar Puente’s contribution to 20th and 21st century violin playing has now become legendary. His generous nature, his commitment to good music, his enjoyment of life and his respect for his colleagues are all characteristics which make him a true violin great’ – Nigel Kennedy
Superlative Cuban jazz violinist, Puente has worked with the likes of Courtney Pine and Denys Baptiste and appears here with his own hard-driving, rhythmically lithe band. Born in Santiago de Cuba, Puente learned his love of violin from his father. As a student at Santiago’s finest music school, Omar studied classical music under world-renowned professors.
At night he would hide in Santiago’s dark, smokey passages to listen to - and be inspired by - legendary trovadores Compay Segundo and Eliades Ochoa in a bid to explore his Cuban heritage.
It this unique fusion of classical technique and Cuban rhythms that makes Puente’s music so bewitching and he appears here with a superb band featuring long-time collaborator Mitchell on piano.
Omar Puente will be undertaking his first ever UK tour as a band leader with his band to promote his critically acclaimed new CD ‘Best Foot Forward’. This, his second album, was released in September 2016 on OP Records.
Omar writes: Welcome to my second album ‘Best Foot Forward’. I have dedicated this album to my wife Debbie (1963 - 2014) who supported me throughout my career. Without her I would not be here today. The music on this album is the result of my twenty years living in the UK and touring internationally. Listen carefully and you will hear a fusion of rhythms from Cuba, Brazil, Africa, Caribbean, Jazz, modern UK sound and further afield. My vision is to place the Cuban violin centre stage in this music. Enjoy!"
Born in Santiago de Cuba, Omar learned his love of violin from his father. As a student at Estaban Salas, Santiago’s finest music school, Omar studied classical music under world renowned professors. At night he would stand outside La Casa De La Trova or hide in the dark, smokey passages to be inspired by legendary trovadores, Compay Segundo and Eliades Ochoa, to explore his Cuban heritage.
At the age of 12 Omar left his family to travel alone to Havana and take up his place at Escuela Nacional de Arte.. The next six years were spent studying classical music by day under Russian and Cuban masters, and Cuban music by night in Havana’s famous music Hall’s.
Omar completed his formal education at Instituto Superior de Arte (Cuba’s university for the performing arts.) His education there was furthered by fellow students such as Gonzalito Rubalcaba, Oriente Lopez and Giraldo Piloto as much by workshops hosted by visiting tutors like Paquito d’Rivera. He still spent his nights hungrily consuming every note played by others. He learned classical music from Russian teachers like Guennadi Dmitriak and Aral Baiciakalov, Latin Jazz at the feet of Chu Cho Valdez and Arturo Sandoval and Cuban music from Ruben Gonzales and Guillermo Rubalcaba. Havana was in it’s Heyday and Omar was in his element.
After graduating, Omar joined the Jose Maria Vitier band and toured Cuba, Mexico, and finished up at the New York jazz festival. After a period as soloist with Agrupacion de Concierto he joined the Nacional Symphony Orquestra de Cuba (NSOC) where he progressed to first chair., during this time he continued to play with other bands and made an operatic tour of Italy, played at Club Tropicana, made tours of Europe with Ruben Gonzales and Latin America with Guillermo Rubalcaba. He also began to develop a recording career, working with the likes of Orquestra Reve, Charanga Habanera, Pabalo Milanes, Leo Brauer and Silvio Rodrigues.
Omar left the NSOC to become a full time member of the Cuban Boy’s, They spent the next few years travelling the world, playing modern Cuban music in venues as diverse as the Montreaux jazz festival and the Hard Rock Café (Manila). They extended their popularity by playing oppersite such names as Whitney Houston, MC Hammer, and Tony Bennett.
In Singapore in 1995, Omar met his future wife and when she returned to the UK in 1997 for medical reasons, he came too. They married in 1998 and settled in Yorkshire. Since arriving in England Omar has maintained an international profile when possible playing all over Europe, the USA and Africa. In England he has supported Tito Puente, Ibraham Ferrer and Omara Portundo, he has played with John Williams, Kirsty MacColl, Jools Holland and Eddie Palmieri as well as being invited to jam with many visiting latin artists like Ruben Gonzales and the Afro Cuban Allstars.
Omar was recently involved in Denys Baptistes international tour ‘let Freedom Ring’, based on a brilliant composition commissioned to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther Kings inspirational ‘I Have A Dream’ speech.
He is currently playing with Courtney Pine and has recently released a CD with Robert Mitchel. In 2006 Omar and Robert were involved In developing a project ‘nuance’ with members of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Omar worked with Dennis Rollins on a commissioned work for ensemble 360 culminating in a well-received performance at Doncaster Minster in February 2006. He is also involved in the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra; a project dedicated to making classical music more widely accessible to both audiences and musicians.
It has been his arrival in the UK and opportunity to play and work with artists mentioned as well as Rod Youngs, Jason Yarde, Cameron Pierre and Byron Wallen the list goes on and on, that has allowed him develop his own sound. Drawing together elements of jazz, classical and cuban music.
Omar has appeared on the BBC and several ITV channels, various radio shows as well as venues the length and breadth of Britain. From Aberdeen to the Isle of Wight, Newcastle to the Eden Project Belfast to Cork including; Ronnie Scott’s, The Jazz Café, QEH, the Royal Albert Hall and the Royal Festival Hall.
Omar teaches Jazz violin at the Leeds Collage of Music, Cuban music at various places including LCM, and Trinity collage in London. He continues to teach in Havana, and maintains a close relationship with the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. He also supports ‘attitude is everything’ (a campaign to encourage arts venues to become accessible to disabled artists and patrons).
Tell us what you think of Omar Puente Cuban Jazz Quintet plus special guest Caroline Loftus below..