As part of the annual summer Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors festival, Sanabria and his 20-piece orchestra assembled on the Damrosch Park Bandshell to reinterpret West Side Story live. This would be an ambitious project. The original 1957 Broadway musical and its subsequent 1961 film version, inspired by William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet, uniquely fused big band jazz, Latin rhythms, lyric opera, modern dance, and a controversial storyline about racial tensions and gang life in 1950s New York City. Perhaps accepting that no new take could ever parallel the original production, Sanabria's adventurous interpretation was not meant to replace the original, but rather to see where modern Latin jazz arrangements and extended instrumental breaks could expand on the jazz explorations of the memorable score. The concert in large part was aided not by a script, vocals, choreography and drama, but by a slide show featuring both vintage and modern photographs of the Puerto Rican immigrant experience, with the visual aids progressively guiding and stimulating new sensations. Sanabria's horns-and-percussion teamwork often recalled the familiar, while other movements seemed to have little correlation. The result was a lively, upbeat concert that was rich in innovation and celebrated the historical creativity of Puerto Rican salsa and Afro-Cuban jazz. Sanabria and company did a splendid job with this escapade, but it inherently begged for the vocals and dancing of the classic West Side Story.
Visit Bobby Sanabria at www.bobbysanabria.com.