Maracas in the rain, now that is something beautiful.
If, as one has to believe, there are scant opportunities in a lifetime to experience world-class maraca playing in a thunderstorm, one of them came Saturday night on a mountainside outside of Park City, the pelting rain and the dancing seeds of the instrument moving apace to accompany legendary Cuban trumpet virtuoso Arturo Sandoval.
Backed by the Utah Symphony as part of the 10th annual Deer Valley Music Festival, the 63-year-old Sandoval was electric, ranging through his personal compositions to fiery renditions of Dizzy Gillespie tunes. Near the end of the show was a tour de force take on Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia,” with full orchestra backing. It was where the two artists most directly converged, however, that the night took its sweetest, sincerest tune.
After an impromptu, rain-fueled intermission had shut the show down for half an hour, and roiling gray clouds gave way to tangerine skies, Sandoval performed a song he wrote for his mentor, Gillespie.
Titled “Every Day I Think of You,” the song is the title track of Sandoval’s latest album, one that earned him three Grammy Awards, including Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album in February. He said he became the first Hispanic performer to win in the Jazz category, and joked, “I’ve been trying for 52 years.”
“Every Day I Think of You” is a love song, but not in the traditional sense. And, for his mentor, Sandoval didn’t pay honor by showing what he could do on the trumpet, their shared muse, but by turning to his weaker instrument: his voice. Sandoval has never shied from vocals, and for much of the evening amused by letting his voice play the part of the trumpet, and the stand-up bass, and the drums. But to sing a song for Gillespie signaled sweet deference. A bow to his trumpet master.
As everything else in our moving world, music is going younger. But as Sandoval’s performance reminded us, we should hold onto the classics. Not for the sake of the past, but in pursuit of the timeless ideal of boundless creativity. Of ageless art.