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At an early age conga player Gumbi (pronounced "Goombi") Ortiz was immersed in the musical traditions of his Afro-Cuban heritage. His Cuban mother and Puerto Rican father immigrated to America in the 1950s; here he was exposed to the ritual drumming of the Santeria ceremonies in his parent's Bronx “Nuyorica” apartment. He learned conga from his cousins and, by age 11, had started playing with Latin bands. Soon he was playing with all of the great Latin bands, from Tito Puente to Charlie Palmieri, who performed in and around New York City. When his family moved to Florida, he found a place in the many Cuban groups there. In the late 1980s he joined guitarist Al DiMeola and has since toured regularly him. In the late '90s Ortiz created the Latino Projekt, a way of blending his love for Cuban street music with his love for the new Cuban music known as timba. Of the group, Ortiz said that at first "it was just some guys in my garage who wanted to learn to play Cuban music. They were my friends, just kids. They wanted to learn to put this Cuban vibe into their own bands." Ortiz's first solo album, Miami, was released in 2006 and reflects his Puerto Rican/Cuban heritage and a lifetime of eclectic musical influences and experiences--from jazz/fusion, pop and funk to retro-soul, samba, and even a hint of Irish jig.
Wednesday, August 31, 7:00 p.m., Pasant Theatre, Wharton Center for Performing Arts: MSU Professors of Jazz; tickets: $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, free for students at the Wharton Center Box Office: whartoncenter.com
Tuesday, September 27, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m., RCAH Theatre, Snyder Hall