Papa Mambo, the band that I formed and have led for almost 22 years now, recently did a concert series with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. It was a first for Papa Mambo, and also for the WSO. The orchestra has played with different types of bands in the past, including a Latin jazz quintet from NYC called the Mambo Kings, but never with a full fledged salsa band such as Papa Mambo.
The musicians from both ensembles knew each other quite well, being from the same city and having shared the stage in several occasions before. The atmosphere at the single scheduled rehearsal was very joyous and relaxed. Richard Lee was the conductor for the series and was an excellent choice for this great event. We put together a program of well known Latin standards plus a few originals arranged by Horacio Gonzalez, Jeff Presslaff and myself. It was a first for me, arranging for such a large ensemble: 60 plus musicians from the symphony orchestra with 11 of Papa Mambo was both a challenge and a delight. (Now I feel that I’m ready to write my first symphony! LOL!)
The three concerts were played in front of a full house for both nights plus the matinee on Sunday. The audience expressed their delight on all occasions, and everyone onstage had a blast! In fact, it was what I would call a “love-fest” such was the smiles on all of us musicians that we were “flying” for weeks after the event. The very next day my wife and I got into our car and drove a couple thousand miles south of Winnipeg to Miami to then hop on a boat that took us to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where we spend a beautiful 6 weeks under the tropical sun – but that’s a story for the next blog.
After writing for such a huge ensemble, Rodrigo “Papa Mambo” Muñoz enjoys playing with a slightly smaller one: Trio Bembe.