June 2005 CJA Network Newsletter Feature Interview II
Band Leader/Arranger for The 911 Mambo Orchestra
was the main factor in you being attracted to a "Big
After I got fired from my own
band. I saw the movie “The Mambo Kings”, and thought to
myself I could put together a band that could be better
than anything I have done before.
Mambo Orchestra is known for its high energy and very
dynamic "live" performances. Where does all the energy
It primarily comes from
the 13 brass players. Then you ad the Afro- Cuban
polyrhythms and you may come out with an explosive
read somewhere that a local Mission in Chicago helped
you get pointed in the right direction enabling you to
focus on music instead of gangs. Share with us how that
Angel: When I was 12, I saw my cousin playing in
a band that was part of the Puerto Rican Congress of
Mutual Aid. Then when I was 14, I was hanging out with
my regular friends (gang bangers) and decided that I
could either be on stage playing in a band or getting
shot at with my “friends”.
you find a connection between music and spirituality?
What are your thoughts concerning this?
Angel: Music makes me feel happy. It’s my life. I
thank God that music is a part of me and that I can make
people happy with it.
is momentum building all over the world for Christian
jazz artists who love jazz to celebrate their musical
gifts by playing more jazz at churches (even in Sunday
morning worship!) and at special jazz concerts sponsored
by churches, etc. Have you and your band had
opportunities to play at churches? If so share with us
Angel: I personally have played with several
Christian Salsa Bands. As my own band, we have played at
several fundraiser events for Christian schools and
organizations. We have done events with Baptist churches
and catholic organizations as well. There is a deep and
special combination of joy and thankfulness I get when
playing at Christian events. When I can express myself
through my music and thanking God at the same time…. It
is a special kind of fulfillment at that moment.
takes courage to stick to the more traditional
Afro-Cuban music when most Latin music has gone in an
entirely different direction. What is it about the
Mambo, rumba, cha-cha-cha, merengue, and salsa music
that you love it so much?
Angel: Is the music I grew up listening to. In
the 60s we had Mambo, Cha Chas & trios. In the 70s Salsa
are some of your main musical influences? What other
types of jazz do you listen to?
Angel: I really admire Tito Puente, Tito
Rodriguez, Machito, Ruben Blades, Eddie Palmieri &
Willie Colon. Jazz trombonists such as Carl Fontana,
Frank Rosolino, JJ Johnson, Jimmy Cleveland, Steve Turre,
Robin Eubanks and many others. Some other
instrumentalists include John Coltrane, Dizzy
Gillespie, Miles Davis, Jaco Pastorious, Chick Corea,
does the arranging and charts for your Big Band?
Angel: I do it all myself. It is a long process,
but when the product comes out… it’s priceless.
teach music at a local college in the Chicago area...do
you teach jazz, arranging, or what?
Angel: I teach High School Band at an inner city
Chicago Public School. I also direct a High School Jazz
Band. I teach students from scratch…. It includes
playing, reading music & music appreciation.
know many would love to hear your Big Band do some
Afro-Cuban jazzed up arrangements of church hymns! Have
you done any arrangements like this or are there any
plans to do so and record them as well?
Angel: We did Havah Nagilah as a Merengue and it
has turned out to be a great success. We are currently
thinking of including another religious type song on the
next album. Any ideas would be well received.
Angel, I hope I get a chance to hear your Big Band in
person in the near future... maybe I can schedule a
Christian Jazz Artists Network concert in Chicago and
get your group to participate!
Angel: We would love to participate. Get a hold
of my agent Andres and lets go with it!
really love your CD and can easily see why it was
nominated for a Grammy Award (audio
samples here) The high level of musicianship,
precision, and overall Afro-Cuban feel was brilliantly
captured. You used all local musicians from the Chicago
area for your Big Band...who makes up your rhythm
Angel: On the album Norman Mason was on Piano,
Jose Porcayo on Bass, Danny Feliciano on Congas, Herbert
Perez on Bongos, George Gonzalez & Javier Gonzalez on
piano player is an expert with montunos...has he played
on other CD's?
Angel: He recorded on our first EP called “A
Taste of Salsa”, and some other local projects.
is your vision for the future of your Big Band?
Angel: Keep recording, Keep writing & keep making
More information on
& The 911 Mambo Orchestra can be found here: