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Latin jazz to rock Hamilton stage

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Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band

Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band kicks off the  2012-13 Bitterroot Performing Arts Series season with a concert at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 6.

HAMILTON – The Bitterroot Performing Arts Series will kick off its 2012-13 season with a concert on Saturday, Oct. 6, by the Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band, an eight-piece ensemble that’s long on percussion and brass, and pulsating with energy that will rock the Performing Arts Center at Hamilton High School.

The Los Angeles-born Sanchez is recognized as one of the premier conga players in the world. “At any given show, on any given record, fragments of Latin jazz, swing, bebop, salsa and other infectious grooves collide and churn in a fiery swirl, with results that are no less than dazzling,” his website promises.

“To me, Latin jazz is the world’s greatest music,” says Sanchez. “It has the melodic and harmonic sophistication of jazz and American standards, and the flavor and energy of Latin American music. What I’m most proud of is that this music – while it may sound exotic at times – is from America. It was born in New York City, when Chano Pozo met Dizzy Gillespie for the first time in the mid-1940s. They created something that didn’t exist before in this country. I’m very proud to take this music all over the world all the time.”

Until the Poncho Sanchez concert, season tickets will remain on sale for the six shows that the Bitterroot Performing Arts Council will produce between now and April of next year.

The series, in its ninth year, will present a variety of world-class performances, to “enlighten, inspire, entertain, and educate” Bitterroot valley audiences. This season’s lineup is sure to do all that, with a strong international flavor, according to Monica Grable, executive director of the series.

Following Sanchez, in November, will be Vienna Teng, a soulful singer/songwriter and pianist, whose music belies a strong Asian influence. The Dec. 21 winter solstice will bring bluegrass artists Mark O’Connor and Friends to the stage, to present their “Appalachian Christmas” program.

In February, the series presents “International Guitar Night.” The program has been called “North America’s premier mobile guitar festival,” with instrumentalists from four continents united on stage around the voice of the acoustic guitar.

“For a player, the idea of being able to access four different guitar styles at once is pretty appealing,” Grable said.

March has always been an opportunity to showcase some of the best of Irish music, and this year that genre will be ably represented by Lúnasa, “the hottest Irish acoustic group on the planet,” according to the Village Voice.

The season will close with a wild, and potentially off-color presentation by “Henson’s Alternatives,” called “Stuffed and Unstrung,” featuring the “Miskreant Puppets.”

What does all that mean?

The late Jim Henson was best known for creating his beloved “Muppets,” and his legacy lives on with this group. For “Stuffed & Unstrung,” however, it’s a far cry from “Sesame Street,” instead presenting improv comedy with six comedians and 80 puppets, and the humor filter set to “coarse.”

Those who have already bought their season tickets are welcome to pick them up at the BPAC office in Signal Square, 127 W. Main St.,

Suite 3.

Since its inception, the Performing Arts Series has presented 73 concerts, representing music and performance of nearly every type, and providing a level of cultural opportunity almost unheard-of in a community of this size and distance from major markets.

For the fourth year, Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital will be the “Diamond Showcase” sponsor of the series. Grable said that the hospital recognizes the role the arts play in the creation of a healthy community, and also the importance of arts and culture in the recruitment and retention of a highly qualified staff.

The series relies on performance sponsors, and donations from individuals, to help cover the high costs of bringing quality acts to such a remote market. The BPAC board and Grable have worked hard to keep ticket prices reasonable, in part by choosing acts with minimal technical requirements this year.

The hands-on board fulfills a fundraising goal, but also participates in programming, community outreach, and marketing decisions.

The program also has a corps of volunteers on which it draws, with up to 20 volunteers typically working each event.

The box office will be selling season tickets, which at $190 each offer a small cost savings, but patrons can also choose to buy tickets for individual events.

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