Latin music inspired by the light of the moon

Luzna will sweep you away to a warmer climate this Thursday during Jazz Night at the Avalanche Bar and Grill. - Photo submitted
Luzna will sweep you away to a warmer climate this Thursday during Jazz Night at the Avalanche Bar and Grill.
— image credit: Photo submitted

It's jazz with a Latin beat this Thursday.

Luzna, a Latin quintet, is the Georgia Straight Jazz Society's latest offering at the Avalanche Bar and Grill in Courtenay.

Luzna, which is a play on two Spanish words, "luz" (light) and "luna" (moon) was hatched in the Comox Valley in 2008 as an acoustic Latin trio composed of Mexican-born Oscar Robles Diaz, bassist Britt Bowman and multi-instrumentalist Jim Papp.

As time passed, Luzna grew in its members, as well as followers, quickly becoming known as Luzna Latin-soul Orchestra.

In 2009 the band played at the grand finale of the outdoor Comox Valley Latin Festival, sharing the stage with Victoria's Son de Cuba band, as well as internationally-acclaimed percussionist from Mexico, Candido Hernandez.

Over the years Luzna has participated in festivals such as Tofino's Pacific Rim Whale Festival, Campbell River's Latin Festival and Cumberland's Big Time Out. Band members Diaz, Bowman and Kelly Thomas performed in Taiwan as part of Keelung City's Ghost Festival, and Britt and Oscar have performed in festivals in the Mexican Republic.

Now, in 2014, Luzna has recently regrouped as a quintet. Band members are Diaz on lead vocals, Cuban tres, Mexican requinto, Spanish guitar and conga; Bowman on the fretless bass; Papp on lead vocals, guitar, Cuban tres, and bongo; Thomas on keyboard; and Michael (Miguelito) Johnson on trumpet, trombone, guitar and backing vocals.

The band's repertoire focuses predominantly on Cuban style son, which originated in Cuba and in the 1930s gained worldwide popularity. In addition, Luzna's repertoire includes a fair share of Mexican and Cuban boleros, a sprinkling of Columbian cumbias, also chachacha, Latin jazz and salsa.

Recently the group has brought another style into the mix: Son Jarocho — a unique style of son that originates in the Veracruz region of Mexico.

Son Jarocho is typically heavily vocal, beautifully poetic and in a 6/8 time feel. It is played on traditional, handcrafted Jarocho instruments — one of such Diaz plays in the ensemble, the requinto Jarocho (a small, Mexican guitar of four strings which are plucked, traditionally with a special pick carved of bull horn).

The Luzna Quintet cites such musical influences as Miguel Matamoros, Tito Puente, Ibrahim Ferrer and Celia Cruz, and their high-energy Latin rhythms will transport you to the sunny, palm lined beaches of Mexico in no time.

Music starts at 7:30 p.m. Luzna has a large and loyal following so it is a good idea to arrive early to get a good seat.

Oh, and there will be a dance area, so put your dancing shoes on!  And a request — as seating is limited please share your booth with others so that no one is turned away.

For more information, check www.georgiastraightjazz.com or find us on Facebook.

— Georgia Straight Jazz Society

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