The Colors of Jazz

Concert Review:

Chucho Valdés & The Afro-Cuban Messengers

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Chucho Valdés & the Afro-Cuban Messengers graced the stage February 12 for the We Always Swing Jazz Series with a flawless, riveting, and excellently enriching performance at the Missouri Theatre downtown.  The entire night, I was itching to jump out of my seat and dance, yet felt restrained by the atmosphere. Chucho Valdez’s lively melodies felt awkward in the elegant theatre.  The performance was fantastic, engaging the audience’s ears and beckoning their bodies to dance, yet the stiff chairs and formal seating kept movement to a subtle head-bob and foot-tap.  Critiquing simply the musical aspects, however, I have only praise.

The concert began with a soft piano solo by Chucho himself and then erupted into a colorful merengue with a mix of trumpet, bongo, guitar, drums, bass, and sax.  The stage came alive in an instant.

A crisp and clean performance with a blend of smooth classical jazz, Afro Cuban music, and some bluesy fever kept the audience wanting more – you never knew what was coming next.  The band subtly transitioned from one song to the next as they alternated between group pieces and solos.  Each musician at one point or another stepped into the spotlight and amazed the audience with his or her agility, speed and artistic brilliance.  When the pianist and trumpet player performed their duet, I closed my eyes feeling my ears tingle with pleasure in hearing the blissful chords interweave with each other.  The drummers then stole the show, beating faster and faster until all jaws dropped open with amazement.

One of the best moments of the concert, in my opinion, was when the bongo player’s solo, surprising us with a tribal sort of singing.  Every other instrument silenced as the audience remained fixated on his rich natural voice.  Soon, the rest of the musicians gradually joined back in with a supportive echo.  The song grew more intense, sounding more like a rain dance.  With his arms flying fast on the drums, the crowd was taken over by the intensity of the rhythm.  I could feel my heartbeat match the beat of the drums as his hands moved faster, and when the music reached a climax the audience erupted in a thunderous applause!

Chucho Valdéz entranced me that night, fueling my appreciation for the art of jazz.  They band played with soul and passion.  I only wish I could have experienced the music in a more intimate setting – something about an Afro-Cuban jazz band in a formal theatre just didn’t quite feel authentic.

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My formula for writing a concert review goes a little like this…

  1. Go to the concert, try to find a way to get free ticket and sit at close as possible. Rules:
  • Arrive at least 15 minutes beforehand.  Find your seat, go to the bathroom, observe your surroundings and jot down what you see: how many seats are filled, demographics of the audience members, the setting, etc. Pay attention to details!
  • Clap at the end of each song.
  • Don’t comment on the performance to other people until after the concert. Try not to let other people’s voiced opinions influence your feelings about the concert, but take note of general reactions and thoughts.
  • Turn off your phone unless you are using it to take notes (but paper and pen is usually more appropriate).
  • Stay until the very end of the concert.

2.  Get a set list of the songs before the show if possible, this can usually be found in a playbill.

3.  Give basic information at the beginning of the article, including: name of the band, the venue, date of concert, names of key band members and the instruments played.

4.  Give details of how the music sounded, how it made you feel, how the musicians performed, and other information that answers the question — To what extent was this a successful performance and why?

5.  Give your opinion, but back it up with facts. Write creatively, but truthfully. Giving too much personal opinion could take away from your journalistic credibility, but writing nothing but dry facts makes it a boring read.

6. Consider pouring yourself a cup of hot coffee or tea, or even venturing out to a local coffee shop to write your review. It should be relatively easy and fun to write, so make yourself comfortable and let your fingers type away.


How do you pronounce that?

Get ahead of the game

I was reading captions for the POYi judging last week and was having the hardest time pronouncing these foreign cities and names. It was rather embarrassing, but luckily no one expected me to know how to say everything exactly correct. If I was broadcasting live on television or radio, however, that would be a different story.  You lose the audience’s trust and respect if you can’t pronounce local towns or the mayor’s last name.  You sound like an outsider who could care less about the people you’re reporting about.

To save your reputation, it is best to really know who, what, and where you are talking about so it doesn’t sound like you were handed a script five minutes ago. What may be a minor slip of pronunciation in casual conversation, could cost you your job and credibility as a journalist.  It’s better to ask beforehand than look stupid after. Or, better yet, start preparing now! When I came to Missouri for school, I knew nothing about the state — the people, the places, the catch phrases. It would have been nice to get some sort of pronunciation guide with phonetic spelling of local places, streets and towns. Instead, I took it upon myself to do some research and put together one of those “state projects” we used to do in elementary school. I looked up everything from the state representatives to the state flower. It made me feel like a 5th grader all over again…

I compiled a short list of places people often mispronounce, in hopes of enlightening English speakers far and wide. Please comment below with any additions to this list (you can include people, places and any other words!)


Beijing, China – Americans usually pronounce the name of the Chinese capital city something like beige·ing, but the correct pronunciation is in fact bay·jing.

Edinburgh, Scotland – ed·in·burr·ah, or ed·in·bra, in the local style.

Gloucester, England – glos·ter. Also goes for the city of the same name in Mass.

Iraq – let’s clear this one up once and for all. ir·ock (not eye·rack).

Papua New Guinea – pa·pew·a noo gi·nee, with emphasis on the first syllable in Papua.

Qatar – kah·tar, with emphasis on the second syllable.

Spokane, Wash. – spo·can (not spo·cane)

Versailles, KY – ver·sails (on the other hand, Versailles, France is pronounced ver·sigh; best not to confuse the two).

Tucson, Arizona – too·sahn Arizona

Cayce, South Carolina – kay·see in South Carolina

Des Moines, Iowa – dih·moyn

Leicester, Massachusetts – less·tur


Also see: 100 Most Often Mispronounced Words and Phrases

A Random Thought.

My problem is that I start things and don’t always finish them. I know, I’m working on it. It’s just that sometimes I get these sudden bursts of creativity… random ideas flood my head and I get really passionate about actually turning these ideas into something, so I start a project. Then the next day, I get distracted by life… school and work keep me busy, and I fall into the daily routine as my half-implemented project sits there waiting for me to pick it back up. To make it worse, by the time I get that motivated feeling to change the world with my “fantastic” ideas again, I’m thinking up whole new projects and the ones from last week get left behind.

I’m not sure what sort of problem I would diagnose myself with, but it is the reason my room can’t stay clean more than 24 hours. I walk in my room, sit down at the computer, start knocking out my to-do list, realize I still have my shoes on, take my shoes off and leave them under my desk, realize I forgot to eat, so I try to multi-task and bring my “meal” of Cheez-Its and apple juice to my desk and then get distracted by a knock at my door and forget to throw away my garbage. It’s a mess. I’m a mess.

But I think I’ve realized why I chose journalism. I like the creative aspect of it — the writing, the photography, the editing, etc. — and I like that your work is ALWAYS changing. One day you may be reporting on a dairy farm and the next day you’ll be interviewing children at an inner-city school. It’s great. I mean, I’m only a student so I don’t know what real-life journalism is going to be exactly like, but I think I’m going to enjoy it.

Business Journalism

I am currently filling out an application for a business journalism scholarship.  So why business journalism?

I am fascinated by how businesses shape our economies, societies, communities and individual consumers. I find the concept of marketing fun — it’s like a social puzzle — how do you understand the consumers’ needs, satisfy them, creatively catch their attention, and then convince them to buy the product, all while maintaining a balance of meeting demand and making a profit. I wonder how money is used, where our hard-earned cash is going, and why funding is used one way and not another.

As a possible career choice, I’d like to help businesses market themselves through social media. I’d also like to investigate into corporate fraud, business scandals, and unethical behavior that employees attempt to cover up. The media has so much to offer the world of business.

I came across another article similar to the Pintrist one I posted yesterday.  This one is entitled “A good time to invest in Social Media, or not: Find out what’s best for your business.” Check it out!

The Next Big Thing for Businesses: Pinterest

For A Visual Society

What is Pintrist? Well, it’s basically an online bulletin board. You see a picture you like, so you ‘like’ it or ‘repin’ it to your board where you collect all your favorite pins. While most people use it to collect photos of fashion inspirations, home decorating ideas, new recipes, creative crafts, and such, this new fad could be more serious than an addictive past-time.

An article by Entrepreneur says Pintrist may be “stepping up as a valuable marking tool for businesses.”

Businesses can advertise by posting images of their products on Pintrist and linking them back to the company’s website.

It works as a sort of virtual store catalog. –Entrepreneur

You don’t want to get too promotional, though. That’s the fastest way to lose your cool. Don’t post your logo everywhere. People don’t want these boards to be walking advertisements. The photos should be enjoyable to look at, and a big commercialized logo might take away from the image’s attractiveness.

You can also use Pintrist for inspiration. How are other companys attracting customers? What sorts of products are attracting people? Use this information to increase sales by responding to popular demands. Notice the trends. What images are people repinning? What themes do you see? Use Pintrist to pick up on the latest trends. For example, you’ll see under the category of weddings lots of photos of simple, country weddings. If you work for a bridal magazine, you may want to consider doing a feature on bridesmaids in cowboy boots and cornfields for the photo shoot.

Photo pinned from