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Daughter of legend to play at Jazz Festival

Dan Bischoff, Of the Record Staff

Ileana Santamaria will not only be performing at the Fidelity Investments Park City Jazz Festival, but she’ll be there as a fan.

"We’re excited for the opportunity; I’m excited about sharing the stage with some incredible musicians," she said.

Relatively new on the scene, the 26-year-old has been living under the shadow of her legendary father, Cuban percussionist and Latin Jazz pioneer Ramón "Mongo" Santamaría. She considers it a curse and a blessing.

"I guess the blessing is just having doors opened. Being a daughter of a legend, it raises the stakes," Ileana said. "People expect you to be a flash in the pan or the best heir to a legendary parent."

Because of her father’s status, Ileana can be her worst critic.

"It’s been more of an obstacle for myself than from someone outside. At the same time I really have to keep the standard up for myself. If anything, it has kept me on my toes."

Ileana’s music has roots in Cuban, Brazilian and African cultures.

"I guess it’s a style of music that’s a hybrid, Afro-Cuban music and different rhythms from Cuba and Brazil as well as Columbian music some diversity and many rhythms born in America and born in Cuba," Ileana said.

Through jazz she is able to mix them together for a unique sound.

"The element of jazz allows the creative freedom to explore different music," Ileana said. "It’s a combination of Cuban and Brazilian music, building on a harmonic base influenced by jazz. Jazz harmony has enriched so many music cultures. It’s a different approach, crowd friendly, and makes listeners part of experience."

She bases her sound on its danceability.

"Definitely the roots being what we’re doing are integrating everything, drawing upon the influences from Cuba over the period of several hundred years," she said. "It’s popular dance music in Cuba that I grew up listening to. I keep a dance element in the music because of how rich the rhythms are. One of our imperatives is to make people dance."

Jazz gives her to opportunity to explore her creative side.

"It’s the freedom of fusing and creating some of the music cultures. It puts them together to explore that, pushing the envelope to see what you can do without regard to that many boundaries.

Ileana’s goal is to entertain the crowd.

"There will be a lot of energy, enthusiasm and crowd participation," she said. "It will be very relaxed, not forced but energetic strong arrangements, a lot of dancing."

She is excited to perform in an outdoor venue.

"It’s an outdoor event so hopefully, we’ll be getting the party started. We want to get everyone involved and worked up a bit," Ileana said.

She has been performing since 2001 and her band has been with her for two years. Even though her band members are young, she says they are filled with talent.

"I can’t say enough about my band," Ileana said. They’re top-notch musicians. They have a high level of musicianship. The very youngest is 18 from Peru, he specializes in Afro-Caribbean, Cuba percussion music. The sound he makes with it is a sound of beauty, part of rhythmic and Cajun."

She counts on the audience to have a successful show.

"It’s nothing without them, the audience," she said. "It’s an exchange, ultimately we feed off them, it’s entirely on them. We have the privilege to be there and express ourselves. We count on them and hopefully they will take something that’s enriching as we always do."

The members of her band:

Ileana Santamaria – vocals, songwriting, creative direction

Paul Carlon – saxophone, flute, musical direction

Pedro Martinez – percussion, vocals, dance

John Stenger – piano, keyboards

Ernesto Simpson – drumset

Hector "Maximo" Rodriguez – bass, vocals

Alex Norris – trumpet/ Mike Rodriguez – trumpet, vocals

Ileana Santamaria and her band will perform Saturday Aug. 26 at the Fidelity Stage at 3:15 p.m. The Jazz Festival starts Aug. 25. For festival details visit http://www.parkcityjazz.org . For reservations, call 940-1362.


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