Nashville Scene: Imer Santiago Critic’s Pick
Published in Upcoming Shows.
In May, my band played at the Hands Together in Flatrock Music and Arts Festival. Between songs, keyboardist Tyson Rogers pointed to someone in the crowd and said, “Hey, that’s Imer Santiago. He’s an amazing trumpet player. Get him up here!” I’d never met him before, but I called out to him, and two minutes later he was onstage, blowing away both the crowd and the band with his fiery playing. Little did I know he’s one of Nashville’s premier jazz musicians, as his brand-new album Hidden Journey demonstrates. The proceedings begin with “Girl’s Night Out,” a swaggering mid-tempo blues over changes that bear faint echoes of Bobby Timmon’s “Moanin’,” made famous by Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. At about 2:34 into the track, Santiago does this lazy slurred run that may be one of my favorite moments on a local jazz record, and reveals his maturity, confidence and sense of humor. The composition “Flat 2176” gets two interpretations: as the third track of the record, it’s an impressive shout-out to Miles Davis’ late-’50s hard-bop years; on track 6, it’s a grand homage to Tito Puente, not to mention Santiago’s own Puerto Rican roots. Santiago’s label, Jazz Music City Records, is run by saxophonist Rahsaan Barber, who contributes some mighty playing to the record. The other core band members — pianist Bruce Dudley, bassist Jon Estes and drummer Josh Hunt — are terrific, as are the numerous special guests. This album release celebration, sponsored by Nashville Fringe Festival, is an opportunity to see live Nashville jazz at it’s finest.
UPDATE: View video footage from the event here.