Puerto Rico Tour
Report on the tour of Puerto Rico, June 12-18, 2011
By Paul Rinzler, Director of Jazz Studies
Both University Jazz Bands (#1 and #2) went to Puerto Rico for six days. The tour included three performances, two clinics, and some sightseeing. The bands played exceedingly well and the audiences were fantastic, demanding encores at every performance.
We flew out of SFO at 9 pm and arrived in Miami at 2 am (California time) for a sleepy two-hour lay-over
before our final flight to San Juan. When we arrived in Puerto Rico, the weather was hot and very humid, but we adjusted by going to the beach as soon as we could. Many in the band walked two blocks from our hotel to the ocean in order to enjoy the incredibly warm water and the beautiful beach.
President Obama visited Puerto Rico on our second day. We were scheduled to have a clinic on that day in Old San Juan, but the only route our bus could take to the clinic was on a road that was closed because it passed right by where President Obama was to give a speech. So we rescheduled the clinic and traveled to a beach that we were originally scheduled to go to later in the tour.
The beach we went to was nearly empty,
as it was a weekday, the locals were otherwise busy, and the beach took some driving to get to. So we had the beach to ourselves for several hours; it was beautiful and a lot of fun. Some architecture majors led the construction of a sand castle.
Others constructed a three-level Tower of Rinzler in the water, with Paul climbing up on top of band members who were in turn sitting on other band members’ shoulders who were in the water.
The next day we traveled to the other (southern) side of Puerto Rico, about a two-hour bus ride, to Ponce, for some sightseeing and our first gig. We went to a musical museum at which we saw variants on the guitar called cuatro, some in fantastic shapes.
The museum had several masks like something you might see in a Tim Burton movie.
We also saw a beautiful castle or villa of the sugar cane magnate who was prominent in Ponce.
Band members took a tour of Ponce by trolley. The trolley driver got a round of applause from everyone when he honked his horn in traffic using a three-two clave.
Our first gig was an exchange gig at which a local jazz/salsa band also performed. The audience was enthusiastic from the very beginning. The concert ended with a jam session with all three bands on Oye Como Va. The jam lasted about twenty minutes and elicited a standing ovation from the audience.
The bands by this time had thoroughly explored the restaurants near our hotel. One of the bands’ favorite local foods was mofungo, a deep fried plantain mixture similar in some ways to a crab cake.
The next day we went to Old San Juan
for a clinic on traditional Puerto Rican bomba and plena music with local musicians, and the band got to play some as well.
We did some sight-seeing and saw a performance of bomba on a stage at the old fort right by the ocean.
During our tour of Old San Juan, we met a man feeding pigeons that were so tame that when he gave pigeon food to several band members, the birds flew onto their arms to eat out of their hands.
That night the bands played at a restaurant a few blocks from our hotel in San Juan. The restaurant was small but the audience was again very enthusiastic. Unexpectedly, the big bands were not too loud in the small restaurant.
The next day we traveled about an hour to see the only rainforest in the U.S. The highlight of the rainforest was a pool at the base of a waterfall in which one could stand under the waterfall.
Although the rainforest averages two hundred inches of rain per year, it didn’t rain on that day. After the rainforest tour, we went for a short time to another amazingly beautiful beach that was nearby.
The last day before we left Puerto Rico found us back in Old San Juan for another clinic in which the bands danced, accompanied by local bomba musicians.
Dancing is crucial in bomba, as the lead, improvising drummer responds musically to improvised moves by the dancer.
The bands’ last gig was on an outdoor stage at a street fair in Old San Juan. It rained for about 10 minutes just before the performance started (fortunately the stage was covered). A local jazz quartet played two pieces after both Cal Poly bands finished, and we would have had a jam session with them but we had technical problems with the sound reinforcement and had to cancel the jam session, to the disappointment of the audience.
Overall, the bands performed extremely well, were greatly appreciated by every audience, learned a lot, and had a lot of fun.
Gold stars go out to:
Anthony – best cocoanut
Jon H. and others – best sand castle
Tower of Rinzler – best human structure in the water
Orozco’s - best restaurant
Will – best sunburn
Anthony – best conch shell solo
Trevor – best pigeon whisperer
Mofungo – best Puerto Rican food
Katie – best bomba dancer
Justin Bill – tallest solo
Scott – best quote in a solo
Matt and Matt – best collective solo (voice and guitar)
Ryan – best sub into the other band
Everyone in both bands - for making the tour a great one