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Art, rhythm rock UCF Jazz Fest

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It never has been easy to define jazz, but the task won't be any simpler at this weekend's UCF Orlando Jazz Festival, which aims to introduce music fans to the scope of the genre's influences.

At concerts Friday and Saturday, March 22-23, at the Nicholson School of Communication Auditorium on UCF's campus, the music will connect the unlikely dots between Carlos Santana's "Black Magic Woman" and French impressionist painter Claude Monet's "Woman With a Parasol."

"For my students, it's a chance to show them that jazz is more than an American art form," says Jeff Rupert, director of the University of Central Florida's burgeoning Jazz Studies program. "There are these Cuban influences, West African influences, European influences. Everybody takes ownership and says, 'This is our music.'"

On the rock side, UCF's Flying Horse Big Band will deliver jazz interpretations of Santana's hard-driving hits in a Friday performance to feature guest alto saxophone soloist Antonio Hart. A graduate of Boston's prestigious Berklee College of Music, Hart's career includes work with icons such as Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Hargrove, Nancy Wilson, Nat Adderley and McCoy Tyner.

Hart and the student ensemble will be directed by guest conductor Michael Philip Mossman, director of Jazz Studies at Queens College in New York City. Mossman also is an alumnus of the Machito Orchestra, a famed Afro-Cuban big-band that helped define the style in the 1940s and became an influence on Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Stan Kenton and others.

Mossman's influence already has been absorbed by the Flying Horse Big Band, which recorded its version of Machito's "Cuban Fantasy" on the ensemble's recently released second album, "The Blues Is Alright."

"The thing about Afro-Cuban music is that it's really transparent," Rupert says. "Anybody will know if it's not right, a 2-year old will know if it's not right. At the same time, it's intellectually challenging, but it remains dance music."

Mossman also contributed to the Monet side of the festival, joining members of UCF's faculty jazz ensemble, The Jazz Professors, in composing songs inspired by the artist's plein-air landscape paintings. That music will be presented at a Saturday concert by The Jazz Professors.

"The guys in the group are really into impressionistic artists," Rupert says, "because they are into impressionistic music."

Sh-Booms drop vinyl

For bassist Al Ruiz, the inspiration for one of Orlando's most promising new bands started with his parents' record collection.

"My parents always had Motown on, soul music," says Ruiz, founding member of horn-powered, 10-piece neo-soul outfit the Sh-Booms. The band celebrates its vinyl single, "123," on Sunday at Will's Pub.

In the wake of a wildly successful February video release party in downtown Orlando, Sunday's show is the culmination of two years of work.

"It feels like everything's coming to fruition at this moment," Ruiz says. "People are starting to notice."

Along the way, Ruiz has gained new appreciation for the craftsmanship of the vintage soul that the Sh-Booms want to channel into original material.

"The arrangements are simple and everything's built around the vocals," he says. "There aren't many people out there that dislike Motown."

It's $8 at the door, which opens at 8 p.m.

jcabbott@tribune.com or 407-420-6213

UCF Orlando Jazz Festival

What: Concerts and clinics featuring the UCF Flying Horse Big Band, The Jazz Professors, Antonio Hart and Michael Philip Mossman

When: Concerts at 8 p.m. Friday, March 22 (Flying Horse Big Band) and 8 p.m. Saturday, March 23 (Jazz Professors)

Where: Nicholson School of Communication Auditorium, University of Central Florida, Orlando

Cost: $20 general admission, free for UCF students with ID

Online: music.cah.ucf.edu/jazzfestival

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