Montreal Jazz Festival Announcement:
July 3, 1998, concert

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Brit rocker Steve Winwood meets Cuban jazz

MONTREAL (CP) British rock star Steve Winwood has been captured by Cuban rhythms and he isn't putting up much of a fight.

``I've always had a great love for the music,'' said Winwood, who joins drummer Tito Puente and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval tonight for a mixture called Latin Crossings. ``Now I'm beginning to feel it.''

The concert is a sellout at the 1998 Montreal International Jazz Festival, a 12-day extravaganza that ends July 12. After the show, the band hits the road for three weeks of one-nighters in Western Europe.

Puente said the band's sound is unique. ``Nobody has done this before,'' he said.

The partners exchanged tapes and musical scores for months and got together this week in Montreal for a first rehearsal. It worked. Puente said: ``He sounds like a Cuban! An English Cuban!'' Sandoval chimed in: ``Steve has been doing certain things in his own repertoire with a big, big influence of Latino flavor.''

Winwood, 50, who was known as a singer, guitarist and keyboard player with the 1960s group Traffic, listened quietly as Puente and Sandoval praised him at a news conference. Then he returned all their compliments. The Cubans had considered Sting and David Byrne but chose Winwood, who first stood out as a 16-year-old in the Spencer Davis Group. ``We were looking for people of his status,'' said Sandoval, who was surprised to find he and the Birmingham native both grew up listening to the same jazz programs Winwood's pop reputation could help open doors for the Latin-style sounds of the veteran Puente who said: ``I've made 117 albums.'' Sandoval quipped: ``He made one a year.''

Puente, 73, did a mock grimace when asked about Tito Puente Jr., who lives in Miami. ``He doesn't sing. When you're a rapper, you recite. ``Then he dances a little off beat. I used to be a dancer so I'd tell him, you got to step on two (beats), Tito. You're always stepping on one or two-and-a-half or three-and-a-half, not on two.'' Puente admitted that rap may be popular with lots of young ``Dominicans, Puerto Ricans and Cubans'' but it's not for him. ``I'm not interested in going backwards.''

The irrepressible Puente didn't stop kibitzing even when the news conference wrapped up and he posed for a young photographer. With his hand extended, Puente asked: ``You're finished? Give me $5.''

--- Conway Daly

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Page created July 3, 1998.
Last updated July 3, 1998.
© 1998 by the author; reproduce only for non-commercial purposes and with full attribution.