Jazz Album of the Week: Bernstein's West Side Story Reimagined

Aug 20, 2018

August 20, 2018. Percussionist and bandleader Bobby Sanabria first saw West Side Story when he was a young boy living in the Bronx.   Leonard Bernstein's music floored Sanabria, who thought it epitomized the cool factor found only in New York City.  Years later, in West Side Story Reimagined, Sanabria presents Bernstein's enduring music from his own perspective as "a jazz musician, a Latin musician and native Nuyorican son."

While there’s a clear Latin influence in Bernstein’s compositions, Sanabria takes it a step further with his Multiverse Big Band. The pieces are totally recognizable, with a caliente kick.

Most of the tunes are instrumental, with the exception of some background vocals from the entire band, especially prevalent in “Maria.”  “America” swings, like a modern big band piece with a lot of additional percussion.

“Tonight” is a stirring example of something that runs throughout this record—the mixture of genres from different parts of Latin America. Bolero (from Cuba), samba (from Brazil) and merengue (from the Dominican Republic) come together to represent the passion Tony and Maria have for one another.

When Sanabria saw West Side Story as a kid in the Bronx, he realized that other than negativity in the news, there was wasn’t much else in the media acknowledging the existence of New York’s Puerto Rican community.  Now, in West Side Story Reimagined, he presents Bernstein’s beloved music in a way that's close to his heart.