February 22, 2010 — Luis Bonilla, the Californian-Costa Rican trombonist has been named to the jazz faculty at New England Conservatory. The composer-arranger-and instrumentalist, who recently gave a series of highly praised master classes at NEC, will begin his tenure in the fall.
Bonilla has described his musical style this way: “The fabric of my music reflects my natural inclination towards Latin rhythms meshed with rhythm and blues, free jazz, funk, rock and even the sounds of AM radio from the ‘70’s. Employing jazz, with its improvisational protocols, as the foundation of my music maximizes the opportunities for individual and collective creativity and expression.”
Currently a member of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, the Mingus Big Band and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra, Bonilla has played as sideman to such musical greats as McCoy Tyner, Dizzy Gillespie, Lester Bowie, Tom Harrell, Freddie Hubbard, Astrud Gilberto, Willie Colon and Toshiko Akiyoshi. He has also appeared in studio dates with a long roster of players like Billy Childs, Gerry Mulligan, Tony Bennett, Marc Anthony, La India, Paquito d’Rivera and Mary J. Blige.
On his two recordings on Candid, ¡Escucha! (2000) and the earlier Pasos Gigantes (1998) Bonilla was praised for his sophisticated use of tonal colors and the creative ways in which he combined Latin and Jazz idioms into a seamless and cohesive whole. Pasos Gigantes was named to Jazziz top ten Latin Jazz Recording list of 1998. Terminal Clarity (2007) drew inspiration from his mentor and friend Lester Bowie (Bonilla toured and recorded for many years with Bowie’s Brass Fantasy).
Bonilla’s smoother Latin style gave way to much grittier expression in 2009’s I Talking Now—the title recalling Bonilla’s father trying to get the attention of a noisy family at the dinner table. New York Times reviewer Ben Ratliff described the music this way: “The trombonist Luis Bonilla hears jazz as playful, rough, cathartic, chaotic, tender, swinging, funky and inherently, demonstrably Latin. At any point in I Talking Now! his quintet usually satisfies at least three of those descriptions at once.”
The Boston Phoenix’s Jon Garelick wrote, “...it crackles with spontaneity at every turn. They call jazz ‘the sound of surprise,’ and sometimes it still is.”
About New England Conservatory
Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader among music schools, New England Conservatory offers rigorous training in an intimate, nurturing community to 720 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral music students from around the world. Its faculty of 225 boasts internationally esteemed artist-teachers and scholars. Its alumni go on to fill orchestra chairs, concert hall stages, jazz clubs, recording studios, and arts management positions worldwide. Nearly half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is composed of NEC trained musicians and faculty.
The oldest independent school of music in the United States, NEC was founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee. Its curriculum is remarkable for its wide range of styles and traditions. On the college level, it features training in classical, jazz, Contemporary Improvisation, world and early music. Through its Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, and Community Collaboration Programs, it provides training and performance opportunities for children, pre-college students, adults, and seniors. Through its outreach projects, it allows young musicians to engage with non-traditional audiences in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes—thereby bringing pleasure to new listeners and enlarging the universe for classical music and jazz.
NEC presents more than 600 free concerts each year, many of them in Jordan Hall, its world- renowned, 106-year old, beautifully restored concert hall. These programs range from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to jazz and opera scenes. Every year, NEC’s opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston.
NEC is co-founder and educational partner of From the Top, a weekly radio program that celebrates outstanding young classical musicians from the entire country. With its broadcast home in Jordan Hall, the show is now carried by National Public Radio and is heard on 250 stations throughout the United States.