James Sanders’ Conjúnto
Violinist James Sanders leads Conjúnto, perhaps the most adventurous jazz latino band in the country. Moving confidently from Afro-roots to free improvisation, James Sanders and Conjúnto are equally at home at a salsa dance party, cutting edge new music venue, or festival stage. In Conjúnto, intricate instrumental virtuosity and propulsive dance rhythms find equal footing in a cohesive whole, making music for mind, body, and soul.
Sanders is a classically trained violinist with a Masters degree in performance from Yale University. Shortly after earning his degree, his attention was drawn to both jazz improvising and the Latin music he absorbed growing up as the son of a Dominican mother in a diverse urban environment.
Conjúnto is Sanders’ ongoing project to unite rigorous classical training and theory with the freedom of improvisation, all grounded in the lively rhythms of Latin America: Afro-Cuban, bomba y plena, cumbia, meringue. The result is performances that move audiences figuratively and literally, where moments of hushed intimacy are followed by joyous dancing.
Conjúnto’s core lineup consists of Sanders’ violin plus Kevin O’Connell on piano, Jean-Christophe Leroy on drums and timbales, Roel Trevino on congas and percussion, bassist José Porcayo, and multi-reedist Steve Eisen. Between them, they have dozens of years of constant playing both mainstream jazz and salsa, including work with Arturo Sandoval, Dave Valentin, Dr. John, Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble, Nancy Wilson, Louis Bellson, Jimmy McGriff, Andy Montanez, Kurt Elling, the New Black Music Repertory Ensemble, Chévere, and many more.
Sanders often expands that with additional collaborators in a quest to discover fresh textures and sounds. For their triumphant August 2010 performance before 10,000 people in Chicago’s Millennium Park, a virtual big band took the stage with the addition of Pharez Whitted on trumpet, additional bass from Brett Bentler, cellist Tomeka Reid, Joe Rendon on percussion, sonero Papo Santiago on vocals and guitar, and members of the Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre.
In addition to leading Conjúnto, James Sanders has collaborated with a wide array of jazz luminaries, including Johnny Frigo, Orbert Davis, Fred Anderson, Pharez Witted, Ernest Dawkins, Mwata Bowden, Larry Gray, and Charles Heath. In 2007, he was hired by the legendary Fania Records arranger Larry Harlow for a Puerto Rican festival appearance. Sanders has toured Europe and South America with Dee Alexander’s Evolution Ensemble and as a member of Alfonso Ponticelli’s Swing Gitan.
He has recorded with Nicole Mitchell, Dee Alexander, Harrison Bankhead, Avreeayl Ra, Ed Wilkerson, Mars Williams, Doug Lofstrom, Alfonso Ponticelli, and Jeff Parker.
• Live in Little Village (2002): Recorded at La Jacaranda on Chicago’s south side, Live in Little Village captures the emerging band in a mix of Latin Jazz standards and originals.
• Chicago Sessions (2005): With special guests Angel d’Cuba, vocals; Alfonso Ponticelli, guitar; and Tito Carillo, trumpet. Conjúnto starts to stretch out, incorporating new sounds and textures in a set of scorching originals.