While any stage that fits 10 musicians is the perfect pulpit for Santa Fe and the Fat City Horns to preach the gospel of soul power, Cabaret Jazz may provide the veteran Vegas ensemble unprecedented acoustics. Known for their weekly gig at South Point Hotel Casino, Santa Fe and the Fat City Horns return to The Smith Center on July 11 in the room that musicians – locals and visiting acts alike – have been raving about due to its sound.
Led by guitarist/songwriter Jerry Lopez, the band traces is roots back to the ’70s when Lopez began using the name of his hometown for a touring act that settled in Vegas as a progressive lounge band. The next incarnation, which had its first rehearsal in August 1999, was formed in answer to the question “What do we really want to play?”
Lopez’s experience as a guitarist and vocalist with A-list acts such as three-time Grammy Award winner and saxophonist Tom Scott had got him thinking more about “real performance and real musicality,” as he explains to Santa Fe keyboardist Jamie Hosmer in a video interview on the band’s website. Hosmer sums up the band best in the video: “If you mention Santa Fe to a musician or somebody in Las Vegas, immediately what they think of is music played at the highest level.” That’s due in no small part to the spectrum of stellar credits on Santa Fe’s collective resume that includes Strip productions, A-list recording artists and touring musicians, and academic positions at prestigious music programs.
It’s hard to tell that Lopez is the lynch pin due to the egalitarian energy the six-piece rhythm section, six Fat City horn players and three dedicated vocalists project from the stage. What is apparent is the passion the musicians feel for the music they play when they’re together, whether originals like the autobiographical “When the Curtain Goes Up” and hard-driving funk number “Dirty Work” or a medley of Earth, Wind and Fire favorites. Each musician gives his all to the team effort, occasionally running with the ball but primarily enjoying the chance to play music for the reason they started in the first place. Luckily for audiences, that enjoyment is highly contagious.
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