Tiwa Savage sings a Motown salute at last Saturday's Vineyard Vibes concert. Photo by Ben Scott
Tiwa Savage sings a Motown salute at last Saturday's Vineyard Vibes concert. Photo by Ben Scott

Hot rhythms launch musical weekend

By Julian Wise - August 3, 2006

World-class percussionist Bobby Sanabria brought his Latin dance orchestra Ascension to Outerland on Friday to kick off the Vineyard Vibes celebration. Placed front and center of the stage, Mr. Sanabria dazzled the audience with his ferocious drum kit chops as his band members created a lush, vibrant sound that kept the audience dancing from the first song to the last.

The annual weekend festival, sponsored by Berklee College of Music in Boston and Island advertising agency B/R Creative, has set a tradition of bringing top-notch performers to the Island. Now in its sixth year, Vineyard Vibes showcases the musical talents of Berklee's legendary alumni, students, and faculty.

Couples filled the Outerland dance floor. Photo by Ben Scott
Couples filled the Outerland dance floor on July 28, moving to the beat of Bobby Sanabria and his Latin Dance Orchestra. The club was the site of two Vineyard Vibes concerts.

Along with Friday's colorful and spirited concert, the three-day event featured a Motown show at Outerland and closed with a moving "Gospel Explosion" performance by The Berklee College Reverence Gospel Ensemble at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown Sunday. Among the highlights of the weekend was a performance by special guest Jennifer Holliday, a Grammy and Tony award-winning vocalist and star of the original Broadway production of "Dreamgirls."

Mr. Sanabria has built a reputation in the musical community as a first-class drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, recording artist, producer, and educator. The Berklee College of Music graduate has performed and recorded with Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Mario Bauza, Mongo Santamaria, and others. He was voted Percussionist of the Year by DRUM! magazine and is involved in the upcoming PBS documentary "From Mambo to Hip Hop."

Mr. Sanabria grinned from behind a glittering Tama drum kit as he tapped out clave strikes and cowbell hits to drive his 9-piece band through an electrifying blend of Latin dance numbers. The dancers swung and stepped as the horn section gave rise to soaring notes. The evening was a lush blast of tropical rhythm that was picture-perfect for a hot July evening on the Island.

In past years Vineyard Vibes raised money for various Island music education initiatives and has provided some performance opportunity for students. This year Martha's Vineyard Co-operative Bank's sponsorship of the event will provide funding for a music therapy demonstration to benefit Islanders.

Julian Wise is a frequent contributor to The Times, specializing in music, film, and the performing arts.