Placing Jazz Roots Over Latin Rhythms, Yolanda Duke "Te Llevo Bajo La Piel: The Great American Songbook Goes Latino" Featuring Arturo Sandoval

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Tackling the Great American Songbook from a unique perspective is easier said than done, but fortunately, Duke is a vocalist with massive chops that can turn out a stylistically authentic performance full of personality.

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There are songs from Gershwin, Porter, Arlen, and more, as Duke integrates the cornerstone songs of jazz, the Great American Songbook.

Latin Jazz is a music that simultaneously touches upon the past, present, and future. The past set the foundation for the style, and as a result, young musicians need to do a comprehensive study of the music's history. More experienced musicians hold the key to this classic performance sound.

Vocalist Yolanda Duke supports the past, present, and future of the music with the able help of the former Tito Puente Orchestra on “Te Llevo Bajo La Piel”, showing the inherent power of big band Latin Jazz in the hands of masters.


La Duke reaches into the orchestra jazz roots with several interpretations of jazz standards, placed over Latin rhythms. The Orchestra screams into a hard hitting uptempo arrangement of Cole Porter's “Eso Que Llaman Amor (What Is This Thing Called Love)," framing Duke's powerful vocal with lush harmonies and tight rhythmic hits. As thick string patches float over a ferocious rhythm section groove, trumpet player John Walsh deftly twists jazz inflected melodies around the clave. La Duke returns with a strong second reading of the melody, sending the band into a wild mambo that sends the band flying towards a climax.

These pieces provide La Duke and the Orchestra with some serious jazz credential, as they show their intimate familiarity with standards alongside their ability to navigate the clave with ease.


Duke also leans into the traditional world of Latin music with several numbers that reflect the mambo era roots of salsa and bolero.

La Duke and the group confidently display their roots on these tracks, showing the full spectrum of Latin music, from lush boleros to driving dance tracks.

In every way, Duke has surrounded herself with musicians that hold deep roots in the history of the music, who understand how to pay their respect to the past.

Duke’s collaboration with her Puente band mates certainly forges a strong connection with the music’s history, but she also looks into the future by connecting with another Latin Jazz giant, Arturo Sandoval. The two musicians tackle a Cuban standard, the timeless song ”Contigo En La Distancia,” written by César Portillo de la Luz and loved around the world for its lush harmony, gorgeous melody, and potent lyrics. From the introductory trumpet flurry to a closing statement that pushes notes into the stratosphere, Sandoval approaches the song with a warm embrace, reflective of his close connection to the music. In fact, Sandoval puts a major mark on the song by creating the arrangement and playing all of the different instruments on the track. Sandoval’s complete musicianship brings out the best in Duke, helping her deliver an impassioned performance, full of powerful dynamic range, subtle nuance, and personal interpretation. There’s some reciprocal inspiration here as Sandoval captures the rich tone and wide vibrato of Duke’s vocals in his lyrical trumpet solo that connects the different pieces of the melody in an elegant fashion. Between Sandoval and Duke, you’ve got two musicians who understand the history of Latin Jazz and hopefully their continued collaboration will help open new ground to move it into the future.

Duke and Sandoval will be on tour this year with a brand new show "Arturo Sandoval & Yolanda Duke From Jazz to Hot Latin Music"


La Duke bridges the gap between the two worlds with several pieces that combine elements of both jazz and Latin dance music. The band struts into a screaming blues introduction on “La Neblina De Tu Amor (Misty)" as La Duke comfortably places the familiar Errol Garner melody over a relaxed swing melody.

Trombonist Sam Burtis displays some serious swing chops on his improvisation, hitting every edge of his register as he flies through the changes. The band provides carefully placed hits as La Duke revisits the melody with a keen sense of swing and creative phrasing.


Yolanda Duke and the former Tito Puente Orchestra storm through “Te Llevo Bajo La Piel” with an overwhelmingly appealing flair, showing the power sitting in these musical masters. La Duke performs with a commanding presence throughout the album, maintaining her distinct identity through many different settings. She stands apart as one of the few vocalists with the power and clave insight to truly fuel an authentic Afro-Cuban context while maintaining the subtleties and flavor of jazz.

La Duke's strong talent shines consistently throughout the album, but a massive star burns behind her. The untouchable arrangements and incredible band not only supports La Duke, but steals the show with their classic sense of drive, taste, and momentum.

The collaboration between La Duke and the former Puente Orchestra on “Te Llevo Bajo La Piel” holds massive potential, working in the present to carry a classic sound into the future.

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Andy Grullon
Amigos Music
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Yolanda Duke
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