Pella Chronicle

February 1, 2013

Jazz combo Ashanti performs with rising violinist at Central College


The Chronicle

Pella — Ashanti, the Latin jazz musical combo, will perform in Grand Central Station in the Maytag Student Center at Central College on Feb. 1 at 8 p.m. The concert is free and open to the public.

Associate professor of music Gabriel Espinosa provides lead vocals and bass for the group. Ashanti was founded in 1983 at Berklee College of Music and played frequently for 16 years. The group was named to recognize the African roots of the music they played. Ashanti performed regularly at a variety of Boston-area clubs and concert venues and even appeared on the local CBS and NBC affiliates.

Espinosa began teaching at Central in 1996. Since living in Pella, he has introduced local “gringo” R&B and jazz players to the Latin music. He has composed many of Ashanti’s songs, and on each of its three CDs, he has three or four compositions of his own. Espinosa also recently released his first solo album, “From Yucatan to Rio.”

“Ashanti has been playing at Central for at least the last six years, and it is one of the best gigs of the year,” Espinosa said. “I get to play here for my students and friends, and it is always a very inspiring gig for all of the members of the band.”

Ashanti will be joined by jazz violinist Christian Howes. Nominated for jazz “violinist of the year” by the Jazz Journalists Association, Howes was ranked as the No. 1 violinist in the Downbeat Critics Poll, “Rising Stars.” He performs worldwide with his own ensembles and as a guest soloist with orchestras and bands.

“This is the first time in 17 years that we have a jazz violinist at Central College,” Espinosa said. “This will be a great opportunity for us and for the audience to listen to one of the best jazz violinists of today. People always relate the violin with classical music. This will give the audience a new perspective on the possibilities of this great instrument.”

Howes will also join the Central College Jazz Band in concert as a featured guest on Feb. 2 at 7:30 p.m. in Douwstra Auditorium. Tickets are $5 for adults and free with a Central ID. Tickets can be purchased at the Cox-Snow Music Center. For more information, please contact Espinosa at espinosag@central.edu.