Debbie Croft: Jazz on tap in Sonora this month

January 10, 2013 

— The Columbia Jazz Series at Columbia College presents two big weekends for jazz fans this month.

A matinee performance on at 2 p.m. Sunday brings Latin Jazz to Sonora, featuring the Mario Flores Band.

Flores is a master of rhythm on the congas, the instrument he's played for over 30 years.

Special guests include Johnny Valdez, lending his talented vocals and guitar skills, along with Brian Andres, the popular Bay Area percussionist.

Flores and his diverse ensemble of musicians play salsa, cha-cha, rumba, tango, and Afro-Cuban styles with a big band sound.

For over two decades they've entertained audiences in Santa Cruz, San Francisco and Monterey. Headlining at jazz festivals along the Northern California and Oregon coastline keeps them on the road.

And at San Francisco's Cigar Bar Salsa Club it was a standing-room-only crowd that gathered recently to hear them.

"Flores' concerts include standard Latin hits made famous by Tito Puente, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Cal Tjader and Carlos Santana," says Rod Harris, Director of the Jazz program at Columbia College.

This is the 34th year for the Columbia Jazz Series, which schedules concerts on a monthly basis throughout the year.

Sometimes an extra performance is added, just because these guys love playing together.

Columbia's jazz program was founded by Harris when he began teaching at the college. Friends say he is an incredible sax player himself.

Harris and a few other musicians plan to join Flores on stage.

"As always there will be humor and fun, some quiet tunes and some wild dance grooves," Harris says. "Those who can't resist can dance in the aisles."

Call Stage 3 Theater for reservations at (209) 536-1778. The theater is located at 208 S. Green St. in Sonora, and seating is limited.

On Jan. 20 at 3 p.m., a second jazz concert will be presented at the college campus.

Lots of horns are on the program for "Big Band Plays the Blues," showcasing Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington favorites. Columbia College's 25-piece big band is scheduled to perform.

And by popular demand, Johnny Valdez returns as guest artist.

The campus' Dogwood Theater sits at 11600 Columbia College Drive in Sonora.

Tickets are $15 per person, per concert, and are available at Mountain Bookshop in Sonora,

(209) 532-6117, and the Manzanita Bookstore on campus, (209) 588-5126. Use a credit card for phone reservations, and pick up tickets at the door. Or contact Gaylin Ray,

(209) 559-0565, at the box office for reservations and details.

Debbie Croft writes about life in the foothill communities. She can be reached at

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