This story appeared in the June 2019 print edition of The Rant Monthly, on news stands now.

As a student of the genre, Gregg Gelb is well aware of the myriad forms jazz music can take, ranging from contemporary works performed by a trio or quartet to world-inspired suites staged by big bands and everything in between.

Gelb, standing, with Santiago (left), Ortiz (center) and Anderson (right)

It’s the latter that Gelb, an adjunct music instructor at Central Carolina Community College, will bring to the Temple Theatre on June 8 when his Heart of Carolina Jazz Orchestra and guest musicians Andy Kleindienst (bass), Stephen Anderson (piano), Ramon Ortiz (percussion), and Pako Santiago (percussion) are set to perform West Side/Latin Side: Kenton and Bernstein on Fire.

“For me, having the Latin beat in jazz is so much fun,” Gelb said. “There’s a groove and an energy you get from it that’s accessible and enticing. There’s something about the way the whole world comes into this music.”

In addition to the music of Stan Kenton and Leonard Bernstein, the 20-piece big band and their guest musicians will perform Chico O’Farrill’s “Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite,” a piece Gelb said he’s particularly looking forward to exploring.

“This is a wonderful piece of music that I’ve wanted to perform for a long time, but the Heart of Carolina Jazz Orchestra really needed to have these guest artists involved to be able to pull it off,” he said. “The Latin rhythms are complex, and it takes a lot of knowledge to have learned them. They are Cuban and African and Latin American, so you need people who are very well-versed, and then a band that can learn how to play with them.”

Gelb said attendees can expect a show “that’s like traveling to another country.”

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“You’re going to be exposed to the beats of all these places, and you don’t get a chance to see a big band do this kind of thing very often,” he said.

Gelb, a saxophonist and the band’s leader, also said the music has plenty of room for improvisation by the band’s various members.

“There’s such a great balance between what is written and what is improvised, and that’s the beauty of jazz,” he said. “We look for that perfect blend of spontaneity and preparation.”

The Heart of Carolina Jazz Orchestra will present West Side/Latin Side: Kenton and Bernstein on Fire at 7:30 p.m on June 8 at the Temple Theatre. Tickets are $20 for general admission, $15 for Heart of Carolina Jazz Society Members, and $10 for students with ID and are available at