Bandleader finds his vibe

Bob DeSena didn't grow up in a family where Latin jazz was a common presence on the stereo. Instead, it was an instrument that got him hooked to its sound.

The bandleader, whose combo will perform this weekend in Huntington Beach, discovered his musical passion when he bought an instrument seldom heard in traditional American jazz.

"After I played with several different types of groups, I bought my first set of vibes," DeSena wrote in an email. "I listened to other artists, and I was really infatuated with the sound that the actual instrument contributed to Latin music."

The Bob DeSena Latin Jazz Band plays songs in the traditional styles of Cal Tjader, Tito Puente, Freddie Hubbard and Antonio Carlos Jobim. DeSena said he adds his own twists to each song.

DeSena began the band in 1998 as a project to perform and promote his debut album, "All That Latin Jazz," followed by "Going Latin on Jazz Street" in 2003.

Now, the band, which performs every Saturday night at Pips restaurant in Los Angeles, is comprised of DeSena (vibes, trumpet, flugelhorn and vocals), Bob Sink (piano), Rick Reyes (bass), Roland Mendoza (congas) and Augie Roman (timbales).

DeSena said his music has been used in various feature films and television shows. In 2010, his song "Moroccan Mambo" was selected by a Swiss DJ for a compilation CD of the best Latin jazz tracks released in Switzerland. Earlier this year, DeSena was honored by the Los Angeles Jazz Society as Vibraphonist of the Year at the Vibe Summit held in Los Angeles.

The band will perform Sunday as part of the Huntington Beach Concert Band Summer Series. The free concert starts at 5 p.m. on the bandstand behind the Huntington Beach Central Library, 7111 Talbert Ave.

Sunday's concert will be the 10th concert out of 11 in the series.

According to Linda Couey, general manager of the Huntington Beach Concert Band, more than 2,000 people attend the concerts each week.

"It's like a mini-Hollywood Bowl, as groups bring beautiful food and beverages, tables, chairs and blankets," Couey wrote in an email.

Admission to the concert is free, but donations are encouraged.

"The Huntington Beach Concert Band is only able to fund the series each year due to the generosity of our audiences," Couey said.

The concerts are not funded by the city, Couey said, and each week, the festival has to pay the bands and pay to have the HB Rotary-sponsored bandshell erected, among other costs.

For more information about the Bob DeSena Latin Jazz Band, visit

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