Jesús ‘Aguaje’ Ramos was born in 1951 in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, where he began his musical studies in the National School of Arts. He started playing the trombone in local groups until 1979 when he moved to Havana and began playing with the great female quartet Los D’Aida. That same year he took part in the Estrellas de Areito recordings.
Aguaje has played on the World Circuit Records recordings of the Buena Vista Social Club and Afro-Cuban All Stars, and the solo albums of Ibrahim Ferrer, Ruben Gonzalez and Omara Portuondo. He was Ruben Gonzalez’s musical director and toured extensively since 1997 with the various Buena Vista Social Club projects.
Entre Colegas – Andy González (Truth Revolution Records)
Madera Latino: A Latin Jazz Perspective On The Music Of Woody Shaw – Brian Lynch & Various Artists (Hollistic Musicworks)
Canto América – Michael Spiro/Wayne Wallace La Orquesta Sinfonietta (Patois Records)
30 – Trio Da Paz (Zoho)
Recognized as a young genius, Ignacio “Nachito” Herrera stunned Cuban audiences at the age of 12, performing Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 2 with the Havana Symphony Orchestra. Famed Cuban pianist and Buena Vista Social Club member, Ruben Gonzalez invited the 16-year-old Nachito to join him on stage and inspired the teenager to study the traditional rhythms of Cuba. Herrera’s classical grounding, natural abilities, and enthusiasm for his subject paid off. In addition, Herrera has studied with Cuban masters; Chucho Valdes, Ruben Gonzalez & Frank Fernandez.
Following his 1990 Masters Degree in Music from Superior Institute of Art, Havana, Cuba, Nachito Herrera began performing, directing and touring with state-sponsored orchestras and the renowned Tropicana Orchestra. In 1997, he joined Cubanismo, with whom he recorded two albums, eventually becoming the musical director.
Nachito toured Europe, the United States and the Far East with the group and while recording Mardi Gras Mambo in New Orleans, Herrera amazed the Crescent City with his local performances and was named an Honorary Citizen of New Orleans. In 1996, Herrera recorded Ula-Ula, with the renowned Cuban group, Bakuleye, of which he was musical director, producer and composer in addition to winning the Cuban Nobel Prize of the Year for Best Orchestra.
Upon leaving Cubanismo in 2001, Nachito settled in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) of Minnesota, where he gained a following amongst fans of both jazz and Latin music. Now, Herrera’s own band, Puro Cubano includes saxophonist Rodolfo Gomez, bassist Jorge Bringas, veteran percussionist Shai Hayo and master drummer, Gordy Knudtson. Collectively, their credits include working, touring and recording with; Salsa Blanca and the Latin Sounds Orchestra, Celia Cruz, Albita, the Steve Miller Band, Ben Sidran and the renowned Puerto Rican Folklorico group, Proyecto La Plena.
Nachito Herrera’s affection for all types of music is apparent and he often cites the correlations between African rhythms, Cuban guajiras, American jazz, and classical composers. “I love all kinds of music, especially American music, but I love Cuban music the most….I like to combine the older Cuban styles, especially the rhythmic approaches of montunos and tumbaos, with jazz and classical themes. It’s how I see the evolution of Cuban piano,” says Herrera.
Born in January 28, 1974, in Las Tunas, eastern province of Cuba, daughter of a singer father and a stylist mother, Haila Maria Mompie Gonzalez felt passionate about music since her early years and although she started dancing first, she always felt a deep passion for singing.
After many years studying dancing, as legend says, in 1991, a young dancer raised her voice with an amazing tuning and a very special melody in such a way that Yaquelin Castellanos, famous Cuban singer, was astonished and proposed that this girl, named Haila, be part of her group. In this way, Haila a singer of Tradition Septet, cultivating Cuban traditional music.
A year later, she debuted as solo artist at ”Las Avenidas” Cabaret and later on, she became a member of Habana Son, a group directed by saxophonist ”El Chino Lam”. Also that year, she was requested to participate at the ”Guajira Habanera” show, touring Mexico for the first time.
On September 1994, she joined the renowned band Bamboleo. There, she rose to the top thanks to her excellent vocal qualities and high improvisation level, becoming one of the greatest soneras of her generation.
As vocalist of Bamboleo she recorded two CDs, Te Gusto O Te Caigo Bien and Yo No Me Parezco a Nadie, performed internationally and achieving great popularity in Cuba.
After that experience, she decided in 1998 to join the project of musician and composer Leonel Limonta, known as Azucar Negra. With this successful group, Haila topped the Cuban radio charts. The song “Andar Andando,”from the album Andar Andando, became an hymn not only for dance lovers but also for many others.
On 2001, after returning from a tour around Europe, Haila decided to start a new stage of her artistic career, as a solo artist. She recorded a solo album conducted and musically produced by the famous Cuban musician Issac Delgado.
Haila appeared as a singer on various albums by outstanding Cuban musicians and in the famous record La Rumba Soy Yo, winner of Latin Grammy Awards in 2001, she demonstrated her huge versatility.
2002 was a great year for Haila. Besides touring the United States with Issac Delgado and his orchestra, she was selected as guest figure of Tropicana Cabaret. She also toured various European countries as part of ‘Festival Son Cuba and as member of Cuban Grammys Project together with Eliades Ochoa, Juan Formell, Vocal Sampling, Chucho Valdes, Los Papines and Ernan Lopez-Nussa.
Copa Room Cabaret witnessed in April 25, 2003 at Riviera Hotel various remarkable events in Haila’s artistic life. That night, the ”Diva del Son” featured her orchestra with high-quality musicians in a concert attended by special guests from Culture Ministry, Artex, Musicalia, Bis Music, E-Commerce Agency, journalists, T.V and radio directors, critics and the general public.
In this concert, full of surprises, Haila unveiled her contract as exclusive artist with the Musicalia booking agency, her Haila Live CD on Bis Music, with a concert she made the previous year at National Theater of Cuba, having the notable appearance of Chucho Valdes, Issac Delgado, Mayito Rivera, David Calzado y su Charanga Habanera. The CD was under the musical production and direction of Juan Manuel Ceruto.
In June of the same year, Haila made an important tour around European countries and in July and August, she performed along with David Calzado y su Charanga Habanera in various Japanese cities.
La Diva del Son, as she is well-known in Cuba, gave priority to the national and international promotion of her new recording in 2005. Haila joined Charanga Habanera at some live performances.
Haila was also part of the Cuba le Canta a Serrat CD, recorded in Havana at the Abdala, Ojala, PM Record and Frank Fernandez studios to honor the peerless Spanish singer-songwriter Joan Manuel Serrat. This set, previously conceived for 12 tracks ended up a double album.
Haila’s Diferente CD, under the production of the notable David Calzado showed a new stage in Haila’s professional career, popular not only among young fans, but also with people of all ages.
Haila Maria Mompie is considered one of the great Cuban contemporary soneras.
Edited from an original article by Marianela Dufflar.
Eliades Ochoa was born in a rural area, Songo La Maya, in 1946. When he turned 11 years old, Ochoa began to play in bars and houses of ill repute in Santiago de Cuba, out of necessity. Since he was so young, almost as big as his guitar, that attracted people’s affection and he was asked to play a guaracha whose title became Ochoa’s nickname, “El Cubanito” (the little Cuban boy).
In 1962 he started to work in radio, producing his own show, “Trinchera Agraria”, specialized in música guajira campesina (Cuban country music). In 1971 he left radio and started to play in the Casa de la Trova de Santiago together with Quinteto de la Trova and Septeto Típico Oriental. Things stayed that way until veteran group leader Roberto Echeverría left Cuarteto Patria in 1978. Elíades Ochoa joined the legendary group, which, until then, had not recorded any albums despite its popularity.
With the addition of Eliades Ochoa, Cuarteto Patria started its international career, playing since then in Europe, Mexico and even the United States. In addition, the music repertoire was expanded from the original bolero and criolla, Cuarteto Patria’s specialties, to include son montuno, guaracha and guajira. All of it perfectly integrated in a natural way by a group bent on preserving the best musical tradition in Cuba with an essential line-up: guitars, acoustic bass, percussion and well harmonized vocals.
In 1997 Eliades Ochoa participated in the Buena Vista Social Club project, that Ry Cooder produced, bringing together some of the best performers of Cuban son.
Although Eliades Ochoa announced his retirement as a trova singer in early 2001, the Cuban musician acknowledged in May of that year that he would continue singing his music throughout the world, after reconsidering that first decision. “It is difficult to give up the public who listens to my music, I appreciated that during my tour of South America.”
In December of 2008, Eliades Ochoa and other Cuban musicians met musicians from Mali at a Madrid studio. they recorded an album titled Afrocubism.
When Eliades Ochoa is not on tour you can find him chatting with his friends or signing autographs in his hometown, Santiago de Cuba, at the intersection of José María Heredia and San Pedro streets.
* A Una Coqueta, with Cuarteto Patria (1993)
* Lion Is Loose (Cubason, 1996)
* CubAfrica, with Manu Dibango (Mélodie, 1998)
* Sublime Illusión (Higher Octave, 1999)
* Chanchaneando (Para, 2000)
* Tribute To The Cuarteto Patria (Higher Octave World, 2000)
* Eliades Ochoa y El Cuarteto Patria (Egrem, 2000)
* Cuidadito Compay Gallo (Egrem, 2001)
* Son De Oriente (Egrem, 2001)
* Estoy Como Nunca (Higher Octave World, 2002)
* Llega El Cuarteto Patria (Egrem, 2002)
* Son De Santiago (Edenways, 2003)
* Ochoa y Segundo (Edenways, 2003)
* Se Soltó un León (Corason Records, 2006)
* La colección cubana: Eliades Ochoa (Nascente NSCD 114, 2006)
* Afrocubism (World circuit, 2010)
* Eliades Ochoa and Alma Latina – Guajira Mas Guajira (Tumi Music, 2016)
Arsenio Rodriguez was a revolutionary figure in Cuban music during the 1940s. He was a bandleader, tresero (tres player) and percussionist, who developed the classic Cuban dance band. An expert in Congolese rhythms, he pushed African influences to the fore, refashioning the traditional septeto by adding the conga drum and two extra trumpets to give it much more power and scope, setting his syncopated tres style against the percussion.
Arsenio was born August 30, 1911 in Guira de Maricujes, in the Province of Matanzas. A tragic accident -he was kicked by a horse- as a young boy left him blind. He became known as “El Ciego Maravilloso,” the Blind Marvel.
His father gave Arsenio a small guitar when he was a young child. At the age of 15 years, Arsenio met Victor Feliciano, a carpenter who manufactured musical instruments. Victor taught him how to play guitar, maracas and bongos.
In the early 1930s Arsenio started his first group, Sexteto Boston, in the Hornos district. In 1937 Arsenio left the band to join Septeto Bellamar, which was led by Jose Interian, a trumpet player. This was an important step in Arsenio’s career. Several of his songs were recorded. Miguelito Valdes sang “Bruca Manigua” and “Funfuñando” with Orquesta Casino de Playa. Arsenio formed his own band in 1939. It was an innovative line-up, featuring tumbadora (conga), a piano, and trumpets. This format was named conjunto (ensemble).
During the 1940s some of Arsenio’s most famous compositions were recorded, including “A Belen le Toca Ahora,” “La Yuca de Catalina,” “Juventud Amaliana,” and La vida es un Sueño, his best-known bolero. His innovative use of the piano began with a young Ruben Gonzalez, who played on Rodriguez’s first recording in 1943, and developed over the years with Lili Martinez.
In 1948 Arsenio moved to New York. Most of his All Star band went to play with trumpetist Felix Chappotin. That group became the now legendary Conjunto Chappotin.
The period in the United States, the 1950s and 1960s, found Arsenio struggling to find radio hits. He experimented with jazz and had some success in New York.
Sadly, he died a poor man in Los Angeles in 1971, just when Cuban-inspired salsa was starting to become popular in New York and other cities.
Alfredo De La Fe is a Cuban-born and New York-based violinist who lived in Colombia for more than 16 years, responsible for transforming the violin into an important sound within salsa and Latin music.
The first solo violinist to perform with a Salsa orchestra, De La Fe has toured the world more than thirty times, appearing in concert and participating in more than one hundred albums by such top-ranked Latin artists as Eddie Palmieri, Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Jose Alberto “El Canario”, Cheo Feliciano, The Fania All Stars and Santana.
His second solo album, Alfredo, released in 1979, received a Grammy nomination as “Best Latin album”.
A child prodigy, Alfredo’s father who was a singer (a tenor of opera) in Havana, Cuba and sang on Cuban radio with Bienvenido Leon and Celia Cruz in the 1940s recognized his son’s skills and encouraged his musical talent. De La Fe began studying violin at the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory in Havana in 1962. Two years later, he received a scholarship to attend the Warsaw Conservatory in Poland.
In 1965, he performed compositions by Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in Carnegie Hall. A scholarship to Juilliard Arts enabled him to further his studies. De La Fe launched his professional career, at the age of twelve, when he switched from classical music to Salsa and accepted an invitation to join charanga legend Jose Fajardo’s Orchestra.
In 1972, he joined Eddie Palmieri’s Orchestra. He remained with the group for a very short period, moving temporarily to San Francisco where he joined Santana. Returning to New York, De La Fe joined Tipica ’73 in 1977. Two years later, he released his debut solo album, Alfredo.
In 1980, De La Fe signed with Sars All Stars, and produced thirty two albums for the Latin record label. His second solo album, Charanga ’80, was released the same year.
In 1981, De La Fe became musical director of Tito Puente’s Latin Percussion Jazz Ensemble. The following year, he resumed his solo career, signing with Taboga, for whom he recorded the album Triunfo.
Relocating to Colombia in 1983, De La Fe signed with Philips and released three albums – Made in Colombia, Dancing in the Tropics and Alfredo De La Fe Vallenato – by the end of the 1980s.
In 1989, De La Fe switched to the Fuentes label. Although he joined the Fania All Stars in 1995, De La Fe continued to pursue a solo career. He signed with Sony Music in 1997. Two years later, he toured with his own band, appearing at festivals in Denmark, Holland, France, Turkey and Belgium, and reunited with Eddie Palmieri’s Orchestra for a European tour.
In 2002, after spending several years in Europe, Alfredo moved back to New York and toured the United States with his New York-based band.
* Para Africa con amor (Sacodis Records, 1978)
* Alfredo (1979)
* Charanga (Sacodis Records, 1980)
* Triunfo (Toboga Records, 1982)
* Made in Colombia (Phillips Records 1984)
* Alfredo De La Fé Vallenato (Phillips Records, 1985)
* Dancing in the Tropics (Phillips Records, 1988)
* Salsa (Fuentes Records, 1990)
* Los Violines de Alfredo De La Fé (Fuentes Records, 1990)
* Salsa y Charanga (Fuentes, 1993)
* The Violins of Alfredo De La Fé – Sentir de Cuba (Fuentes, 1992)
* Con Toda la Salsa (Fuentes, 1993)
* Bailando en el Trópico
* Salsa Passion
* La Salsa de los Dioses (Fuentes, 1995)
* De La Fé y aché (Sony Music, 1997)
* Latitudes (Ryko Latino, 2000)
* La Llave de Oro, with Fruko (2006)
I’m a greedy girl…and I’m sneaky. I have secreted my way into the dark, messy lair of our esteemed editor and smuggled out a savory treat – ABUC, the latest by the Cuban Grammy nominated pianist, composer and producer Roberto Fonseca. Well worth the personal risks of being crushed under the weight of stacks of CD and mountains of press releases, ABUC is lush, delicious sophistication. Grounded by meaty Cuban percussion, set soaring with tight, neat brass and levitated by the sheer brilliance of savvy compositions, Mr. Fonseca pulls and tugs at the history of Cuba’s musical traditions to conjure up a brilliant homage to his homeland.
“The idea was to show a different Cuba, perhaps from a different direction,” explains Mr. Fonseca. “That’s why the album title is Cuba spelled backward. I wanted to review the Cuban music history – not only the styles that have influenced me most, but in a broader sense, so people could have a better idea of how the orchestras used to sound in those times.”
This Cuban powerhouse comes to music by way of his drummer father, Roberto Fonseca, Sr., singer mother, Mercedes Cortés Alfaro, and older half-brothers drummer Emilio Valdés and pianist Jesús “Chuchito Valdes, Jr. who are the sons of Ms. Cortés’s first marriage to pianist Jesús “Chucho” Valdes, and of course the rich music that pervades the island like the scent of tropical flowers. With collaborations with the likes of Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo, Carlinhos Brown and Orlando “Cachaito” Lopez, Mr. Fonseca has dazzled listeners on countless tours and recordings like Akokan (2010), Tiene Que Ver (2002), Zamazu (2007), Yo (2013) and Temperamento (2012).
Released under the Impulse label in conjunction with Verve, ABUC is set for digital release on October 28th and physical copies out on November 11th. Writing most of the compositions himself, Mr. Fonseca inundates listeners with a collection of tracks that drinks deeply from bolero, danzón, cha-cha-cha, contradanza, descarga and hip-hop, all immersed in Mr. Fonseca’s jazz sensibilities. Often the music seems steeped in the tradition, helped by way of the recording process.
Mr. Fonseca explains, “Capturing the music as it used to be done in the old days means getting out of the high quality sound of these days, and if a certain song invoked a certain time when the sound was not that clean, that’s how we had to do it on ABUC. I’m sure many people will get confused and will think some tracks were composed some time ago. I hope they do, because that was our goal.”
Chocked full of goodies, listeners get the full force of Mr. Fonseca’s mastery from opening track “Cubano Chant” with its plummy percussion, sleek piano and some fabulous help from Trombone Shorty. ABUC is a feast of delights with the cleverly dated sections of “Afro Mamba” with vocals by Dayme Arocena and Carlos Calunga, the dazzling guitar laced “Tumbao de la Unidad with the revered Eliades Ochoa and the sizzlingly sassy “Family” which is stylized in the way of the 70s group Los Zafiros.
Equally delightful is the dark thrum against ethereal vocals on “Habanera,” the hip-hop/reggaeton combo of “Soul Guardians” and charming bolero “Despues” with Manuel “Guajiro” Mirabal on trumpet and Mr. Fonseca’s mother Mercedes Cortes Alfaro singing the vocals.
Mr. Fonseca says, “I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to work with such a super team. What’s more, I feel blessed to be a musician and to have the opportunity to share my life and my perspective through my music. When people listen to this album and attend my concerts, I would like for them to walk away feeling full of positive energy and hope. I want them to feel the same love that I’ve put into this record – enough to make them dance. I want them to feel good, but most importantly, I want them to feel!”
ABUC is masterful and sleekly sophisticated, but it is infused with that familiar Cuban invitation that music is an elemental joy and that everyone should have a good time.
Award-winning Cuban jazz master is set to perform on Friday, September 16 at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. This concert is part of the Global Fridays series.
Prieto’s innovative drumming techniques and compositions have had powerful effect on the global Latin and jazz scene. Also a gifted educator, Prieto has worked with bands led by Henry Threadgill, Steve Coleman and Eddie Palmieri, among others.
Harold López-Nussa – El Viaje (Mack Avenue Records, 2016)
Composer and pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa’s El Viaje, out September 9th on the Mack Avenue Records label will certainly earn the cool kid on the block spot in Latin jazz offerings this year. Sleek and agile, El Viaje is comfortable in its own skin, devoid of pretension and without any ham-handed artistic wrestling.
Mr. Lopez-Nussa, along with his partners from his The Harold Lopez-Nussa Trio, Senegalese bassist and vocalist Alune Wade and drummer and percussionist Ruy Adrian Lopez-Nussa (who just happens to be Mr. Lopez-Nussa’s younger brother) and guest artist trumpeter and flugelhorn player Mayquel Gonzalez, tambores batá player and vocalist Dreiser Durruthy, percussionist Adel Gonzalez and the Lopez-Nussa patriarch and drummer Ruy Francisco Lopez-Nussa whips up a sound that is warm and compelling.
Hooking international influences from Africa, France and the West into his own brand of Cuban jazz, Mr. Lopez-Nussa fashions a sound that’s seamlessly sophisticated and globetrotting easy.
Mr. Lopez-Nussa says of the recording, “Having a non-Cuban musician on this recording speaks to our contact with other cultures. Especially with African culture, which is so far from ours geographically and yet so close. Every time we play, I believe we enter into a journey we are creating. Ever since I was a kid, since I began to study piano, music, I have tried; I have searched for that journey of the mind, always traveling with music. I remember that I started playing ‘El Viaje’ while on tour as a way of feeling closer to home, and when I’m here, it’s also a way for my mind to travel.”
With a career that includes recordings as New Day (2013), Havana – Paris – Dakar (2015), El Pais de las Maravillas (2011), Herencia (2009), Sobre El Atelier (2007) and Canciones (2011); a spot on the “Fourth Piano Concerto” by Heitor Villa-Lobos and a recording with Cuba’s National Symphony Orchestra; a first prize slot and an Audience Prize of the Jazz Solo Piano Competition at the Montreux Jazz Festival; a collaboration with David Sanchez, Christian Scott, Stefon Harris and a three year touring spot with band for the revered Omara Portuondo, Mr. Lopez-Nussa still finds his Havana hometown a creative well.
“I’ve always liked the idea of projecting myself to the world from here,” says Mr. Lopez-Nussa. “The personal ties are very strong for me. A lot ties me to this country. I want this to be my place to create—even if I can have those great experiences traveling. The personal is essential for my creative process. Being able to go out into the neighborhood where I grew up, a place that I know so well, walk on the Malecón, sit by the sea. This is where I want to be.”
Opening with the jaunty “Me Voy Pa’ Cuba,” El Viaje is a treat with compositions that unfold easily and organically with flashes of delicious rhythms, sleek horn lines and brilliant improvisational piano sections. Mr. Wade provides the vocals for the heady, Africa inspired “Africa,” before dazzling “Feria” takes over in a mix of Cuban party and jazz club with a little Thelonious Monk added in for good measure. The elegant bolero “Lobos’s Cha” is as much as a delight as is the hip sassiness of “Bacalao Con Pan.”
Other goodies include the elegant lines of brass and piano against delicious percussion on title track “El Viaje,” the bright breeziness of “Mozambique En Mi B” and sheer coolness conjured up on “D’Una Fabula.” Equally good is the sly musical journey that is “Inspiracion En Connecticut,” as well as the evocative sultry mystery whipped up Mr. Lopez-Nussa and company on “Oriente.”
Mr. Lopez-Nussa has ensured the conditions are good, the weather fair and the course of El Viaje is smooth and easy.