Michel Camilo was born into a musical family and played accordion before switching to piano at the age of nine. In 1979, he arrived to New York, where the self-taught student of American jazz, continued his studies and made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1985. After three years as a member of Paquito D’Rivera’s band, in 1988, Camilo released his self-titled Epic debut. The album became an instant success and held the top jazz album spot for eight consecutive weeks. His next recording, On Fire, was voted one of the top three Jazz Albums of the Year by Billboard and 1990s On the Other Hand was a top-ten jazz album.
In 2000, Camilo’s Verve release, Spain, with Spanish flamenco guitar maestro Tomatito, won Best Latin Jazz Album in the first-ever Latin Grammy Awards. Camilo also appeared on the soundtrack CD for the acclaimed Latin jazz film Calle 54, directed by the Oscar-winning Spaniard Fernando Trueba.
2002 marked a special year for the ever-versatile Camilo with the release of two albums, one classical and one Jazz. In February, Decca released his Concerto for Piano & Orchestra, Suite for Piano, Strings and Harp & Caribe, to celebrate his guest appearance with the NSO conducted by Leonard Slatkin at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and in March Telarc released Triangulo.
August 2003 marked the Telarc release of Live at the Blue Note, featuring Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez on drums and Charles Flores on acoustic bass. This two-CD set captures the quintessential Camilo “sound” live for the first time. Camilo called upon drummer Horacio ‘El Negro’ Hernandez to bring his rich Cuban roots and spirit, which he expresses unlike any other drummer. The 1997 Grammy Award winner performed and recorded with legends such as McCoy Tyner, Carlos Santana, and as a member of renowned Latin ensembles like Tito Puente’s Tropi-Jazz All Stars, El Negro has earned a renowned reputation as one of the most powerful and versatile players in the current musical scene.
Bassist Charles Flores played and inspired the best, while continuing to challenge himself and his peers in new artistic directions. A graduate of Cuba’s prestigious Escuela Nacional de Arte, Flores has performed and recorded with Juan Pablo Torres, Steve Turre, Jane Bunnett and the BBC Orchestra in London masters. While in Cuba, Charles was recruited by one of the most important figures in the history of Cuban jazz, pianist Emiliano Salvador. In addition, Flores was also the bassist for the groundbreaking Cuban fusion group AfroCuba and for Salsa sensation Isaac Delgado.
French Toast (Electric Bird, 1984)
Why Not? (Electric Bird, 1985)
Suntan/In Trio (Electric Bird, 1986)
Michel Camilo (CBS Portrait, 1988)
On Fire (Portrait, 1989)
On the Other Hand (Epic, 1990)
Amo Tu Cama Rica (1991?) Rendezvous (Columbia, 1993)
One More Once (Columbia, 1994)
Two Much (1996)
Thru My Eyes (Columbia, 1997) Spain (Verve, 1999)
Piano Concerto, Suite & Caribe (Decca, 2001) Triangulo (Telarc, 2002) Live at the Blue Note (Telarc, 2003)
Solo (Telarc, 2004)
Rhapsody in Blue (Telarc, 2006) Spain Again (Emarcy, 2006)
Spirit of the Moment (Telarc, 2006)
Mano a Mano (Emarcy, 2011) What’s Up? (Okeh, 2013) Live in London (Redondo Music, 2015) Spain Forever (Universal, 2016)
Uruguayan jazz vocalist and songwriter Valeria Matzner has a new album recorded in Canada titled Anima. She incorporates exciting Brazilian and electronic music elements. Valeria discusses her work with World Music Central.
What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?
I always start my compositions with a melodic line. In my opinion, a good melodic line makes or breaks a song and if it is strong, it should be able to stand alone. Then comes the rhythmic idea and the harmony. Because of my background, I like rhythms that are syncopated. I also like harmonies that create tension and release and are somehow unpredictable.
Who can you cite as your main musical influences?
Too many artists have inspired me but I would say that my way of singing is definitely inspired by Brazilian singers like Elis Regina, Maria Rita and Joyce, among others. My compositions, however, are inspired by every inspiring musician and music I have ever heard from the Beatles to Piazzolla, from Gotan Project to Ruben Rada from Jorge Drexler to Radiohead from Jazzanova to Mercedes Sosa, Charly Garcia and from Fito Paez to Nirvana. I am a musical sponge, I absorb many styles and then come up with my own thing.
Uruguay has a great tango and candombe tradition, but you seem to be more influenced by Brazilian music. How did you come in contact with Brazilian music?
My mom loves Brazilian music so she would often play it at home. I love the way of singing: effortless, rhythmically challenging and so deceivingly simple. I also love the incredible composer from Brazil like Milton Nascimento, Chico Buarque, Joao Gilberto, Jobim, Lenine, etc, etc.
You sing in various languages but when you sing in Spanish, it feels more natural. Will you continue singing in Spanish?
Absolutely, Spanish is my first language and I will always sing in it. But I also think that singing in different languages allows me the opportunity to communicate with a larger audience.
Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.
I made my first recording when I was 19. I was the singer and composer of a grunge rock band fused with the native sounds of Ecuador and Peru. In 1994 my band was invited to play at the South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, followed by a tour in the US.
Before all that, however, I studied classical guitar and was part of the Uruguayan national choir. Then I moved to Buenos Aires in the mid 1980s where I found myself in the middle of a musical movement that was sweeping the nation and taking over radio stations and venues. When I went back to Uruguay I started my own band and that was it until I moved to Canada.
In Vancouver I studied jazz and electronic music composition and it was there, at music school, that I started realizing the incredibly rich musical background of my native South America. I decided to fully embrace my musical background and a fusion of all my different influences was born.
How are you adapting to life in Canada?
It was very difficult at first. I felt like a “frog from a different pond” (como sapo de otro pozo) but I was slowly able to find my place and to learn to appreciate the Canadian ways of thinking and behaving. Canada is a country of immigrants and Canadians, for the most part, are very open to embracing different cultures. Toronto, specially, is a very multicultural city with people of all religious, cultural and musical backgrounds. I love that.
If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with whom would that be?
Wow, too many to name but off the top of my head I would say Jorge Drexler and Bono for their lyrics and poetic way of looking at life, Milton Nascimento and Peter Gabriel for their musicality, Elis Regina for her phrasing, David Bowie for his edge, Radiohead for their creative force and any new and up and coming musician who I find interesting.
Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?
At the moment I am concentrating on promoting my album, Anima, putting a tour together and writing music for my next album.
Legacy and Alchemy is an impressive 2-CD album by American jazz and soul vocalist, pianist and arranger from Atlanta. Legacy and Alchemy brings together the rich traditions of American jazz and sol and Brazilian music. Don’t mistake this album with the slick smooth bossa nova Americans tend to record. Alexandra’s music has more depth and she incorporates progressive jazz, irresistible samba and other elements.
The list of guests is extraordinary, featuring current stars from Brazil and USA as well as iconic artists who have passed away. The list includes: the late Miles Davis, the late Antonio Carlos Jobim, the late Oscar Castro-Neves, the late Al Jarreau, and the late Rod Temperton, along with Ivan Lins, Dona Ivone Lara, Carlinhos Brown, Banda Black Rio, The Jobim Trio (Paulo Jobim, Daniel Jobim and Paulo Braga), Larry Dunn, Al McKay, Hubert Laws, Siedah Garrett, Robertinho Silva, Larry Williams, Arthur Maia, Ricardo Silveira, Darryl Jones, Teo Lima, Armando Marcal, Marco Brito, Marcelo Martins, Jesse Sadoc, Orquestra Atlantica, Max Viana, Pretinho da Serrinha, Chris Walker, Darryl Tookes, Curtis King, Paulo Calasans, Marcelo Mariano, and Maestro Charles Floyd conducting The Bossa Nova Noites Orquestra.
Legacy and Alchemy was masterfully recorded and produced and highlights the highly expressive, remarkable vocals of Alexandra Jackson who gracefully delivers soul and jazz vocal styles, singing in English and Portuguese.
Gonzalo Julio González Fonseca, known artistically as Gonzalo Rubalcaba, was born in Havana, Cuba, May 27, 1963, to a musical family that included his father, pianist Guillermo (who led Charanga Rubalcaba) and his grandfather, danzón composer Jacobo.
Gonzalo started piano lessons at the age of eight and earned a degree in music composition at the Institute of Fine Arts in Havana.
With Orquesta Aragón he toured France and Africa in 1980. He introduced his own Grupo Proyecto to the North Sea and Berlin Festivals in l985. In July 1990 he appeared as a surprise guest with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian at Montreux Festival, Switzerland, in a historic performance (available as the CD Discovery).
Egrem Studios of Havana was the first to record his music during the early and mid 1980s, Inicio, an album of piano solos, and Concierto Negro.
Beginning in 1986, Gonzalo began recording for Messidor of Frankfurt, Germany, and put out three albums for that label with his Cuban Quartet, Mi Gran Pasion, Live in Havana, and Giraldilla.
Charlie Haden met Rubalcaba in Cuba while both were performing as part of the Havana Jazz Festival in 1986. Haden later invited Rubalcaba to participate in what is now know as the Montreal Tapes with Haden on bass and Paul Motian on drums.
Blue Note CEO Bruce Lundvall signed him in 1990 and subsequently released The Blessing, Discovery: Live at Montreux, Images: Live from Mt. Fuji, Suite 4 y 20, Rapsodia, Diz, The Gonzalo Rubalcaba Trio, and Imagine: Live in the USA, which featured his Cuban compatriots, drummer Julio Barreto, bassist Felipe Cabrera and trumpeter Reynaldo Melian.
For Gonzalo Rubalcaba, the ability to easily interweave musical idioms is a by-product of the long presence of American jazz on Cuban soil. “The connection between Cuban music and jazz has been the regular material for a while,” he says. “It’s something they’ve handled for a while including those Cuban musicians who perhaps don’t specialize in jazz. I think that Cuban musicians have a natural ability to be versatile and subscribe themselves to different styles and reach high levels of technicality and mastery.”
A resident of South Florida with his wife and three kids since 1996, Rubalcaba has had unfettered access to the cream of the crop of U.S. talent and the overall jazz scene since his triumphant 1993 Lincoln Center performance.
In 1998 he released two CDs on Blue Note: Flying Colors, a free-wheeling duet with saxophonist Joe Lovano, and Antiguo, a folkloric and futuristic fusion of Cuban and improvisational music.
Inner Voyage, the 9th release on the Blue Note label from Gonzalo Rubalcaba features drummer Ignacio Berroa, bassist Jeff Chambers, and special guest, the ubiquitous tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker; and completes an incredible artistic hat trick.
Inner Voyage represents the next step in his ongoing quest to become a more “integrated musician” with his all-encompassing synthesis of Latin, Afro-Cuban and African-American musical styles.
In the tradition of Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk, Gonzalo Rubalcaba composed most of the music on Inner Voyage to evoke the personalities of several important people in his life. “I’ve tried to give the impression that it’s a very intimate type of work,” Rubalcaba says of the CD, “precisely because it’s closely related to human beings that have had, and still do, special significance to me.”
The roots of this group go back to the 1995 Heineken Jazz Festival in Puerto Rico, where Rubalcaba first connected with the great Cuban drummer Ignacio Berroa – who played with everyone from Dizzy Gillespie and Freddie Hubbard to McCoy Tyner. Berroa replaced Rubalcaba’s original drummer who couldn’t make the gig due to visa problems. “Ignacio is a very strong musician,” Rubalcaba says, “because as everybody knows in the business, he’s the only drummer capable of switching back from swing to Afro-Cuban, from samba to bossa nova, or any other rhythm flawlessly.”
In 2002 Gonzalo won both a Latin Grammy for Jazz Album of the Year, Supernova, as well as a Grammy for co-production with Charlie Haden of Nocturne, a Verve release of Cuban and Mexican boleros and ballads.
Three years after Supernova, dazzled the jazz world with its blend of technical virtuosity and contemplative interpretations of traditional Cuban themes and imaginative originals, Rubalcaba released Paseo. “Yes, it’s been a very long time since Supernova,” he explained. “I used to do an album or two a year, but that pace doesn’t give you the opportunity to think; you have to produce. However, I want the opportunity to think as well. After I create an album, I need to play the repertoire with other musicians.”
The benefit of taking his time, Rubalcaba, states, is that the music is more focused, more relaxed, and more musical. “Sometimes, I hear recordings that sound rushed, like the musicians were under a lot of pressure. It sounds like that moment was never finished. Maybe two and a half years is too long, but two albums a year is too much.”
Paseo reprises the quartet format the pianist has used to great advantage on such recordings as Rapsodia and Antiguo, but one he hasn?t used much in recent years. Paseo presents what he calls his New Cuban Quartet and reinterprets some self-penned works that originally debuted on earlier recordings.
“I had that need to begin a new period with the Cuban quartet. I felt nostalgic for what I did with my quartet in past years, but it’s not only about emotion, it’s also about professionalism. I had a feeling that some of the pieces I did in the past still sound very contemporary in connection with what we’re doing right now. I think it’s a good idea to visit again the concepts that I did with my earlier Cuban quartets. About half of the record is what I did earlier in my career, but the result, I believe, is totally new.”
The fresh approach to such previously recorded works as Santo Canto, from Rapsodia (1992), and Intermitencia, a track featured on Antiguo (1998), reborn as Meanwhile, can be traced to the sum total of Rubalcaba’s experience, maturity and the involvement of new talent. “I’m older, and I have a different point of view ? I?m approaching the music with more experience. And I put the music in the hands of new musicians. We didn’t intend to do a copy of what I?d done in the past with the other Cuban quartet. We were totally free to do a new version of the music, with everyone adding what each believed would make the music richer.”
The album’s first and last tracks, El Guerrillero and Los Bueyes, are traditional Cuban songs that link the session’s free-leaning original repertoire to the elemental Cuban styles that have played such an important role in Rubalcaba’s maturation as a musician and as a man. “In one way or the other, during my life, I’ve tried to do music that’s connected to the soul, particularly to Afro-Cuban music. Not only as a musician but as a religious man, I have a deep connection with the meaning of that music.”
As with his previous Blue Note recordings such as Antiguo, Supernova, and Paseo, Solo explores this inner dialog through compositions consisting almost exclusively of themes from the Afro-Cuban culture. They include lullabies and African-rooted chants which hold a very distinguished place in the history of Cuban music. Solo won the 2006 Latin Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album.
Concierto Negro (1987)
Mi Gran Pasion (1987)
Live in Havana (Pimienta Records, 1989)
Giraldilla (Pimienta Records, 1990) Discovery: Live at Montreux (Blue Note, 1990) The Blessing (Blue Note, 1991)
Images: Live at Mt. Fuji (Blue Note, 1991)
Suite 4 y 20 (Blue Note, 1992)
Rapsodia (Blue Note, 1992)
Imagine (Blue Note, 1993) Diz (Blue Note, 1993)
Concierto Negro (Egrem, 1995)
Concatenacion (Egrem, 1995)
Flying Colors (Blue Note, 1997)
Antiguo (Blue Note, 1998)
Inner Voyage (Blue Note, 1999)
Supernova (Blue Note, 2001)
Inicio (Egrem, 2001)
Straight Ahead (Yemaya, 2003)
Paseo (Blue Note, 2004)
Land of the Sun (2004)
Solo (Blue Note, 2006) Avatar (Angel Records, 2008)
Fé (5Passion, 2010) XXI Century (5Passion, 2011)
Volcan (5Passion 2013)
Live Faith (5Passion, 2014) Suite Caminos (5Passion, 2015) Tokyo Adagio (Impulse!, 2015)
Charlie (5Passion, 2015)
A former classically trained violist and pianist, Aruán Ortiz was born in Santiago de Cuba in 1973, and began his studies at the age of 8 at the Escuela Vocacional de Arte in his home town. Continuing at the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana, Cuba, he was marked by the influence of Bach, Mozart, Paganini and Liszt, among others.
After receiving various awards as a violist – Amadeo Rold?n award for Best Mozart Interpretation, 1991, Best Interpretation of Cuban Music, 1991 – and playing as a soloist with the Santiago Symphony Orchestra in 1992, he gave up the viola at the age of 20 in favor of the piano, an instrument he had always preferred, and with which he most identified in his search for new sounds.
Following his heart, Aruán went on to study classical piano at the Conservatorio Profesional de M?sica in Santiago de Cuba. In 1995, he won Best Cuban Composition at the Symposium of Cuban Music, Jamaica, and soon thereafter he was discovered by the Spanish record label Magic Music/Universal Latino, which brought him to Spain where he participated in La Isla de la Musica (1996). This project assembled music from all over Cuba, was acclaimed by the international press, and was recognized as one of the first albums to bring Cuban music to the European and American mainstream.
In the same year, Aruán continued developing his sound and recorded his first album as a soloist, Impresi?n Tropical (Universal Latino, 1996), a compilation of traditional Cuban music and original compositions played piano solo. During this period he was also awarded a series of scholarships to study classical piano with celebrated Cuban pianist and educator Cecilio Tieles at the Professional Conservatory in Vilaseca, Spain, jazz piano with Joanne Brackeen and Danilo P?rez at the Berklee College of Music, and more recently with Charlie Banacos.
Influenced by jazz greats such as Bud Powell, Art Tatum, and Thelonious Monk, and mentored by Horacio Fumero (former bass player in the Tete Montoli? Trio), Aruán’s jazz career took off as a sideman in Barcelona and Paris, playing with Antoine Roney, Sarah Morrow, Tata Guines, Miguel ‘Anga’ Diaz, and in the U.S. with Wallace Roney, Roy Hargrove, Stefon Harris, George Garzone, Sheila E., Horacio ‘El Negro’ Hernandez, Giovanni Hidalgo, Lionel Loueke, Eric McPherson, Jane Bunnett, and John Lockwood among others.
While in Europe he was the recipient of various awards including Best Jazz Interpretation, Festival de Jazz in Vic, Spain (2000) and Semifinalist, Jas Hennessy Piano Solo Competition, Montreux, Switzerland (2001). Later, in the U.S., Aruán participated in the recording of the definitive Miles Davis tribute record on Columbia Records with Davis’ nephew Vince Wilburn, Wallace Roney, Antoine Roney, Missy Elliot, and others in 2004.
He has also collaborated on the following recordings: Esperanza Spalding, Junjo (Ayva M?sica, 2005); Arturo Stable, Cuban Crosshatching (Origen Records, 2005); Chie Imaizumi Big Band, Adversity (2005). Aside from his trio, Aruán also works as an assistant professor at Berklee College of Music, and gives workshops and clinics at different universities around the U.S.
Arturo Sandoval was born in Artemisa, a small village in the province of Havana, Cuba on November 6, 1949. Arturo started playing music at age 13 in the village band, where he learned the basics of music theory and percussion. After playing many instruments, he finally settled on the trumpet. As a child Sandoval had little exposure to Jazz. In a 1993 interview with Down Beat he commented, “The only thing I used to hear was traditional Cuban music, what we call “son”, which was played by a septet with a trumpet and bongos.” But one fateful day, a fellow trumpeter played him a record by Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker that turned his life around. It was love at first listen!
In 1964, he began three years of serious classical trumpet studies at the Cuban National School of Arts and by the age of 16, he earned a place in the country’s all-star national band. By this time, he was totally immersed in Jazz with Dizzy Gillespie his idol. Drafted into the military in 1971, Sandoval was able to play with the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna and continued his daily practice regimen, an absolute must for trumpeters. After his discharge, he co-founded Irakere, which became Cuba’s most important Jazz ensemble, with saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera and pianist Chucho Valdés. They quickly became a worldwide sensation, and their appearance at the 1978 Newport Jazz Festival in New York introduced them to American audiences, and resulted in a recording contract with Columbia Records. But Arturo was in search of new musical possibilities and he left the group in 1981 to form his own band. He continued to tour worldwide with his group, playing a unique blend of Latin music and Jazz, and also as a classical trumpeter, performing with the BBC Symphony in London and the Leningrad Symphony in the former Soviet Union.
Sandoval’s talent has led him to associations with many great musicians, but perhaps the most important was with Dizzy Gillespie, a longtime proponent of Afro-Cuban music, whom Sandoval calls his spiritual father. The two musicians met in Cuba in 1977 when Gillespie was playing impromptu gigs throughout the Caribbean with saxophonist Stan Getz: “I went to the boat to find him. I’ve never had a complex about meeting famous people. If I respect somebody, I go there and try to meet them.” Because of the political situation in Cuba, the country was isolated from American musicians for nearly twenty years and during this first trip back,
Dizzy wanted to visit the black neighborhoods where musicians play guaguanco and rumba in the street. Sandoval offered to take Gillespie around in his car, and only later that night when he took the stage with Gillespie did Sandoval reveal himself as a musician. Their friendship remained strong until Dizzy’s passing in 1992. Both men continued to play and record together regularly. It was while touring with Gillespie’s Grammy Award-winning United Nation Orchestra in Rome in 1990 that Sandoval requested political asylum. Thanks to the efforts of Dizzy and then Vice-President Dan Quayle, Sandoval was able to resettle in Miami. He became a full professor at Florida International University and soon recorded his American debut Flight To Freedom on GRP. Arturo was featured on Dizzy’s Grammy winning Live At Festival Hall recording with the United Nation Orchestra in 1992 and later that year, he did his second GRP album, I Remember Clifford, his tribute to trumpet legend Clifford Brown. His other GRP recordings include: Dream Come True, a collaboration with Michel Legrand, the Grammy winning Danzón, Arturo Sandoval and The Latin Train, and his most recent, Swingin’. Like Wynton Marsalis, Arturo has a parallel career as a classical performer. His recording, The Classical Album, features trumpet concertos by Hummel and Mozart as well as his own Concerto For Trumpet and Orchestra. He continues to perform with symphonic orchestras worldwide as well as conduct clinics for eager students.
Arturo has lectured at the Conservatoire de Paris, the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in the Soviet Union, the University of California Santa Barbara, the University of Miami, the University of Wisconsin, Purdue University, and at many other institutions all over the planet. Currently, he holds a full professorship at Florida International University in Miami, where he resides with his wife and son. Arturo has also written and performed on several film soundtracks including “The Perez Family”, “The Mambo Kings”, and “Havana”. Like all musicians, Arturo Sandoval spends most of his time on the road. When asked about having such a rich life in music, he reports that “I’m blessed. Can [you] imagine making your living doing what you love? I came from a very poor family from the middle of nowhere and could never imagine I would be able to do the things I have done. God has been good to me.”
To a Finland Station with Dizzy Gillespie (Pablo, 1982)
Breaking the Sound Barrier, 1983)
No Problem (Jazz House, 1986) Tumbaito (Messidor, 1986) Straight Ahead (Jazz House, 1988)
Flight to Freedom (GRP, 1991)
I Remember Clifford (GRP, 1992)
Dream Come True with Michel Legrand (GRP, 1993)
Danzón (GRP, 1993)
The Classical Album (RCA, 1994)
Swing Love (Babacan, 1995)
Concerto (Babacan, 1995)
Arturo Sandoval & the Latin Train (GRP, 1995)
Swingin’ (GRP, 1996)
Hot House (N-Coded, 1998)
Americana (N-Coded, 1999)
Ronnie Scott’s Jazz House (DCC, 2000)
For Love or Country, The Arturo Sandoval Story (Jellybean, 2001)
L. A. Meetings (Cubop, 2001)
My Passion for the Piano (Columbia, 2001)
From Havana With Love 2003) Trumpet Evolution (Westwind, 2003)
Live at the Blue Note (Half Note, 2005)
Rumba Palace (Telarc, 2007) A Time for Love (Concord Jazz, 2010) Dear Diz – Every Day I Think of You (Concord Jazz, 2012)
At Middleton film score (Perseverance, 2014)
Eternamente Manzanero with Jorge Calandrelli (Perseverance, 2014)
Luis Muñoz, composer, arranger and percussionist, was born in San Jose, Costa Rica. Coming from a very musical family, Luis showed an early interest in the arts and spent his youth performing in rock and jazz groups. In 1972 Luis entered the University of Costa Rica where he studied both Architecture and Music. He studied privately at the National Music Conservatory and with the principal flutist of the National Symphony Orchestra.
In 1974 Luis emigrated to the United States and there completed his Degree in Music Composition at the University of California, Santa Barbara, under the tutelage of British composer Peter Fricker. For the last 30 years Luis Muñoz has written music for educational and sports documentaries, animation films, radio and television jingles, dance and theater. In addition, Muñoz has worked as a music producer and arranger, as well as a percussionist for numerous artists such as Airto Moreira, Etta James, Flora Purim and Jim Messina.
Luis Muñoz has made numerous recordings of his music throughout the years. In 1980, commissioned by the Costa Rican government, Muñoz wrote and recorded Costa Rica-Costa Rica. Luis donated all the proceeds generated by the sales of that recording to the Red Cross in Nicaragua, a nation at the time desperately trying to heal itself from the effects of a devastating civil war. In 1988 he signed with CBS Records and recorded La Verdad.
In 1996, Fahrenheit Records released The Fruit of Eden, co-produced by Dominic Camardella. It marked Muñoz’s debut in the US. In 1998, Muñoz brought listeners a more progressive and exotic expression on his next endeavor, Compassion, continuing to evolve as an innovative force in instrumental music.
“I grew up in Costa Rica, which is right in the middle of the American continent,” he said, “and being in a place where every form of Latin music merges really had an impact on me. Coming from a large family that included amateur instrumentalists as well as professional composers, my involvement with music started at a very early age. I was constantly being exposed to the plentiful, multi-faceted world of Latin American music; the pleasure, inspiration and joy that came from that experience were very important factors in my decision to become a composer.
I remember listening to the songs of Chilean Victor Jara and Violeta Parra; the voices of Mercedes Sosa and Milton Nascimento; the Argentinean Tango; the music of the Andean “Altiplano.” I loved the music of Brazil, with the pulsating rhythms of the samba, the maracatu, the partido alto and the baiao, plus the gentle beauty of the bossa nova; the cumbia from Colombia, the merengue from the Dominican Republic, the calypso from Trinidad, the norte?a and ranchera music from Mexico, the bomba and plena from Puerto Rico and the music of Cuba. Cuban music, with it’s deep African roots, has offered the world the gifts of the rumba, the cha-cha-cha, the son montuno, songo, mambo, guaracha and guaguanc?, creating beats to which the entire world now dances.”
Muñoz continues, ” … In loving and appreciating these styles of music I grew up with, I would soon realize that there was much more yet to be discover. Early on I remember being exposed to the music of Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk, which ignited my unquenchable thirst for jazz. Then, during my early teens, the” British Invasion,” and music from groups like the Beatles would introduce me to a new type of music and culture from other parts of the world. Naturally, as a student at the Music Conservatory of the University of Costa Rica, I found myself deeply intrigued with the classical music repertoire. Bach, Ravel, Chopin, Stravinsky … the influences were many and varied. I was in awe of the vast emotional spectrum of classical music. The passion and depth, the rapture and relevance, the sheer magic that can only be found in some of the greatest works ever written.”
Muñoz’s album Vida includes special guests Jonathan Dane and Adolfo Acosta (Tower of Power) on trumpets, Randy Tico (Airto Moreira) on electric bass, world renown classical bassist Nico Abondolo, Brian Mann (Larry Carlton) on accordion, Kevin Winard (Sergio M?ndez) on percussion, Ron Kalina (Linda Ronstadt) on chromatic harmonica and Charlie Bisharat (Strunz & Farah) on violin.
Colombian musical prodigy Edmar Castañeda was born March 31, 1978 in Bogotá, Colombia. He began playing the difficult and exotic Colombian harp at the early age of 13.
Although he only completed his formal music education in 2003, he has achieved critical acclaim. He has appeared as an invited guest with Paquito D’Rivera at NJPAC, NY’s Beacon Theatre, Lincoln Center and the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts. He has also performed with Lila Downs, Romero Lubambo, Dave Samuels, Dave Valentin, Richard Bona and John Benitez.
In 2017, Japanese pianist Hiromi and Edmar Castaneda performed live at the 2017 Montreal International Jazz Festival. The concert was recorded and Live in Montreal was released in late in 2017. “We both clearly remember the first few minutes of playing together in soundcheck,” Hiromi recalled. “It was really magical and effortless. It felt like all the musical notes that we created were happy to be together. It was like dancing.”
American composer, songwriter and vocalist Eleanor Dubinsky uses various musical genres to express her finely-crafted songs. She has a delightful, engaging vocal style and her lyrics transmit her concern for the marginalized, longing and understanding of human beings from diverse cultures.
On Soft Spot of My Heart you’ll find a captivating collection of songs that incorporate jazz, gospel, soul, Americana, pop and world music elements.
The album was recorded in Portugal and New York City, which allowed Dubinsky to collaborate with a group of artists representing different musical genres and nationalities, including musicians from New York, Brazil, Cape Verde, and Portugal.
Eleanor Dubinsky spent several years abroad in Europe, Argentina and Mexico, where she learned French and Spanish. She writes her songs in English, French and Spanish. Meanwhile, she was exposed to Cape Verdean and Angolan music. Portuguese-Cape Verdean singer Sara Tavares became a major influence. Eleanor Dubinsky met of the musicians Tavares works with frequently. Three of these talented musicians, bassist Rolando Semedo, percussionist Miroca Paris, and drummer Ivo Costa appear on Soft Spot.
Dubinsky sings in Spanish on two songs. “El sabor de la vida,” includes a fascinating mix of world percussion, soulful vocals and gospel. “Cuando voy a mi trabajo” features vocals in three languages and is the most world music-oriented track featuring global rhythms, great bass lines and acoustic guitars.
There’s a great blues-infused climactic song titled “I Let Go,” in which Dubinsky adds cello, which is one of the instruments close to her heart.
Bona Pinder Yayumayalolo, better known as Richard Bona, was born October 28, 1967 in Minta, a village in central Cameroon. From the moment of Richard Bona’s birth, music has been the center of his world. He is the grandson of a famous percussionist and singer.
Beginning with the music his mother and four sisters sang in church every Sunday, Bona gained an early passion for sounds and harmony. He joined the choir at age 5, and soon Bona’s family realized they had a musical prodigy among them. Richard has a highly unusual gift — he only has to look intently at someone playing, and he can learn the instrument.
Not blessed with traditional instruments, Bona found creative ways of making instruments for himself, including reed flutes, a large balafon, wooden percussion instruments and a 12-string guitar. “I hung around the workshops where they repaired bicycles,” Bona recalls, “and as soon as the guys turned their backs, I’d put brake-cables in my pocket for my prototype.”
Rehearsing for eight to 12 hours per day, Bona honed his skills. He performed as a singer and a multi-instrumentalist in a range of religious ceremonies, and soon he became known beyond his village for his musical virtuosity. At age 11, Bona went with his father to Duala, sea-port city with nearly 2 million residents. Bona quickly found his first job, as a guitarist with a dance group.
In 1980, the French owner of a local club gave him the task of setting up a small, jazz-inspired group (with soul-jazz and jazz-rock leanings). Meanwhile, he entrusted Bona with a collection of some 500 vinyl albums. Through these albums, Bona discovered the essence of jazz -the freedom, complexity and virtuosity of the music invented by the American descendants of his forebears. “That’s how I came across the Jaco Pastorius album, the first one, the one with his name on it (Jaco Pastorius, Columbia, 1976), and I never looked back,” Bona says. “When I started listening to it, I wondered for a moment if I’d got the speed wrong – I thought I was playing it at 45 rpm instead, and I even took a look. Before Jaco, I’d never thought of playing bass.”
Cleary, the influence was strong enough to hold. In 1989, when Bona was 22, he left Africa for Paris, where he quickly built a solid reputation. He played with Didier Lockwood, Marc Fosset and Andre Ceccarelli, and took part in studio sessions with leading musicians such as Manu Dibango, Salif Keita and Joe Zawinul (My People, 1992.)
In 1995, Bona followed the footsteps of singer Angelique Kidjo, whom he also accompanied, by crossing the ocean and settling in New York. He quickly hooked up with Zawinul again, and he was invited to accompany Zawinul on a world tour. Bona’s talents continue to gain notice in the world music community. The list of musicians who have played with Bona looks like the roster from the musicians’ hall of fame.
Bona also joined forces with Zawinul again in 1998, when he sang and played bass and percussion on Zawinul’s world tour; and when Bona played the same role on Zawinul’s album, Faces & Places. In addition, Branford Marsalis recommended Bona to play on the first compact disc by Frank McComb, the singer from the Buckshot Le Fonque group (the funk side of the elder of the Marsalis Brothers). The album was produced by Columbia, and a few months later, the label gave Richard the chance to create his first album as the leader.
Bona’s first three albums – Scenes from My Life, Reverence and Munia – allowed listeners to discover a great storyteller and musician. His style blends a horde of influences, including jazz, bossa nova, pop, afro-beat, traditional song and funk. Munia (The Tale) features Malian star Salif Keita as a guest. Keita cowrote the track “Kalabankoro.”
This unique combination has given Bona’s music a new dimension, one that is unexplored yet genuinely universal. As Bona says, “I play the bass, but I am not just a jazz bass player.” Bona’s fans around the world have their own moniker derived from his unique style, referring to him as “The African ‘Sting.’ ”
On Tiki (2006), recorded in Rio de Janeiro, Bona surrounded himself with old friends and special guests, including ATN Stadwijk, Vinnie Colauita, Susheela Raman, Djavan, Mike Stern and Gil Goldstein.
The collaboration Toto Bona Lokua features Richard Bona along with Gerald Toto and Lokua Kanza. They have released two albums.