Tag Archives: Latin jazz

Latin Jazz Maestro Ray Santos Dies at 90

Ray Santos receiving an honorary doctorate of music at the Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest on March 20, 2016. From left: Luis Alvarez, producer of the Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFestwell; Ray Santos; and Darla Hanley, dean of the Professional Education Division at Berklee College of Music. Photo by Joe Colón.

Musician and composer Ray Santos died October 17, 2019.

Ray Santos was born December 28, 1928 in New York City to Puerto Rican parents. Known as “El Maestro” by his fans and fellow musicians, was a leading expert on Afro-Caribbean music. His Juilliard School training allowed him to cross borders with success, honesty and class. Over his 90 years, Santos became a legend in the world of Latin music and left a deep-rooted mark with his artistry. The Latin Recording Academy honored him with 2011 Board of Trustees’ Award.

Known for the layered complexity of his arrangements, for more than 50 years, Santos performed, composed, and arranged for leading Latin music orchestras, including the legendary ensembles of Tito Puente, Tito Rodríguez, Mario Bauzá, and Machito.  He was also essential in albums recorded by Linda Ronstadt, Eddie Palmieri and Paquito D’Rivera, to name a few. In addition, he was a respected professor of music at the City College of New York, where he taught for nearly 30 years and directed the college’s Latin band.

We are forever thankful to the amazing gentleman Mr. Ray Santos, who was also committed to music education, fostering the next generation of music makers,” said Gabriel Abaroa Jr., President/CEO of The Latin Recording Academy. “His legacy lives on in his music and the hearts of our music community, forever inspired by his commitment and remarkable craft.  Our hearts go to his family during this difficult time.”

 Ray Santos received an honorary doctorate of music on March 20, 2016.

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Dazzling Collection of Latin Jazz Tunes

Michel Camilo – Essence (Resilience Music, 2019)

The tunes that flow out on Resilience Music’s release Essence are all the evidence you need to know that the Dominican composer and musician Michel Camilo is one cool cat. Well, that and that he hangs out with equally cool cats because the bevy of musicians on Essence is spectacular.

Essence is the 25th recording for the Grammy award winning jazz and Latin jazz pianist, who’s musical collaborations sounds like a who’s who list of the Latin and jazz world with the likes of Tito Puente, Paquito D’Rivera, Dizzy Gillespie, Stanley Turrentine, Bela Fleck, Arturo Sandoval and Danilo Perez in the mix. With recordings like Triangulo, Live at the Blue Note, Spain Forever and Why Not to his credit, it can come as no surprise that Mr. Camilo delivers a well heeled, sharp, savvy collection of tunes on Essence just as any cool cat can.

Michel Camilo – Essence

Hooking listeners from the jump on opener “And Sammy Walked In,” Essence is a delicious melange of piano, brass and percussion that will please any inner jazz or Latin jazz fan out there. Tight and neat, the sleek and sassy “And Sammy Walked In” is just a pleasure of Latin rhythms, saxophone and piano. Slipping into a call-and-response of vocal and piano with percussion beneath on “Mongo’s Blues Intro,” fans don’t have any clue about what’s to hit them as “Mongo’s Blues” takes over and a delicious whirlwind take hold. Things just get better from there.

Composing all the music on Essence and doling out some extremely fine piano performances, Mr. Camilo is joined by bassist Rick Rodriguez, drummer Cliff Almond, percussionist and vocalist Eliel Lazo, alto sax and flute player Antonio Hart, alto sax and clarinet player Sharel Cassity, tenor sax and flute player Ralph Bowen, tenor sax and clarinet player Adam Kolker, baritone sax and bass clarinet player Frank Basile, trumpet and fugelhorn players Raul Agras, John Walsh, Diego Urcola and Kali Rodriguez-Pena, trombone players Michael Dease, Steve Davis and Jason Jackson, bass trombonist David Taylor and trumpet and flugelhorn player Michael Philip Mossman who also arranged the music for Essence.

Mr. Camilo and company deliver some first rate performances on Essence that include the jazzy prowl of “Liquid Crystal,” the cyclonic brassy “Mano a Mano,” the achingly lovely piano and brass combo on “Just Like You” and the deliciously Latin flavored “Piece of Cake.” Jazz fans won’t want to miss a second of “Repercussions” or closing track “Hello & Goodbye.”

Essence is sweetly swinging, audaciously dazzling and smartly stunning.

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Captivating Latin Jazz Tribute to John Coltrane

Poncho Sanchez – Trane’s Delight (Concord Picante, 2019)

The great conguero (conga player) Poncho Sanchez, one of the masters of American Latin Jazz, has a new album titled Trane’s Delight, dedicated to iconic jazz musician John Coltrane. Trane’s Delight recreates Coltrane classics under a Latin Jazz perspective.

Poncho Sanchez – Trane’s Delight

I’ve always loved John Coltrane,” Sanchez says, “ever since I was a kid and first learned about jazz. I’ve recorded tributes to a lot of my heroes in life: Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente, Cal Tjader – so I thought it was definitely time to do a tribute to the great John Coltrane.”

On Trane’s Delight, Poncho treats the listener to wonderful new versions of Coltrane standards that reappear as lively mambos, irresistible cha cha chás and passionate boleros. Naturally, throughout the album Poncho delivers various spectacular and tasty conga solos.

Trane’s Delight includes Poncho’s longtime collaborators, musical director Francisco Torres on trombone;  Ron Blake on trumpet and flugelhorn; Robert Hardt on saxophone; Andy Langham on piano; Rene Camacho and Ross Schodek on bass; and Joey DeLeon and Giancarlo Anderson on percussion.

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Timbales Maestro Ramon Banda Dies

Ramon Banda

American drummer and Latin Jazz timbalero Ramon Banda died May 30, 2019.

Ramon Banda was born and grew up in Norwalk, a suburb of Los Angeles, California. He was a well-known timbales master and jazz drummer.  He and his brother, bassist Tony Banda, started out playing as teens with conga maestro Poncho Sanchez. 

Ramon performed, recorded and toured with Poncho Sanchez for many years.  He later joined Jose Rizo’s Band Mongorama, a tribute to Mongo Santamaria. He also performed with Joey DeFranceso and Bill Cunliffe. Ramon participated in over 250 recordings, including several Grammy winning albums.

Ramon Banda

Ramon was also a chekere maker.

“Ramon Banda was a legendary timbalero,” says percussionist and band leader Les Moncada. “I was performing with my Latin Jazz Orchestra and as guests, Ramon on my right, Poncho on timbales in front of us and myself, Les Moncada on timbales. All of us performing and soloing Tito Puente‘s composition ‘Ran Kan Kan’. I can only say competition-wise, Ramon went on timbales from 0 to 100 mph in a second, I was more than amazed.” 

Les continues: “He visited me at my home, with the guys, Tony, Poncho, Sal, Papo Rodriguez. My orchestra opened for Poncho on several occasions and Ramon, Poncho, Tony and Sal Carrachiolo, we would perform together.

Ramon and the guys would come as guests with my orchestra.  I did a clinic with Ramon, Poncho and Tony in San Diego, California many moons ago.  He and Poncho and the guys, including David Romero, would frequent my late conguero friend Raul Garcia’s house and stay up all night talking about Latin music

My son Marco and I would speak to Ramon about gourds and chekeres and I believe Ramon has some chekeres submitted to the Smithsonian Institute

He used to tune my timbales for me, when he was around and we would talk about how we both idolized timbalero Manny Oquendo

Ramon told me that the first time he met Manny Oquendo, he kissed his hands out of respect for Manny Oquendo and his timbales playing style

Ramon Banda will be missed dearly, a maestro for timbales students worldwide for generations to come. He was a young guy in Norwalk, California that had the drive to play drum set and timbales, went on to assist in winning Grammys and performed and recorded with the late Cal Tjader.” 

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Les Moncada Chats with the Comandante of the Timbal, Louie Romero

Louie Romero

There are timbaleros and then there are timbaleros like no other. Louie Romero has a remarkable timbales soloing style. When I post his solos on our Facebook site Timbales and Congas Bongo Bata and bells, the sound on my computer is like a slot machine!

Louie Romero has performed and recorded with the greats, as a youth living in New York City as timbales player for trombonist Willie Colon and with the late vocal legend Hector Lavoe.

Louie Romero’s brother percussionists in the Willie Colon Orchestra were José Mangual Jr. on bongo and the late Milton Cardona on congas, the most feared percussion section in New York City and the world, besides the earlier Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria and Willie Bobo.

Louie Romero, now living in San Francisco, California, is still making his timbales smoke. He is a true timbales music lesson for the young players and for those fortunate enough to meet him.

Let’s see what Louie Romero has to say about his legendary timbales career.

In the midst of the hottest salsa cycle of the 1970’s with Willie Colon Orchestra: Louie Romero, the late Milton Cardona & Jose Mangual Jr.

Louie, tell us a little about your background, where you were born and raised, your parents’ ancestry.

I was born in Brooklyn, New York of Puerto Rican descent.

Jose Mangual Jr., the late Milton Cordona & Louie Romero, the Comandantes of percussion in New York City.

When did you first hear Latin music?

In my mom’s womb.

How old were you when you started playing timbales? Could tell us what led up to you choosing timbales as your main instrument. Did you play any other instruments?

Watching my Pop playing drum set and timbales. No other instruments except percussion.

Which bands or orchestras did you perform with?

George Guzman, Willie Colon Orchestra, La Conspiracion, David Amram and Estampa Criolla.

Louie, how did you start to play with Willie Colon? Can you tell us a little about your association with Willie, Hector and Jose Mangual Jr and Milton Cardona?

I was at the Broadway Casino in Manhattan when Willie approached me and asked me to join. With Willie Colon and Héctor Lavoe, it was mostly business. With Jose Mangual Jr. and Milton Cardona, that was really good connect.

Louie, what are you presently doing music wise in San Francisco, California?

I have my Latin orchestra Mazacote.

Louie Romero backstage with legendary flutist, Art Webb

Louie, what is your recommendation to timbales or Latin percussion students of today?

For them to learn from the best instructors and to utilize a metronome.

What does the future hold for you, Louie Romero, timbalero of timbaleros?

To continue teaching, performing and recording.

Louie Romero with conguero Javier Navarrette

I would like to thank Louie Romero for his time he spent for this interview and thanks for his lifetime dedication as a timbalero.

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Celebrated Dominican Pianist Michel Camilo Releases Essence

Pianist, composer and bandleader Michel Camilo revisits some of his essential music on Essence, featuring new arrangements. Camilo is an award-winning pianist who has a passion for jazz, Latin American music and flamenco.

Essence, scheduled for release June 7, 2019 features an impressive lineup of musicians, including many longtime collaborators.

I tried to choose music from every stage of development as a creative artist and as a composer,” Camilo says about Esence. “I picked songs that represent shifts in my career and my point of view; that showcase how I developed my sound. I’ve always thought of the trio as a mini-orchestra, so the big band is a way to celebrate my career and my journey with a group of friends creating together in the studio.”

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Artist Profiles: Guillermo Barrón Ríos

Guillermo Barrón Ríos

Mexican percussionist Guillermo Barrón Ríos has developed his style with different ensembles that cover a wide range of musical genres such as classical music, rock, pop, flamenco, Mexican music, salsa and Latin jazz, among others. He has performed with many international artists: José Feliciano, Luisito Quintero, Charlie Sepúlveda, among others.

Barrón has one Latin jazz musical production under his belt, “¿Cuál es la prisa?” (What’s the rush?), that includes original compositions and arrangements, featuring his main musical influences: Latin-American music, jazz and flamenco. Additionally, he has participated in a great selection of musical recordings, sharing credits with Gilberto Santa Rosa, among many others.

He currently lives in New York City, where he collaborates with different musical projects.

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Artist Profiles: Roberto Fonseca

Roberto Fonseca

Multi-instrumentalist and composer Roberto Fonseca was born on March 29, 1975 in Havana, Cuba. He made his debut at the Havana International Jazz Festival in 1990 when he was 15.

Fonseca also played with Buena Vista Social Club, joining great the cast of stars such as Ibrahim Ferrer, Orlando ‘Cachaíto’ López, Rubén González, Guajiro Mirabal and Manuel Galbán and also recorded and toured with another of its stars, Omara Portuondo.

Throughout his career, Roberto Fonseca has collaborated with Mayra Andrade, Regina Carter, Anat Cohen, Carlinhos Brown, Vicente Amigo, Kepa Junkera, Snarky Puppy, Michael Brecker, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Nils Petter Molvær; performing in Palais des Congrès (París), Royal Albert Hall (London), Beacon Theatre (New York), Sydney Opera House (Australia), Frankfurt Alter Oper (Frankfurt), Jazz in Marciac, Festival de Jazz de Montreaux, the New York City Center Hall, Festival Jazz de Tokyo. He was also co-producer along with British Dj Gilles Peterson of Havana Cultura New Cuban Sound Vol I and II.

Discography:

Tiene Que Ver ‎(Egrem, 1999)
No Limit ‎(JVC, 2001)
Temperamento (Yemayá, 2007)
Zamazu (Enja Records, 2007)
Akokan (Enja Records, 2009)
Live In Marciac ‎(Enja Records, 2010)
Yo (Concord Jazz/Jazz Village, 2012)
At Home – Live In Marciac (Jazz Village, 2015)
ABUC (Impulse!, 2016)

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Magela Herrera, Rising Latin Jazz Flutist

Magela Herrera – Explicaciones

Magela Herrera – Explicaciones (Brontosaurus, 2019)

Explicaciones (Explanations) is the new solo album from Cuban composer and skilled flute player Magela Herrera. Currently based in Miami, Magela Herrera performs music rooted in American jazz and Cuban rhythms and melodies. She has a charming, highly expressive style as a flutist.

The musicians on Explicaciones are some of Miami’s finest jazz players: Tal Cohen on piano; Nestor del Prado on bass; Dion Keith Kerr on bass; Hilario Bell on drums; David Chiverton on drums; Greg Diamond on guitar; Jean Caze on trumpet; and Philbert Armenteros on batá drums.

Although most of the tracks are instrumentals highlighting the flute, Magela also sings on a couple of tracks. She includes the Spanish language romantic classic “Bésame Mucho” (“Kiss me a lot”), written in 1940 by Mexican songwriter Consuelo Velázquez and popularized by Los Panchos.

Explicaciones is a delightfully-crafted album showcasing the talent of a young composer and superb instrumentalist.

Buy the CD from CD Baby or the digital download from Amazon.

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Artist Profiles: Willie Rosario

Willie Rosario – Photo by Gerald López Cepero

Fernando Luis Rosario Marin was born in Coamo, Puerto Rico, on May 6th, 1930. He studied guitar bass, and saxophone encouraged by his mother. His family moved to New York when he was 16 years old. Willie Rosario studied journalism and public relations, but music soon became his profession.

Willie Rosario started his band in an era where there was fierce competition amongst the revered bands of the late 1950’s such as Pérez Prado, Tito Puente, Tito Rodríguez, Jose Curbelo, Orlando Marín, Joe Cuba, Alfredito, Cesar Concepción, Moncho Lena, Cortijo y su Combo, Vicentico Valdez, and last but not least, the venerable and worshipful, Machito and his Afrocubans.

The environment in which Willie Rosario developed as a bandleader instilled in him a sense of discipline and professionalism which he has maintained to this day, but the characteristic most associated with Willie Rosario is the Swing or solid rhythm section which is geared to the dancer, the rhythm section is complemented by a unique brass section comprised of four trumpets and a baritone sax, the only salsa band with this type of brass section.

The list of hits by the Willie Rosario is as impressive as the names of his well-known singers: De barrio obrero a la quince”, Chango Ta veni”, Lluvia”, Busca el Ritmo”, Amor Clasificado”, “Botaron la pelota”, “Atizame el fogon”, “El Apartamento” and many others. Puerto Rico Caribbean

Discography

El Bravo Soy Yo! (1963)
Fabuloso y Fantástico (1966)
Latin Jazz a Go-Go-Go (1967)
Two Too Much (1967)
Haida Huo (1968)
Boogaloo y Guaguancó (1968)
El Bravo de Siempre (1969)
De Donde Nace el Ritmo (Inca Records, 1971)
Más Ritmo (Inca Records, 1972)
Infinito (Inca Records, 1973)
Otra Vez (Inca Records, 1975)
Gracias Mundo (Inca Records, 1977)
From the Depth of My Brain (Top Hits, 1978)
El Rey del Ritmo! (Top Hits, 1979)
El de a 20 de Willie (Top Hits, 1980)
The Portrait of a Salsa Man (Top Hits, 1981)
Atízame el Fogón (Top Hits, 1982)
The Salsa Machine (Top Hits, 1983)
Nuevos Horizontes ( Bronco, 1984)
Afincando ( Bronco, 1985)
Nueva Cosecha ( Bronco, 1986)
A Man of Music ( Bronco, 1987)
The Salsa Legend ( Bronco, 1988)
Unique ( Bronco, 1989)
Viva Rosario! ( Bronco, 1990)
The Roaring Fifties ( Bronco, 1991)
Tradición Clásica (NRT, 1993)
¡Sorpresas! (Tiffany Records, 1995)
Back to the Future (HMS Records, 1999)
La Banda Que Deleita (Gennara Records, 2006)
Evidencia (Gennara Records, 2016)

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