Tag Archives: Latin jazz

Alfredo Rodríguez’s Richly Textured Piano

Alfredo Rodríguez – The Little Dream ‎(Mack Avenue MAC1130, 2018)

The Little Dream showcases the talent of yet another Cuban piano star, Alfredo Rodríguez. This is Alfredo’s fourth album for American label Mack Avenue, produced by acclaimed producer Quincy Jones and Alfredo. It was recorded in Madrid and Los Angeles.

The format on this album is a superb trio featuring Alfredo on piano and vocals; Munir Hossn on guitar and electric bass; and Michael Olivera on drums and percussion.

The Little Dream incorporates jazz, classical, Cuban and global music influences. Despite the jazz training, Alfredo’s piano has a deeply Cuban flavor. In addition to his piano performances, he adds beautiful wordless harmony vocals.

The interaction between the elegant piano, the creative electric bass lines and exquisite percussion is deeply satisfying.

Most of the material on the album are originals by Alfredo, although there are a couple of jazzified versions of popular classics in the Hispanic world: “Vamos todos a cantar” by Teresita Hernández and the well-known bolero “Bésame mucho” by Mexican singer Consuelo Velázquez (misspelled in the booklet).

On most of the album, Alfredo uses the acoustic piano, although he also picks up the Rhodes electric piano, engaging in tasty fusion.

The Little Dream is masterfully-crafted and features the exceptionally expressive piano work of a formidable Cuban musician.

Buy The Little Dream in Europe

Buy The Little Dream in the rest of the world


Omar Sosa and NDR Bigband to Release Es:sensual

Omar Sosa and NDR Bigband – Es:sensual

Acclaimed Cuban pianist Omar Sosa and Germany’s NDR Bigband are set to release Es:sensual on January 18. This is the international release of this album that previously available only in Germany.

Es:sensual is a continuation of pianist and composer Omar Sosa’s collaboration with Hamburg’s NDR Bigband (North German Radio-Norddeutscher Rundfunk) and renowned Brazilian cellist, composer and arranger Jaques Morelenbaum, whose inaugural effort can be heard on the Omar Sosa-NDR Bigband CD Ceremony (Otá, 2010).

Buy Es:sensual


Les Moncada Chats with Joe Conzo Sr. Author and Tito Puente’s Best Friend

Joe Conzo Sr. with master timbalero Tito Puente


I feel that each musician has their own personality that goes hand in hand with the instrument they play; I also feel each musician has a friend that they are attracted to, based on personality, charisma and charm.

With a charismatic personality, Tito Puente, the legend of the timbales drums, composer and Latin orchestra leader, had his best friend: Joe Conzo Sr. from New York.

Joe Conzo is an encyclopedia, with his friendship and grand knowledge of Tito Puente: events, recordings and so much more. He is the author of a book about Tito Puente entitled Mambo Diablo.

Joe Conzo is also giving lectures at Hostos College in the Bronx, New York. The lectures and studies on Tito Puente and Latin musician legends of the past intend to make the students and public aware of these musical legacies.


Latin piano legend Eddie Palmieri with Joe Conzo Sr.


…and let’s see what Joe Conzo Sr. has to say.

Well, Joe, talk to me a little bit about your background.

Joe: I am of Puerto Rican mother and Italian father. I was born and raised in Spanish Harlem. I had 1 brother, who recently passed and I have 2 sisters.

Joe how was it that you got involved in Latin music?

Joe: Latin music was in my family, in going to candy stores as a kid, walking down the street. Home was always where Latin music was played. There were two types of Latin music, there was the Le lo lai, or country Puerto Rican and Cuban music, and there was the swinging stuff that they would play at the Palladium and at Park Palace.

There was Park Plaza and there was Park Place, both at the same location, one upstairs and one downstairs that was the place to be! It was located on 110th Street, off 5th Avenue. It is a church today.

Joe Conzo Sr. with bongosero legend John Rodriguez


(Joe was naming all the bands that used to play there, Noro Morales, Tito Puente etc and he said all the musician would congregate and talk on the corner, you would see them all out there, talking on the corner).

Joe how was it that you met Tito Puente?

Joe: I met Tito Puente in the Palladium in 1959. I ran into him, and I also went to see him. I was a frustrated conga player. Tito Puente’s music was unbelievable. I bought one of his albums for 75 cents; it was Cuban Carnival.

I really resent the word “salsa” like Tito Puente did, (it was a catch promotional word to promote the new movement of salsa music, evolving from the mambo era.)

(Joe Conzo told me that Jerry Masucci coined the word for his Fania label. I told Joe that the first time I heard the term “Salsa” was in 1973 when I was a young 15 year old FM radio DJ at the University. One of the secretaries at Tico Records, Diana Monge, used to send newsletters from Tico Records, which later became Fania Records. “In the same building,” Joe says and I agree. The newsletter sent out to the disc jockeys was called “Salsa Dice”.)


Mambo Diablo, My Journey With Tito Puente by Joe Conzo Sr.



Joe, if Tito came over to your house to visit you on an evening or such, what would Tito talk about, or what would you and Tito discuss? First of all what was Tito’s favorite drink?

Joe: Tito’s favorite drink was vodka and cranberry. If Tito came over, we would talk about anything, no set topic, just everyday things. Tito did not talk about politics, he played for 4 presidents, 2 Republicans and 2 Democrats. (Joe goes on naming the presidents, but Tito despised politicians).

What did Tito think of his band members?

Joe: Well, we would have band talk, discuss expenses, maybe cutting down the band. You know Tito had 14 mouths to feed, (laughs out loud, discussing band members), sometimes he had to cut down the band. it is hard to travel with a big band, maybe they would call some horn players and musicians on the west coast etc, to cut down band expenses.

Tito would not convert to one thing (or type of band). Tito was not afraid of competition; he was not afraid to branch out and not afraid to challenge things.

Tito did what he had to do to stay on the top, and they could not pay him to play every week in one place, although he did one time.

Tito had a mindset to improve his band, he was always writing (arranging) things and trying new things.


Joe Conzo Sr. with master percussionist Pablo “El Indio” Rosario


Joe, are you working on a new book? I heard it was about, “The Big 3”, Machito, Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez.

Joe: I started the book. You know that the Puente book I wrote took me 2 to 3 years to write.


Joe Conzo Sr., author & lecturer of Latin Music History


Well what does the future of Joe Conzo bring?

Joe: I have been lecturing at Hostos College and I will continue that. (Joe went on to tell me that Tito Puente wrote over 700 tunes and about the thousands of recording he has of Tito Puente and some live recordings of Tito Puente and also about some albums that he produced. Joe mentioned that he knew Morris Levy, the owner of Tico Records, and he stated that when folks in the studio hear that they are really impressed, due to Levy being a recording legend and owner of Birdland).

I will continue to doing the lecture series and see what life brings.

Thank you, Joe Conzo Sr., for your time and vast knowledge on the subject of Tito Puente and Latin Music. I appreciate your support for Latin Music and your support of my Facebook Percussion Site Timbales and Congas Bongo Bata and Bells, along with my son Marco Moncada.

Joe Conzo asked me why I was posting vintage pictures on my Timbales and Congas site, telling me that only he and bongosero John Rodriguez could identify the musicians in the pics, laughing that I was making him think.

Again, thanks Joe!


A Jazz Flute Celebration

Nestor Torres – Jazz Flute Traditions

Nestor Torres – Jazz Flute Traditions (Alfi Records, 2017)

Puerto Rican flute virtuoso Nestor Torres celebrates jazz, classical and Latin jazz stylings on Jazz Flute Traditions. The album includes a wonderful tribute to Spain featuring a medley of the “Concierto De Aranjuez” and Chick Corea’s iconic composition “Spain.”

The album also includes versions of classics by Herbie Mann, Yusef Lateef, Cole Porter and Chick Corea’s “Windows” and various other composers.

The lineup on Jazz Flute Traditions includes Néstor Torres on flute; Silvano Monasterios on piano; Jamie Ousley on bass; Michael Piolet on drums, and José Gregorio Hernández on percussion.

Guests: Miguel Russell, on percussion; Ian Muñoz on alto saxophone; and Marcus Grant on drums.

Buy Jazz Flute Traditions


Dance of Time by Eliane Elias Wins Best Latin Jazz/Jazz Latin Grammy Award

Eliane Elias – Dance of Time


Dance of Time by celebrated Brazilian pianist and vocalist Eliane Elias won the Best Latin Jazz/Jazz award at 18th Latin Grammy Awards.

The award-winning album includes high profile guests such as Amilton Godoy on piano, João Bosco and Toquinho on vocals and guitars, Randy Brecker on trumpet, Mike Mainieri on vibraphone and Mark Kibble (Take 6) on vocals.



Buy Dance of Time


Spain Forever Wins Best Instrumental Album Latin Grammy Award

Michel Camilo and Tomatito – Spain Forever

Spain Forever, the most recent collaboration between Dominican jazz piano master Michel Camilo and legendary flamenco guitarist Tomatito won the Best Instrumental Album at the 18th Latin Grammy Awards.

The album includes an original composition by Camilo and recreations of classics by Egberto Gismonti, Charlie Haden, Astor Piazzola, Erik Satie, Ennio Morricone, Django Reindhart, Luiz Bonfá and Chick Corea.

Buy Spain Forever


Artist Profiles: Rebeca Mauleon

Rebeca Mauleon

Rebeca Mauleon is a prolific pianist composer arranger as well as author and educator. She has performed with acclaimed luminaries Latin, rock, pop and world music artists, including Carlos Santana, Mickey Hart, Tito Puente, Steve Winwood, Israel “Cachao” López, Giovanni Hidalgo, Carlos Patato Valdez, Joe Henderson and others.

Her performing and arranging credits include Tito Puente (Goza Mi Timbal), Steve Winwood (Junction Seven), and Carlos Patato Valdez (Ritmo y Candela). In the 1990s she recorded and toured with Mickey Hart’s Planet Drum as its Musical Director; highlights include Woodstock ’99 the Conan O’Brien show and the Regis and Kathy Lee Show.

As a producer, Mauleon’s first solo release Round Trip garnered international critical acclaim. As the leader of her own ensemble, Rebeca has appeared at numerous renowned music festivals including the Kennedy Center’s “Women in Jazz” festival in 1999, the Monterey Jazz Festival and San Francisco and San Jose Jazz Festivals. In 2001 she was the recipient of the prestigious Meet The Composer New Residencies Award for a three-year residency at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Rebeca is also much in-demand as a teacher and clinician throughout the U.S. and Europe specializing in Latin music performance and history, combining hands-on master classes with high-energy performances by her ensemble. She is the author of several texts on Latin music technique (all published through Sher Music). She has also published articles for top industry magazines including Keyboard, Modern Drummer, Mix en Español and Bass Player.

Rebeca is a tenured professor of Latin American Music at City College of San Francisco, a guest lecturer at U.C. Berkeley, and sits on the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Jazz Festival.


Round Trip (Bembe Records, 1999)
Latin Fire (Rumbeca Music, 2004)
Descarga en California (Universal, 2006)


Artist Profiles: Poncho Sanchez

Poncho Sanchez

Poncho Sanchez was born in Laredo, Texas. He was the youngest of 11 children. Poncho grew up in Norwalk, California and remembers hearing Afro-Cuban music while growing up. “As a kid in third or fourth grade I would hear my sisters dancing while listening to Machito, Tito Puente, Cal Tjader and various bands from Cuba while my brothers listened to doo-wop music and early rhythm and blues.”

While in sixth grade, Sanchez bought a fifty- cent guitar in hopes of joining an r&b band that rehearsed across the street from his home. Although he practiced quite a bit when he showed up for an audition he knew immediately that he did not stand a chance. “But it turned out that they needed a singer and although I had never sung I gave it a try and became the lead vocalist in that band for five years. Then when I was in high school the first chance I had to get behind a set of conga drums I hit them and it felt quite natural.” Soon Sanchez had saved up money from his singing jobs and was practicing congas as much as possible in his garage playing to Machito, Tito Puente and Cal Tjader records.

Sanchez’s big break occurred in 1975 when after a period of struggle he had an opportunity to play with his idol vibraphonist Cal Tjader. “I found out later that Cal’s conga player was planning on leaving soon and he was letting a lot of people sit in with him. I played one number with Cal, he asked if I could play the rest of the set with him and a week later he asked if I could join him for a week, starting New Year’s Eve at the Coconut Grove opposite Carmen McRae!.” Sanchez would be a major part of Tjader’s band for the next seven years an association that lasted until the vibraphonist’s death.

Poncho Sanchez first formed his own group in 1980, leading his ensemble during Tjader’s vacation periods and recording two albums for Discovery. Shortly before his death, Tjader recommended to Concord founder Carl Jefferson that he sign Sanchez to his Concord Picante label (a subsidiary originally started to document Tjader’s music). Poncho recorded numerous albums for Concord and won a Grammy Award for 1999’s Latin Soul.

My band and I really do love Latin jazz. We played this music before it was popular and I think we’ve played a part in helping it to become popular again. Our main goal is always to keep Latin jazz alive growing and moving while being authentic to the music that we love. I’m proud to say that we have stuck to the basic fundamentals and the roots which are very important to us. And as I always say in clinics this music is not just for Latino people. It was born in the United States and it is American music. It is for everybody!


Salsa Picante (1980)
Straight Ahead (1980)
Machaca (1981)
Sonando (1982)
Baila Mi Gente (Concord Records, CCD-471-2 1982)
Bien Sabroso (1983)
El Conguero (1985)
Papa Gato (1986)
Gaviota (1986)
Fuerte (1987)
La Familia (1988)
Chile Con Soul (1989)
A Night At Kimball’s East (199)
Bailar (1990)
Cambios (1990)
El Mejor (1992)
Para Todos (Concord Records CCD-4600-2 1993)
Soul Sauce (Concord Records CCD-4662-2 1995)
Conga Blue (Concord Records CCD-4726-2 1995)
Freedom Sound (Concord Records CCD-4778-2 1997)
Afro-Cuban Fantasy (Concord Records CCD-4847-2 1998)
Latin Soul (Concord Records, CCD-4863-2 1999)
Poncho Sanchez – The Concord Jazz Heritage Series (2000)
Soul Of The Conga (Concord Records, CCD-4894, 2000)
Latin Spirits (2001)
Ultimate Latin Dance Party (2002)
Instant Party: Poncho Sanchez (2004)
Poncho at Montreux (2004)
Out of Sight! (2004)
Do It! (2005)
Raise Your Hand (2007)
Psychedelic Blues (Concord Picante 2009)
Chano y Dizzy! (Concord Picante, 2011)
Live in Hollywood (Concord Picante 2012)


Artist Profiles: Pete Escovedo

Pete Escovedo

Percussionist Pete Escovedo was born July 13, 1935 in Pittsburg California. As a young boy he would sit on the steps of nightclubs and watch musicians play. Music became his conduit. When he was 15 years old he began to sketch and paint on wood or cardboard. Anything he could get his hands on he would start to draw.

His first musical instrument in school was the saxophone. It didn’t take long to discover that this was definitely not the right instrument for him. He decided to try another instrument, bongos. The first bongos set was made out of coffee cans and tape and he painted it himself. He was determined to play.

His brothers Coke and Phil joined Pete and formed The Escovedo Brothers Latin Jazz Sextet. They played all over town carrying their own instruments on the bus to get to their next gig and earn their $5. The sextet played in famous places like the Matador Jazz Workshop The Tropics and Basin St. West. The three brothers stayed together. After their late night gigs they would get something to eat and talk about music traveling and being famous one day. Music was everything to them it was their life.

Pete and Coke went on tour with guitarist Carlos Santana. Pete toured with Santana for three years performing internationally and playing on the albums Moonflower Oneness and Inner Secrets. To have the amazing opportunity to play percussion with Santana was like a dream he would never forget but something in his soul was still struggling. Pete’s vision grew bigger and he needed to make a name for himself and for the music that kept playing in his mind. He finally decided that it was time to leave.

Pete Escovedo

In the 1970s Pete and Coke Escovedo founded the band Azteca and recorded two albums for Columbia the self-titled album Azteca and Pyramid Of The Moon. They made a name for themselves and accomplished their dream.

From the 1970s until now Pete has performed and toured with many admired artists such as Herbie Hancock Mongo Santamaria Bobby McFerrin Cal Tjader Woody Herman Stephen Stills Billy Cobham Anita Baker George Duke Boz Scaggs Andy Narell Al Jarreau Ray Obiedo Dionne Warwick Marlena Shaw Barry White Angela Bofill Arturo Sandoval Poncho Sanchez Chick Corea Dave Valentine Najee Gerald Albright Prince and Tito Puente.

Pete Escovedo and his Latin Jazz Orchestra play a mix of smooth jazz, Salsa, Latin jazz and contemporary music. He has recorded several acclaimed solo albums, two recordings with his daughter Sheila E. and the Latina Familia live album with Sheila and Puente.

Pete has continued to pain since the age of 15. Over the years he has created an impressive body of art work. All of his paintings and drawings consist of oils acrylics latex enamels pencil and crayons.

His album Live from Stern Grove Festival includes daughter Sheila E., Dave Koz, Ray Obiedo and Arturo Sandoval.


Azteca, with Azteca (Columbia, 1972)
Pyramid of The Moon, with Azteca (Columbia, 1973)
Solo Two (Fantasy Records, 1977)
Happy Together (Fantasy Records, 1978)
Island (EsGo/Fantasy, 1982)
Yesterday’s Memories: Tomorrow’s Dreams (Concord Crossover, 1985)
Mister E (Concord Crossover, 1987)
Flying South (Concord Picante, 1995)
E Street (Concord Jazz, 1997)
E Music (Concord Jazz, 2000)
Whatcha Gonna Do (Concord Jazz, 2001)
Live (Concord Jazz, 2003)
From the Ruins with Azteca (Inakustic Gmbh, 2008)
Live from Stern Grove Festival (Concord Picante/Stiletto Flats Inc, 2013)


Artist Profiles: Pequeño Johnny Rivero

Little Johnny Rivero was born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents. As a young boy he was drawn to the sounds and rhythms of the conga players from Jefferson Park and Randall’s Island Park. Little Johnny began practicing percussion at age ten and played in the school band. Soon after he took dance lessons and performed on stage with the best bands of the era at such famous venues as the Manhattan Center the Colgate Garden and the Copacabana.

At age fourteen Little Johnny joined Orchestra Colon the youngest Latin band inNew York City and recorded two albums with them. In 1973 he moved to Puerto Rico with his parents and joined La Sonora Ponceña in 1974. After playing bongos with them for a year and a half he switched to congas which rekindled the love affair he had begun with the instrument as a small child. Little Johnny attributes the rhythms and professional conduct he learned from Quique Lucca and his son Papo Lucca at this time as the qualities that have made him what he is today.

During the sixteen years Little Johnny played with the La Sonora Ponceña he traveled the world and made eighteen highly respected Latin albums with them. Little Johnny’s other credits include work with Bobby Valentin, Celia Cruz, Eddie Palmieri, Dave Valentin, Tito Puente, Lucecita Benitez and numerous other artists. He also performed with the RMM All-Stars Band directed by Sergio George, Bebo Valdes and David Murray.

He is currently the co-leader of Alfredo de la Fe Orquesta. He has recorded with such producers as Cuto Soto Ramon Sanchez Cuco Peña and many others. In May 1997 Little Johnny shared the stage with his inspiration and idol Jose Mangual. Little Johnny has traveled the world with the winner of eight Grammy awards Eddie Palmieri. In addition Johnny continues to perform with many of the biggest and most respected acts in Latin music.

Johnny’s first solo effort Pasos Gigantes was very well-received by critics and music fans alike. Johnny also wrote and produced every song on his CD showcasing his arranging and playing abilities.


Pasos Gigantes ‎(Rumba Jams RJ1021, 2006)