Best Latin Music 2013: Latin Jazz


I’m glad that in 2013 we had a copious output of Latin Jazz recordings. I’ll give you a glimpse at some of the best in Latin Jazz and some insights in my favorites!

The beauty of Latin Jazz is the adaptability of the genre to mix with different styles and other genres. A variety of rhythms, such as Tango, Afro-Cuban, Flamenco, African, Brazilian, etc., are represented in these albums.

The artistic creativity is also at a high in these albums. Unlike the structured nature of classical music, or the predictable formula of some recent Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata albums, these Latin Jazz gems are nothing short of amazingly interesting music.

Early 2013 Latin Jazz Releases

Mark Weinstein's "Todo Corazon" is a magnificent Tango album with jazz influence.
Mark Weinstein’s “Todo Corazon” is a magnificent Tango album with jazz influence.

The year 2013 started with a bang for Latin Jazz. Releases by Mark Weinstein, Alberto Nacif’s band Aguanko, and Jovino Santos Neto came in January. I really enjoyed all of them, but must highlight Mark Weinstein’s “Todo Corazon”, a tango album with jazz influences that is remarkable. Brazilian pianist Jovino Santos Neto always brings us his beautiful piano melodies sparkled with Brazilian rhythms, and Mexican percussionist Alberto Nacif teamed with Cuban percussion star Pepe Espinoza in the newly created band Aguankó to release “Elemental”, a nice Afro-Cuban Jazz album.

Cuban pianist Omar Sosa released the fantastic “Eggun” in February. This album is a musical gem, where Omar showcases his piano virtuosity in a creative tribute to Mile Davis’s 50th anniversary of the Jazz classic “Kind of Blue”. Don’t expect the songs to be the same, but do expect to see the out of the box creativity that Miles brought with his 50’s landmark album.

In "Eggun" Omar uses a similar lineup as Miles used in "Kind of Blue", with the addition of master percussionist John Santos and Pedrito Martinez.
In “Eggun” Omar uses a similar lineup as Miles used in “Kind of Blue”, with the addition of master percussionist John Santos and Pedrito Martinez.

Does Summer Mean Grammy for Latin Jazz?

Summer brought a bunch of new releases, including all of the albums nominated for Best Latin Jazz Album for next month’s Grammy Awards, and the winner of the Best Latin Jazz Album in November’s Latin Grammy Awards. Is there a message there?

Wayne Wallace’s “Latin Jazz, Jazz Latin”, Spaniard Concha Buika’s “La Noche Mas Larga“, and Cubans Paquito D’Rivera (“Song for Maura”), Roberto Fonseca (“Yo), and Omar Sosa (“Eggun”) were all nominated for Grammy.

Michel Camilo (“What’s Up”) and Chucho Valdes (“Border Free”) were nominated for the Latin Grammy, with the Dominican pianist Camilo taken the golden phonograph home. Check out the video at the bottom of this blog, where Michel explains the making of “What’s Up”.

Buika's "La Noche Mas Larga" is Concha's 6th Latin music album.
Buika’s “La Noche Mas Larga” is Concha’s 6th Latin music album.

Do I need to say that all of these albums are extraordinary? If I had to pick one among these group of great summer releases, I had to say I enjoyed Buika’s “La Noche Mas Larga” the most. I think the song selection and her performance in the album were way beyond what I expected! Incredibly enjoyable album to listen to!

Are you keeping track of all this? This is just the 1st half of 2013! But things cooled off considerable the 2nd half.

The ex Tito Puente band member Mitch Frohmann (“From Daddy with Love”) and Cuban percussionist extraordinaire Pedrito Martinez (“The Pedrito Martinez Group”) were the most notable releases on the 2nd half of 2013. I didn’t get to listen to Pedrito’s album, but I enjoyed Mitch’s “From Daddy”. Great album!

Other Good Latin Jazz Albums

Noteworthy albums I didn’t mentioned above are Bobby Matos’ “Mambo Jazz Dance” which seems to have been re-released in February, Jose Rizo’s “Mongorama 2”, and the debut album of pianist Michelle Pollace (“New Beginning“).

Whew, that was a lot! Not much of a summary isn’t it. But I hope it’s good information so you can consider purchasing some great Latin Jazz!

Making Michel Camilo’s “What’s Up”

In this video Michel Camilo takes us in a tour of the making of Latin Grammy winner album “What’s Up”. Enjoy!!!

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  1. Jamie Dubberly says

    Props on recognizing Michelle Polace. You left out another great bay area latin jazz release- Brian Andres and the Afro Cuban Jazz Cartel- San Francisco. Also pacific mambo orchestra , nominated for a grammy for “Pacific Mambo Orchestra”, which has mucho latin jazz on it. Just a heads up…

    1. Hector Aviles says

      Jamie – thanks for your insightful comments. I did not know of Brian Andres work, so I’ll need to check that out. I do know about the PMO, although they are not purely Latin Jazz. I’m getting ready to interview Christian Pepin very soon. Stay tuned.

      1. Jamie Dubberly says

        Right on Hector, definitely worth looking into 🙂 It was selected on the Jazz Stations best of 2013 in several categories, and I believe is a really nice album that Brian put together. Also, I have a release coming soon that fuses New Orleans grooves with latin jazz and salsa, which features many bay area players- will try to get it to you soon, if you wish.

        1. Hector Aviles says

          Thanks again for the tip, Jamie! I’ll be delighted to check out your album.


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