Juan de Marcos Brings Classic, Innovative Cuban Music


Juan de Marcos and his Afro Cuban All Stars are back in the U.S. with a 14-piece ensemble that will play classic and innovative types of Cuban music with a ting of jazz like no other musical band.

The Afro Cuban All Stars will showcase their unique Cuban music blend at Seattle’s Jazz Alley this week for nightly shows Thursday through Sunday (June 5th to 8th).

The founder of the Buena Vista Social Club is doing a short tour this year with mostly a new band composed (besides his wife and two daughters) of talented young musicians like Julito Diaz (trumpet – member of Sergio George’s Salsa Giants), Yaure Muñiz (trumpet), Yoanny Pino (trumpet), Caleb Michel (drums), Tany Allende (who lives in Las Vegas – congas), Jiovanni Cofiño (bass), Marcos Crego (son of Jose Miguel Crego, trumpeter of Cuban band NG La Banda – piano), Jose “Tony” Moreaux (bongo & cowbell), and Emilio Suarez, who shares singing duties with Juan de Marcos.

In this audio clip of my conversation with the maestro Juan de Marcos Gonzalez (in Spanish), he talks about each member of his Afro Cubans All Stars:


In my exclusive conversation with Juan de Marcos Gonzalez for Latino Music Café, he shared his love for the connection he can make with the audience at Seattle’s Jazz Alley:
“I love to play in the Jazz Alley because it’s a venue with class, like the Blue Note in New York or Ronnie Scott’s in London. It has a this intimate feeling that good jazz clubs must have to allow a direct connection between performers and audience”.

Juan de Marcos and his Afro Cuban All Stars New Musical Projects

Too much work is a good thing for musicians, but it can interfere with the release of new albums. “We have 3 new albums on the works (the music is all recorded) but I’ve been unable to finish any of them. They have been in the same unfinished state for 2 years, but I hope with God’s favor, to finish at least one of them this year” said the also co-founder of Cuban “son” group “Sierra Maestra”.

“We have an album which is a tribute to Mexico that will be titled “Viva Mexico”, which I’m trying my best to release by September 16, which is one of the most important dates in Mexican history. I have strong ties with Mexico, as my two grandsons are Mexicans”. This will be a “live” album of Afro Cuban music recorded in Mexico.

“Habanera” – the Latin Tinge of Jazz

Grammy winner Juan de Marcos Gonzalez brings new songs with his Afro Cuban All Stars to his 2014 U.S. Tour
Grammy winner Juan de Marcos Gonzalez brings new songs with his Afro Cuban All Stars to his 2014 U.S. Tour

The music of the Afro Cuban All Stars is based on afro-Cuban music with jazz orchestrations. The roots of some Cuban music can be found in the antique rhythm called “Habanera”. Juan de Marcos has an encyclopedic knowledge of music in general, and of Cuban music in particular, so I used the opportunity to ask him about the little known rhythm of “Habanera”.

The “Habanera” is an early form of Cuban music which became international towards the end of the 19th century. It has been called the “Latin Tinge” of Jazz music, as its influence spread from New Orleans to the Patagonia in Argentina.

Regarding this early form of Cuban music, Juan de Marcos pointed out…”the ‘Habanera’ is played very little these days. I don’t know exactly how it made its way to South America, perhaps through the trade ships in the same way Cuban music made its way to New Orleans and mixed with Jazz. The Argentine rhythm of ‘Milonga’ is very, very similar to the ‘Habanera’, but the ‘Habanera’ definitely has the ‘rice and beans’ flavor of the Caribbean. I’ve used elements/pieces of it in some of my orchestrations. It’s a beautiful rhythm that has a slow tempo, which doesn’t make it as danceable as it used to be, but I like it very much”.

Music Repertoire for the Jazz Alley and U.S. Tour

For the Afro Cubans All Stars 2014 short U.S. tour which begins in Seattle, the repertoire will include 4 new songs, two of which are adaptations of Cuban “son” forefather Arsenio Rodriguez.

Juan de Marcos will delight attendees with a musical tour through several Cuban music styles, enhanced by his 14-piece band along with his orchestrations which allow space to highlight his young and talented musicians. I personally like the robustness of the orchestrations that bring such a spice to the music that makes it almost irresistible to move along the rhythm. As Gloria Estefan would say…”the rhythm is going to get you”!

In this audio clip, you can listen to the maestro Juan de Marcos talk about his repertoire for the Jazz Alley (in Spanish):


The Afro Cuban All Stars will perform at Dimitrious’ Jazz Alley in Seattle nightly from June 5th to 8th. You can get shows information at the Jazz Alley site at http://www.jazzalley.com.

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