Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel: A Latin Jazz Ensemble of the Bay Area

Introduction

Afro-Cuban Jazz in the Bay Area has developed its own sound over the years by taking advantage of the different spaces available in the Bay Area. Groups carefully account for their audience, event, and venue to choose what pieces to perform and what gigs to take. Since the Bay Area spans such a large region, Afro-Cuban Jazz groups have the opportunity to create their own sound, while adhering to the Afro-Cuban musical heritage and tradition, thus creating a wonderful blend of new and old sounds.

Synopsis

The Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel is a Latin Jazz ensemble that performs in the Bay Area. During the span of this project, they performed in a wide variety of venues, ranging from large dance bars to small music houses. For each performance, the Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel must select appropriate pieces to create the right mood for the venue, as well as stay true to their own sound. The pieces they performed ranged from soothing, instrumental tunes to lively and upbeat dance numbers, and the audience responded by staying attentive or dancing the night away. This flexibility has allowed the Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel to develop their own sound within the many Latin Jazz groups in the Bay Area.

Biography of The Main Artist

The Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel was created by Brian Andres in 2007 to record a CD of Latin Jazz compositions written by percussionists in the Bay Area. He was inspired by other current and famous Latin Jazz bands, but wanted to incorporate Cuban tradition into the music. For this reason, he created the Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel. At its largest, there are nine members including Grammy Award winning artists and esteemed music educators. The Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel has released two CDs: “Drummers Speak” released in 2007 and “San Francisco” released in 2013. They will return to the studio for another recording in 2015.

The Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel

Interview Excerpts with Brian Andres Taken on 4/30/14 8:30pm at Cafe Borrone, Menlo Park , CA 94025. Interviewed by Danielle Collado.

On the Bay Area sound:
“It has to do with the culture of, you’re in New York and you’re stuck on this seven mile island and it’s tough, it’s rough. Where out here [in the Bay Area], it has that inner city vibe to it, but you’re also a couple hours away from Muir Woods, the beach, four hours away from Tahoe. You can get away so much easier and be in the midst of gorgeous anti-inner city vibe. I think that’s much harder to do in New York. I think that has a lot to do with the differences in the way things are.”

On performing:
“It’s really about what the audience brings because there’s definitely…an energy that goes back and forth between a crowd and the band. So if you’re playing salsa, which is dance music, and you get some really good dancers, they’re really understanding the relationship to …the music and the musicians and when they’re really into it, they are as much as part of the band’s performance as the band. It’s this kinetic energy happening…There are certainly nice things about being presented well, like you play Yoshi’s, it’s the best presentation in town. Anybody going into Yoshi’s knows that the focus on the evening is the music. Whereas if you go to Cigar Bar, for example, which is a fun place to play, but you’re just setting up on the floor, which has no particular focus on the band, guys are just going there to smoke a cigar and drink a beer. So in that respect, you always want to play at a place like Yoshi’s where the focus is the band, or even Ashkenaz, it’s like a barn but they present the band and that’s the whole reason you go. So those are always better places to play, but having said that, if I have to set up on the floor and play, and I have to play for ten people that are just going to really dig what I’m doing, I’ll take that over playing at Yoshi’s for two thousand that maybe are not that into it. So the audience has more to do than then venue. But it’s nice to play at a place like Yoshi’s because of  the presentation and usually you get the audience you want as well.”

Performance at the Red Poppy Art House

Performance at the Red Poppy Art House

Performance at the Red Poppy Art House

Performance at the Red Poppy Art House

Duet between Sandra Garcia-Rivera and Brian Andres at the Red Poppy Art House

Duet between Sandra Garcia-Rivera and Brian Andres at the Red Poppy Art House

Performance at Ashkenaz featuring members of the Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel

Performance at Ashkenaz featuring members of the Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel

Click the links below to go to recordings of the performance at the Red Poppy Art House

Music From The Afro Cuban Jazz Cartel Track 1

Music From The Afro Cuban Jazz Cartel Track 2

Music From The Afro Cuban Jazz Cartel Track 3

Music From The Afro Cuban Jazz Cartel Track 4

Researcher – Danielle Collado

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