Ensemble

Collaborating Artist MILTERI TUCKER & BLITZ (Kali Rodriíguez-Peña, Arturo O’Farrill, Milteri Tucker, Will Calhoun, Bam Bam Rodríguez, Alejandro Avilés at Monsignor Raul Del Valle Square Performance, 2015. Photo by Amanda Adams Louis

BLITZ BIOS

ARTURO O’FARRILL is a world-renowned, multi-Grammy-award winning Latin Jazz pianist, composer, orchestra leader and educator. He was born in Mexico and grew up in New York City, educated at the Manhattan School of Music, Brooklyn College Conservatory (from which he received the Distinguished Alumnus Medal), and the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College. He played piano with the Carla Bley Big Band from 1979 through 1983, then went on to develop as a solo performer with diverse, distinguished artists including Dizzy Gillespie, Lester Bowie, Wynton 
Marsalis, Andy González and Harry Belafonte. In the 1990’s he joined his father, pioneer Latin Jazz musician, arranger and bandleader Chico O’Farrill to form the Chico O’Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra eventually becoming the main pianist, music director and bandleader.

In 2002, he created the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra (ALJO) in order to bring the vital musical traditions of Afro-Cuban-Latin Jazz to a wider general audience, and to greatly expand the contemporary Latin Jazz-Big Band repertoire across a wide stylistic and geographical range.  From 
2001-2007, O’Farrill and the ALJO played regularly at Jazz at Lincoln 
Center and are currently at New York’s Symphony Space. With ALJO, 
O’Farrill has produced four albums: the Grammy nominated “Una Noche Inolvidable,” (2005); Grammy award winning “Song for Chico,” (2008); Grammy nominated “40 Acres and a Burro” (2011); and most recently, the Grammy award winning “The Offense of the Drum” (2014).

In 2007, O’Farrill founded the nonprofit Afro Latin Jazz Alliance (ALJA) to promote Afro Latin Jazz through a comprehensive array of performance and educational programs. ALJA provides scholarships, master classes, instruments and musical lessons for NYC public school students. ALJA has also founded the pre-professional youth orchestra the Fat Afro Latin Jazz Cats, offering in-depth musical studies and opportunities to perform throughout the city.

As an educator, he has taught master classes, seminars, and workshops throughout the world for students and teachers of all levels. O’Farrill has served as the Alan and Wendy Pesky Artist in Residence at Lafayette 
College, as Visiting Artist at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, as 
Assistant Professor of Jazz at The University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and as Assistant Professor at SUNY Purchase. He is currently on the faculty at Brooklyn College and the Manhattan School of Music.

A prolific and eclectic composer with a groundbreaking and forward-
looking perspective, O’Farrill has received commissions from Meet the Composer, the Big Apple Circus, the Philadelphia Music Project, Symphony Space, and the Bronx Museum of the Arts. He has also composed music for numerous films including Hollywoodland, Salud, Calle 54 and played on the soundtrack of Chico and Rita. O’Farrill is a Steinway Artist and artist-in-
residence at the Harlem School of the Arts. He is also a member of the Board of Governors of the New York Chapter of NARAS.
 www.arturoofarrill.com  www.afrolatinjazz.org

WILL CALHOUN is an internationally acclaimed, multi-Grammy-award 
winning musician, composer, songwriter and photographer. Born and raised in The Bronx, he attended Berklee College of Music where he graduated with a degree in Music Production and Engineering as well as received the Buddy Rich Jazz Masters Award for “Outstanding Performance” as a drummer.

Calhoun is best known as the drummer of the rock band Living Colour. He has won numerous awards throughout his career including two Grammy awards, one in 1989 for “Best Hard Rock Performance by a Group” while with Living Colour, then again for “Best Hard Rock Performance” with the band in 1990. Living Colour also won the international rock award in 1991 for “Best Rock Band.”  He was awarded “Best New Drummer of 1988” by Modern Drummer magazine’s readers poll, then again as “Number One 
Progressive Drummer” three times in 1989, 1991 and 1992 and named “Best Drummer of 1990” by Rolling Stone magazine’s critics poll.

In addition to his work with Living Colour, he has played with Jungle Funk and HeadFake and recorded several Jazz albums as the bandleader as well as collaborated and toured with a diverse group of world-renown 
artists, including Pharoah Sanders, B.B. King, Dr. John, Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter (on the Grammy-winning CD “High Life”), Marcus Miller, Yasinn Bey-aka-MOS DEF, Lauryn Hill, Marcus Miller, The Rolling Stones’ and recorded Run-DMC and Public Enemy. As a producer, player, and 
songwriter, Calhoun worked on Herb Alpert’s Grammy-nominated album, “Colors.” He also plays in the song Crimson Deep, from the “What Lies 
Beneath album” by the Finnish Symphonic Metal singer Tarja and is a member of Stone Raiders.

Calhoun has recorded two solo album projects: “Housework” (1995) and “Drum Wave” (1997) that provide an alternate canvas for his acoustic drum set artistry as well as his push for electronic tonal expressions. In the 1990’s Calhoun, Doug Wimbish, and Vinx joined forces to form the groundbreaking Ambient World Music band JUNGLE FUNK which was awarded the “Album of the Year” in Australia. In 2000, he released his first solo Jazz album as a bandleader, song writer and composer with The Will Calhoun Quintet: “Live at the Blue Note” which received top ratings from, Down Beat magazine, Jazz Times, and Billboard magazine including Drum Magazine’s readers poll voted Calhoun “1st Runner Up for Drummer/Band Leader.”

In 2005, he formed a new group “Native Lands” (aka AZA) releasing two 
albums “Native Lands” and most recently in 2013, “Life in this World” where Calhoun blends his genre-bending mastery and musicians from various backgrounds including Pharoah Sanders, Mos Def, Buster Williams, Stanley Jordan, Kevin Eubanks, Marcus Miller and Wallace Roney, as well as Nana Vasconcelos from Brazil and Cheick Tidiane Seck from Mali.

Calhoun is one of the rare artists to contribute to such a broad, diverse range of music genres including Jazz, Rock, Funk, R&B, Hip Hop, World Music and Ambient. With Living Colour, he was one of the first drummers to blend Advanced Funk and Fusion techniques with elements of Hard Rock and Thrash Metal. More recently he has integrated drum and bass grooves, ethnic percussion and sampling into his playing. He is a master of cross-genres from extremely precise grooves to more free-form Avant-funk and Jazz approaches. www.willcalhoun.com

BAM BAM RODRÍGUEZ was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela and currently lives in The Bronx. Self-taught on guitar and bass, he entered the world famous El Sistema of Youth Orchestra, where he learned to play the double bass. With El Sistema he toured the country and performed with renowned musicians such as Gustavo Dudamel. At age 18 he moved to Belgium, where he earned a Bachelor’s and then a Master’s degree in
Music while still playing with established musicians such as Bert Joris, Fabrice Alleman and Nathalie Loriers.

Rodríguez then moved to the Netherlands, earning a second Masters in Jazz and World Music at the prestigious Conservatorium Van Amsterdam. While living there he performed with Gerardo Rosales’ Afro-Cuban Quintet and Michael Simon’s group Asian Journey. During that time he also became a co-founder of the bands R.A.M. (Rodríguez, Aksunger, Milea) and Mulix, with whom he recorded four albums and toured throughout Europe, South America and the Caribbean. Since his arrival in New York he has performed with numerous well-known musicians including Claudia Acuña, Juancho Herrera, Yuri Juarez, Yayo Serka, Chad Lefkowitz-Brown and Kenneth Salters. Rodríguez also co-founded a duo project with Hungarian vocalist Artemisz Polonyi called “Light at Both Ends of the Tunnel.” He regularly performs throughout New York City, including a weekly performance at Bar Six with Artemisz Polonyi’s band, Trio Indigo. www.facebook.com/thebasswalker

ALEJANDRO AVILÉS is a first generation Cuban-American who comes from a long lineage of musicians. In fact, the Avilés family is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the longest, continuous musical group in the world, La Orquesta Hermanos Avilés, started by his great-grandfather, Manuel Avilés, in 1882 in Holguín, Cuba. The orchestra is still in existence today. Avilés graduated from the Manhattan School of Music with a Master’s Degree in Jazz and Commercial Performance.  He has studied with some of the New York’s most accomplished Jazz musicians including saxophonists Dick Oatts, Rich Perry, and Billy Drewes, and arrangers Mike Abene and the late Manny Albam.  

After graduating, Avilés relocated to Puerto Rico where he performed with many of the legendary Latin Jazz pioneers including Giovanni Hidalgo, Charlie Sepúlveda, Hilton Ruiz, Jerry Gonzalez, Miguel Zenón and Dave Valentin. He also performed with the Ramón Vásquez Quartet, and the Tribute to Chick Corea Big Band featuring Chick Corea, Paquito D’ Rivera, Airto Morales, and Gary Burton as well as with trombonist William Cepeda and his Ethno Music Project at the Heineken Jazzfests in 2009-10.

In 1999, he was selected to participate in the Henry Mancini Institute (HMI) in Los Angeles, California. In addition to playing lead alto in the 
Henry Mancini Big Band led by Justin Decciocio, Avilés performed in the Studio Orchestra alongside guest artists Randy Brecker, Jim McNeely, Ernie Watts, Gerald Wilson, and Christian McBride. He was then selected to represent HMI as a faculty member in the International Jazz Workshop in Xalapa, Mexico where he conducted workshops and performed in faculty concerts.

In 2006, the Alejandro Avilés Latin Jazz Quartet was selected by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Jazz at Lincoln Center to represent the United States as Jazz Ambassadors. The group toured Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Central America, Venezuela, Peru, and Argentina, conducting master classes and performing at concert halls. In 2014, he gained acceptance into the exclusive BMI Composers Workshop to compose contemporary music for large ensembles under the tutelage of master arrangers Mike Holober and Jim McNeely.

Avilés currently works as an adjunct professor at Hofstra University, teaching saxophone and Jazz improvisation while performing as a professional free-lance musician in genres ranging from “Straight Ahead” Jazz to “Afro-
Cuban” music. When not on tour with the Alejandro Avilés Latin Jazz Quartet, Avilés performs in many of New York’s renowned Jazz clubs including Smoke, Jazz Standard, Zinc Bar, Smalls, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Jazz Gallery, Iridium, Fat Cat, Birdland, and Blue Note. Most recently, Avilés has been honored with the endowment of the prestigious Fulbright Award and will be traveling to Brazil to teach Jazz history and improvisation in the Universities of Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte. 
www.alejandroavilesjazz.com

KALI RODRÍGUEZ-PEÑA was born and raised in Havana, Cuba and recently moved to The Bronx. A gifted trumpet player and composer, he has played with renowned Cuban and international musicians such as Wynton Marsalis, Arturo O’Farrill, Paquito D’Rivera, Chucho Valdés, Anat Cohen, Bobby Sanabria, Cándido Camero, Bobby Carcasses, among others. While living in Havana, he won top prizes at the annual Jojazz contest for “Improvisation and Best Small Combo.” A graduate of the prestigious Amadeo Roldan Conservatory in Cuba, he will be furthering his studies at Manhattan School of Music this fall, where he was awarded a full scholarship for Jazz Performance. Rodríguez-Peña’s style blends traditional Cuban sounds with influences from Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter. www.facebook.com/kalirodriguezpena

 

 

CHECK OUT SOME
BLITZ AUDIENCE REACTIONS


Want to see more Blitz videos?
Visit Casita's Vimeo page HERE
Video courtesy of BronxNet