the afro-cuban jazz cartel

They say that the best rum is one that is aged and endures through time, that it is with Brian Andres & The Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel.”

— Luis Raul Montell-Jazz Caribe

Latin Jazz: The perfect combination. The union of two musical traditions: Jazz, a truly original art form born in the United States, espouses the freedom in music that its birth nation represents to the world. Latin, a generic term meant to encompass the numerous dance and folkloric musical styles of the Caribbean. Latin Jazz: part African, part European, it is to some, the ultimate American musical expression. 

The San Francisco Bay Area has been a historic hotbed for Latin Jazz artists. From Cal Tjader to Armando Peraza,  John Santos to Wayne Wallace. The Latin jazz tradition has thrived in the Bay Area.  It is from this tradition that The Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel arrives.  Lead by drummer Brian Andres, the group was formed to contribute its own mark to that storied history.  Featuring Grammy Award winning musicians as well as esteemed music educators, the ACJC never fails to perform its music at the highest level. The repertoire consists of original compositions as well as exciting original arrangements of classics from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico and the United States.  The group is equally capable of performing a dance or concert repertoire, as well as educational presentations such as lectures, workshops or instruction focused on the musical instrumentation,  composition and arranging or cultural significance and history of the music they perform. 

The ACJC has three recordings.  The first, Drummer’s Speak, released in 2007, hailed the arrival of the group. Featuring compositions by legendary Jazz drummers and percussionists, each tune was given an original arrangement by members of the group.  In 2013, the ACJC released its second recording, San Francisco.  Focusing on the composing, arranging and performing talent of the SF Bay Area Latin Jazz scene, the recording debuted on the CMJ Jazz Top 40 at number 39. Eventually climbing to number 23, it was met with critical acclaim while staying on the CDBaby Best Selling list for 4 months. 

The Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel's third recording, This Could be That, was released on January 15th, 2016. It's a continuation of the hard hitting, modern Latin Jazz sound they've become known for. Featuring a core octet drawn from the cream of local players, This Could Be That includes guest appearances by innovators such as Cuban-American vocalist Venissa Santi, Fania All-Stars timbalero Louie Romero, bata master Michael Spiro, Peruvian percussion star Alex Acuña, and percussion maestro John Santos. Over the past decade, the Cartel has earned a sterling reputation as a turbo-charged vehicle for interpreting challenging material, and This Could Be That includes compositions and arrangements by top-shelf writing talent from within and outside the band's rank. 

In many ways This Could Be That embodies the Bay Area's close-knit Latin music community, which got a burst of international attention when the Pacific Mambo Orchestra won the 2014 Grammy Award for Best Latin Tropical Album. The PMO's co-leaders, German-born trumpeter Steffen Kuehn and Mexico City-raised pianist Christian Tumalan, both play a significant role in the Cartel. Kuehn, who plays on about half the album's tracks, brought in a state-of-the-art timba-powered arrangement of his original "Limite," which features Cuban timbalero Calixto Oviedo as a special guest. And Tumalan, who holds down the Cartel piano chair, "and is integral to developing the sound of the Cartel" Andres says, contributed a thrilling Cubanized arrangement of Chick Corea's Elektric Band anthem "Got a Match?" that slyly references Corea's standards "Armando's Rhumba" and "Spain." 

The ACJC exert a firm grip on the music's cutting edge, playing with confidence, poise, and rhythmic imagination.


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