Jesse Varela

Jesse’s Contributions


July/August 2005    News

Concord Picante Box Set: Still Spicy

Owning the first Ford dealership in the San Francisco suburb of Concord, Calif., set up Carl Jefferson pretty well. So he took his money and his vision to the city's Pow Wow Festival and turned it into the Concord Jazz Festival in 1969. In 1973 an extraordinary...


March 2005    Features

Orrin Keepnews: Orrinology

Jesse “Chuy” Varela interviews one of the most legendary producers in jazz about his time with Riverside, Thelonious Monk and more.


November 2004    Hearsay

Rebeca Mauleon

In 1999 Rebeca Mauleon made Round Trip (Bembe), her debut outing as a leader, and she was trying hard to promote the CD, taking nightclub gigs as much as possible. But instead of feeling like a pianist, Mauleon says she was turning into a business manager...


January/February 2004    Hearsay

Taylor Eigsti

On Resonance (Bop City), pianist Taylor Eigsti shows excellent versatility and unusually mature technical and improvisational skill for a 19-year-old. He plays notes with amazing technical precision and a soulful bebop attack-fast and furious at times, soft...


November 2003    Features

Ray Barretto: Hard Hands

Ol’ Hard Hands they call him, and if you’d beaten the congas for more than 50 years you’d have tough paws too. Homage to Art Blakey is the 74-year-old’s latest CD, and it honors the man who helped give Ray Barretto his start in the jazz business. Jesse...


June 2003    Albums

Homage to Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers
Ray Barretto Sextet

Art Blakey's greatness definitely rubbed off on conga drummer and bandleader Ray Barretto. The two met after Barretto got out of the U.S. Army in 1949, and the pair started jamming in New York City jazz clubs. Homage to Art is Barretto's uplifting tribute...


June 2003    Albums

Soul Pools
Babatunde Lea

On Soul Pools drummer Babatunde Lea presents an inspiring fusion of African-derived beats with traditional jazz rhythms. With an East Coast combo of John Benitez (bass), Kevin Jones (percussion), Ku-umba Frank Lacy (trombone), Hilton Ruiz (piano) and Mario...


July/August 2002    Hearsay

Chuchito Valdés Jr.

Jesus “Chuchito” Valdés Jr. is hoping to establish himself as a pianist, composer and arranger on his own merits and not as the son of Cuban jazz great Chucho Valdés. With a debut album, Encantado , on New York’s Town Crier Recordings, the eldest of Chucho’s...


June 2002    Albums

Los Originales
Cuban Masters

Flutist/bandleader Jose Fajardo, bassist Israel "Cachao" L¢pez, trumpeter Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros, congueros Carlos "Patato" Valdes and Francisco Aguabella and others comprise the Cuban Masters. Fajardo passed away Dec. 11, 2001, at the age of 82...


June 2002    Albums

Black Sand
Bill O'Connell Latin Jazz Project

Bill O'Connell's stints with Gato Barbieri, Dave Valentin and others have helped the pianist hone a sizable reputation that equals his 6-foot 5-inch frame. On Black Sand he blends Afro-Cuban and Brazilian styles with a well-rounded jazz vocabulary. Known...


June 2002    Albums

En Route
Orquesta Aragon

Founded by bassist Orestes Aragon Cantero in 1939 in Cienfuegos, Cuba, this string-and-flute charanga helped popularize the cha-cha-cha in the 1950s via its RCA Victor LPs. Important to Orquesta Aragon's musical excellence was violinist/musical director...


June 2002    Albums

Omar Sosa

Omar Sosa's music is a collage of sounds, prayers, rap, rumba and virtuoso piano. On Sentir the 37-year-old from Camaguey, Cuba, ties together the African-based musical branches of Morocco, Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador and the United States. With jazz feeling...


May 2002    Features

Eddie Palmieri: Life on the Bandstand

A roar of applause fills the legendary Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, Calif., as Eddie Palmieri sits at the piano. With a smile and a grunting four count he brings to life “El Molestoso,” an early pachanga hit from his New York City dancehall heyday...


May 2002    Hearsay

Claudia Acuña

“I’ve seen whales, dolphins. I really needed to be near water,” says Chilean-born singer Claudia Acuña from her Hawaiian retreat. “I’ve been under a lot of pressure recently and not taken a vacation in seven years. The up and down that musicians go through...


May 2002    Albums

From Enchantment and Full Force Jazz
Tony Perez

Tony Perez is a 28-year-old pianist from Sancti Sp¡ritus, Cuba, who was handpicked by Chucho Valdes in 1998 to lead Irakere when the founder retired from the group. On Perez's second solo album, From Enchantment and Full Force Jazz, navigates...


April 2002    Overdue Ovation

Bebo Valdés

In a film full of touching moments, two that stand out in the landmark Latin-jazz documentary Calle 54 are the duets Cuban pianist Bebo Valdés plays with his eldest son, Chucho, and bassist extraordinaire Israel “Cachao” Lopez. With entrancing virtuosity...

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