Latin Jazz All-Stars Play Monterey

By 
Rob Hayes
March 18, 2008
The Berklee Latin Jazz All-Stars, left to right: Niv Toar, trumpet; Juan Maldonado, bass; Paulo Stagnaro, congas
Photo by Nick Balkin

The Berklee Latin Jazz All-Stars, winners of the 2008 Down Beat Student Music Award for Best Jazz Band, will perform as part of the Monterey Jazz Festival's Next Generation Festival, April 4 and 5, in downtown Monterey, California.

On Friday, April 4, the group performs a 10:00 p.m. set at the Monterey Live nightclub, following the concert by bassist Christian McBride at the Golden State Theater, just across the street. On Saturday at 11:00 a.m., the All-Stars will give a clinic on Latin rhythms for the Next Generation students, and that evening they will anchor the festival's popular Latin Jam Session.

Listen to "Centro Havana" (O. Lopez)

The All-Stars, six top scholarship students at the pioneering Boston music college, came to Berklee from Puerto Rico, Israel, and the continental U.S., and coalesced around their love for the polyrhythms and joyful precision of the Latin jazz form. Thanks to their tracks "Centro Havana," "Puertorro," and "Electrik," they've been named this year's Best College Jazz Band in Down Beatmagazine's prestigious Student Music Awards, under the name La Timbistica.

With graduation still ahead, the All-Stars have performance and recording experience beyond their years. Leader and conguero Paolo Stagnaro performs on Paquito D'Rivera's Funk Tango CD, winner of the 2007 Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Recording. Other members of the group have performed with Dave Valentin, Cachao, Danilo Perez, and Victor Manuelle, among others, and recorded for XM Radio. They will headline later this year in the Tito Puente Latin Music Series in Boston, and perform on Washington, D.C.'s Duke Ellington Jazz Festival.

The Berklee Latin Jazz All-Stars

Niv Toar (trumpet), a gifted musician from Israel, is currently on a full scholarship at Berklee. He has performed at the Tel Aviv Jazz Festival, IAJE, Carnegie Hall, the RegattaBar, the Coca-Cola Music Festival, the Jerusalem Jazz Festival, and the Red Sea Jazz Festival. Niv has had the opportunity to share his talents with the likes of Paquito D'Rivera, Israel "Cachao" Lopez, Jimmy Heath, Brian Lynch, Oscar Stagnaro, Max Weinberg, Tony Perez, and Juan Luis Guerra. He recently received Berklee's Art Farmer Award, and performed along side Brazilian music superstar Rosa Passos this past November.

Enrique "Kalani" Trinidad (flute), a 19-year-old Yamaha Young Performing Artist, and National Flute Association Jazz Master Class winner, has been performing for jazz lovers on his home island of Puerto Rico for almost a decade. A gifted performer and composer, "Kalani" has shared his talent with premier musicians such as Mario Rivera, Israel "Cachao" Lopez, Eddie Palmieri, Nestor Torres, Dave Valentin, Paquito D'Rivera, Humberto Ramirez, and John Benitez, to name a few.  He is currently starting his studies at Berklee where he is the first Puerto Rican-born recipient of Berklee's prestigious Presidential Scholarship.

Abraham Olivo (piano) is a 20-year-old pianist and arranger who was awarded Berklee's SYSTEM 5 (summer program) scholarship three years consecutively. He studied in the college's City Music Saturday School program from 2003 to 2005, and entered Berklee in the fall of 2005 on a full scholarship. Abraham has shared the stage with Floetry, Eguie Castrillo, Victor Mendoza, Chaka Khan, Bill Pierce, and Hugh Masekela, to name a few. He recently represented Berklee at the NAMM convention in Anaheim, California, Experience Music Project in Seattle, and at MacWorld in San Francisco. He's in his third year as a contemporary writing and production major at Berklee.

Juan Maldonado (bass) is a top-notch 23-year old bassist from Chelsea, Massachusetts who's had his eyes set on Berklee from a very young age. In the summer of 2004, he was awarded a full-tuition scholarship to attend the school of his dreams for full-time study.  He is now a seventh-semester music education major who is well versed in the Latin music idiom. His versatility, from salsa to funk, makes him a first-call live and studio musician at Berklee and in the Boston area. Juan aspires to become a Berklee professor and share his knowledge and artistry with students from around the world. In his time at school, he feels that Berklee has expanded his horizons beyond anything he'd thought possible.

Marcos Lopez (timbales), from San Juan, Puerto Rico, is a full-tuition scholarship student at Berklee, and one of the most acclaimed young percussionists in Puerto Rico and Boston. Marcos has played with Latin superstars Victor Manuelle and Gilberto Santa Rosa and artists Giovanni Hidalgo, Dave Valentin, and Alex Acuña. He is the youngest member of his Latin Grammy- and Latin Billboard-nominated band, N'Klabe. Marcos has performed at numerous events, including the Tribute Gala for Tito Puente at Lincoln Center. In November of 2003, Latin Percussion sponsored Marcos as a clinician at the Montreal Drum Fest. Marcos is in his second year at Berklee, majoring in music business/management.

Paulo Stagnaro (congas), a rising percussionist and composer, is quickly establishing both a national and international reputation. Over the past year, Paulo has performed with artists such as bass giants Marcus Miller and Israel "Cachao" Lopez, as well Danilo Perez, Mark Turner, Paquito D'Rivera, Gloria Estefan, Diego Urcola, and Greg Hopkins, among many others. He has also performed in music festivals and venues across the U.S., including the Newport Jazz Festival, BeanTown Jazz Festival, IAJE, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, the Kimmel Center, Blue Note NYC, Blues Alley D.C., and Dizzy's Coca-Cola Club. Paulo was nominated for both a Grammy and a Latin Grammy for his contributions on Paquito D'Rivera's latest release, Funk Tango.