Latin All-Stars Play Monterey

Rob Hayes
September 16, 2008
The Berklee Latin Jazz All-Stars. From left, Niv Toar, Juan Maldonado, Paulo Stagnaro, Marcos Lopez, Abraham Olivo, Enrique "Kalani" Trinidad.
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 at the Monterey Jazz Festival on Friday and Saturday, September 19 and 20, 2008. On Friday, the group performs at 8:00 p.m. on the Garden Stage. On Saturday at 5:00 p.m., the All-Stars will perform in the festival's Coffee House Gallery.

The group has also been chosen to perform for 400 Monterey County school-age musicians at the Festival's annual Brown Bag Lunch on Thursday, September 18 at noon, at the Monterey Fairgrounds.

Six top scholarship students from the pioneering Boston music college, the All-Stars came to Berklee from Puerto Rico, Israel, and the continental United States, 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 Beat magazine's prestigious Student Music Awards, under the name La Timbistica.

The All-Stars's high-energy performances in this past April's Next Generation Festival, including a roof-rocking show in the Monterey Live nightclub, are still being talked about.

With graduation still ahead for all but one of their members, the All-Stars have performance and recording experience beyond their years. Leader and conguero Paulo Stagnaro performed 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.

In just a little over a year, the All-Stars have become widely popular on the East Coast, touring whenever their studies allow. Earlier this summer, they were chosen to headline Boston's Tito Puente Latin Music Series and perform at Boston Symphony Hall. In October, they will perform twice in Washington, D.C.'s Duke Ellington Jazz Festival and record an in-studio concert for XM Radio's Caliente channel.

The Berklee Latin Jazz All-Stars

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. Lopez has played with Latin superstars Victor Manuelle and Gilberto Santa Rosa as well as Alex Acuña, Giovanni Hidalgo, and Dave Valentin. He is the youngest member of his Latin Grammy- and Latin Billboard-nominated band N'Klabe. Lopez has performed at numerous events, including the Tribute Gala for Tito Puente at Lincoln Center. In November of 2003, Latin Percussion sponsored him as a clinician at the Montreal Drum Fest. Lopez is in his second year at Berklee, majoring in music business/management.

Juan Maldonado (bass) is a top-notch 23-year-old from Chelsea, Massachusetts who 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. Maldonado 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. Maldonado 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 had thought possible.

Abraham Olivo (piano) is a 20-year-old performer 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. Olivo has shared the stage with Eguie Castrillo, Floetry, Chaka Khan, Hugh Masekela, Victor Mendoza, and Bill Pierce, to name a few. He recently represented Berklee at the NAMM convention in Anaheim, California; the Experience Music Project in Seattle; and MacWorld in San Francisco. He is in his third year as a contemporary writing and production major at Berklee.

Paulo Stagnaro (congas), a rising percussionist and composer, is quickly establishing both a national and international reputation. Over the past two years, Stagnaro has performed with artists such as bass giants Marcus Miller and the late Israel "Cachao" Lopez, as well as Paquito D'Rivera, Gloria Estefan, Greg Hopkins, Danilo Perez, Mark Turner, and Diego Urcola, among many others. He has also performed in music festivals and venues across the United States, 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. Stagnaro was nominated for both a Grammy and a Latin Grammy for his contributions on Paquito D'Rivera's latest release, Funk Tango.

Niv Toar (trumpet), a gifted musician from Israel on a full scholarship at Berklee, graduated this past May. He has performed at the Tel Aviv Jazz Festival, IAJE, Carnegie Hall, Regattabar, the Coca-Cola Music Festival, the Jerusalem Jazz Festival, and the Red Sea Jazz Festival. Toar has had the opportunity to share his talents with the likes of Paquito D'Rivera, Juan Luis Guerra, Jimmy Heath, Israel "Cachao" Lopez, Brian Lynch, Tony Perez, Oscar Stagnaro, and Max Weinberg. He received Berklee's Art Farmer Award, and performed alongside Brazilian music superstar Rosa Passos in November, 2007.

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 John Benitez, Paquito D'Rivera, Israel "Cachao" Lopez, Eddie Palmieri, Humberto Ramirez, Mario Rivera, Nestor Torres, and Dave Valentin, to name a few. He is currently beginning his second year at Berklee, where he is the first Puerto Rican-born recipient of Berklee's prestigious Presidential Scholarship.