Students Play on D.C.'s National Mall

Rob Hayes
September 19, 2008
The Berklee Latin Jazz All-Stars. From left, Niv Toar, trumpet; Juan Maldonado, bass; Paulo Stagnaro, leader, congas; Marco Lopez, timbales; Abraham Olivo, piano; Enrique "Kalani" Trinidad, flute and saxophone.
Photo 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 Duke Ellington Jazz Festival on Friday and Saturday, October 3 and 4, 2008. The group, performing as its salsa alter ego, La Timbistica, will be heard at 7:00 p.m. Friday at Nightclub 9:30, 815 V Street, NW. On Saturday at 6:00 p.m., the All-Stars will perform outdoors at the Sylvan Theater, on the National Mall.

While in Washington, the group will also perform an in-studio concert for XM Radio's Caliente94, scheduled for national broadcast later in the fall.

On Thursday, the group has been invited to give a series of performance clinics for aspiring young musicians at the Duke Ellington School for the Arts, 3500 R Street NW, in Georgetown.

Six top scholarship students from the pioneering Boston music college, the All-Stars 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 Beat magazine's prestigious Student Music Awards, under the name La Timbistica.

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 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.

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 September, they will perform two shows at the Monterey Jazz festival, as part of a tour of the Bay Area.

The Berklee Latin Jazz All-Stars

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, the 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, 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 alongside 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 beginning his second year at Berklee, where he is the first Puerto Rican-born recipient of Berklee's prestigious Presidential Scholarship.

Alex Brown (piano), a rising jazz pianist and composer, is quickly establishing both a national and international reputation. In 2007, under the tutelage of Oscar Stagnaro, Brown joined the group of nine-time Grammy-Award-winner Paquito D'Rivera. He has also performed with musicians such as Jane Bunnett, Jon Faddis, Slide Hampton, Terell Stafford, Gary Thomas, Dave Valentin, Miguel Zenon, and Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

Brown has been interviewed multiple times on Washington's jazz station, WPFW, and has appeared on BET's BET on Jazz. In 2007, he won Down Beat Magazine's Student Music Award in the Jazz Soloist piano category.

Yaure Muniz Rumayor (trumpet), born in Havana, Cuba, is from an artistic family. During his early music studies at the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory, he actively participated in festivals with various groups in Havana. He toured with the salsa and Latin jazz band "Klimax," which launched him into an international performance career with some of the leading names in Latin music. After Klimax Muniz performed with the "Afro-Cuban All Stars" under the direction of Juan de Marco Gonzalez, followed by "Cubanismo" led by Jesus Alemany, and ultimately, The Buena Vista Social Club, featuring Cachaito and Ibrahim Ferrer.

Nick Noonan (trombone) hails from rural, northern Maine, where he began playing trombone in the fourth grade. After gaining recognition throughout the state, his path ultimately led to Berklee where he is in his final year. While at Berklee, Noonan has won countless awards and shared the stage with Steve Gadd, Paul Simon, Max Weinberg, Bob Mintzer and Paquito D'Rivera, to name a few. Although his focus has been primarily jazz, Noonan has become an extremely diverse trombone player performing anything from funk to salsa and pop to Latin jazz. 

Luisito Figueroa-Roig (vocals) was born in Philadelphia to Puerto Rican parents.  At the age of 4, he began showcasing his talents at local, community events and performances. Figueroa-Roig furthered his musical studies with vocal lessons at AMLA School of Music in Philadelphia. In 2006, he recorded alongside salsa great Johnny Rivera on a compilation CD in homage to the world's most prolific soneros. Angel Fernandez, who produced the CD entitled "Transito," invited him to interpret a song made famous by the late Frankie Ruiz, "Esta Cobardia." The CD, produced by SRS Records Inc., was released in 2006.  Figueroa-Roig is currently in his third semester 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. 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'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. Lopez 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. Lopez 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 two years, Stagnaro has performed with artists such as bass giants Marcus Miller and the late 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.