Cuban music | St. Louis Public Radio

Cuban music

The Spanish Harlem Orchestra
Spanish Harlem Orchestra

Oscar Hernandez has been playing Latin jazz and salsa music for more than four decades, and in that time he’s performed with some of that music’s greatest performers, but also seen people turn away from their musical heritage.

So when Hernandez gets a chance to share the Latin music tradition that emerged from New York with a multigenerational crowd, he counts his blessings.

“I always say thank God for the intelligent, discerning fans that go beyond the commercial [music] that they’re fed continually in this country,” Hernandez said recently. “They go out and seek something better than that. And that’s who our audience is. That’s who our fans are.”

Jazz pianist Alfredo Rodriguez
Photo by Betsy Newman. Courtesy of the artist.

Anyone who visits Cuba would be struck by two important musical currents: the streetwise character of modern dance music — and the elegance of classically trained performers adept at various genres.

 

St. Louisans this week have a chance to see both when pianist Alfredo Rodriguez, who hails from the Cuban Institute of Music, joins conga player Pedrito Martinez, who had no formal training. Since crossing paths in the United States in recent years, they’ve played together on stage and on recordings.

Their latest collaboration will be at Jazz at the Bistro, where they will perform fuse jazz and Afro-Cuban music, including timba, the fiery dance music that took the island by storm a couple of decades ago.