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Boricua Pioneer: Dr. William Cepeda

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William Cepeda

Dr. William Cepeda is a highly regarded trombonist, percussionist, shell player, composer, arranger, bandleader, producer, and visionary. In 1992 he revolutionized Puerto Rican music when he introduced the sub-genre Afro-Rican Jazz, an innovative blend of traditional Puerto Rican rhythms, folk, dance, progressive jazz, and World Music.

A protégé of the late, great Dizzy Gillespie, Cepeda was a member of the United Nations Orchestra. Also, he has traveled the world and performed with Lester Bowie and his Brass Fantasy, David Murray, James Moody, Steve Turre, Bobby Watson, Miriam Makeba, and Slide Hampton & the Jazz Masters. And on the “Latin Side” with Tito Puente, Paquito D’Rivera, Arturo Sandoval, Eddie Palmieri, Celia Cruz, Marc Anthony, Rubén Blades, Oscar de León and Humberto Ramírez among others .

Dr. William Cepeda – Photo credit: Tomas Peña

In 1997, Cepeda founded Casabe Records and produced a series of seminal recordings by Isabel Albizú (Matriarch of the Bomba, 2011), proclaimed by The National Foundation for Popular Culture as one of the best of the year. Also, with Féelix Alduen (leader of the Grupo Afrocuba and expert in the Bombas of Mayagüez, 2015), Los Hermanos Ayala, Angel Luis Torruellas (2017), Bomba Sinfónica (2017), and his group, Afro-Rican Jazz.

Cepeda is also the creator of the 4-volume Encyclopedia: La Música de Puerto Rico: Raíces y Evolución (Spanish Edition, 2012), which provides a comprehensive understanding of Bomba, Plena, La Danza, and La Música Jíbara through teaching materials, high-quality recordings, videos, monographs, songs, a curriculum, and teacher guides for elementary, middle, and high school levels. Currently, the encyclopedia is out-of-print however an updated bilingual, interactive edition is in the works.

In 2019, Cepeda launched the Lo Nuestro Tour, whose goal was to travel to Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities and educate youth about the roots and evolution of Puerto Rican music. In 2020, when the pandemic struck, the tour went virtual and is ongoing. The same year, Cepeda received a historic grant from Chamber Music America, which included performances at The Ponce Museum of Art, The Culebra Foundation, and The University of Puerto Rico (Río Piedras). The grant and the performances marked the first collaboration between art institutions in Puerto Rico and the United States.

Unknown to many of his followers, William Cepeda holds multiple academic tiles, including Doctor of Music, Major: Jazz Performance and Composition (Berklee College of Music), Master of Arts in Music (Aaron Copland School of Music), Major: Performance (Trombone) and Composition (Queens College, CUNY), Major: Music Education and Trombone (Puerto Rico Conservatory of Music), Bachelor of Music (Berklee College of Music). Also, his artistic excellence, authenticity, and advocacy, research, and documentation of Puerto Rican music, dance, and culture has earned Cepeda multiple awards and grants.

Cepeda appears on over fifty recordings as a leader and sideman. Also, he is the composer of roughly 150 original compositions. In addition, he is the subject of the 2003 documentary film, El Trombón de Bomba and El Jazz de William Cepeda by the French filmmaker Louise Ernst.

When I spoke with Cepeda last, he was taping a series of virtual concerts, composing the score for a play, putting the final touches on two upcoming recordings.

In this writer’s view, two of Cepeda’s most significant achievements are, putting Puerto Rican music and culture on the world stage and creating a genre that is unique to Puerto Rico. William Cepeda represents the past, present, and future of Puerto Rican music!

Artist website: https://williamcepeda.com

REFERENCE

  • Casabe Records
  • Cepeda, William – Website, Página Oficial (Facebook)
  • Cepeda, William -Encyclopedia: La Música de Puerto Rico: Raíces y Evolución (Spanish Edition, 2012)

© 2021 Tomas Peña
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

A graduate of Empire State College with a dual major in journalism and Latin American studies, Tomas Peña has spent years applying his knowledge and writing skills to the promotion of great musicians. A specialist in the crossroads between jazz and Latin music, Peña has written extensively on the subject.

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Artist Profiles

Artist Profile: Adrien Brandeis

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Pianist, composer, Adrien Brandeis
Jazz pianist and composer, Adrien Brandeis

Adrien Brandeis is a french jazz pianist and composer born in Annecy. After studying at the Nice conservatory, he moved to Paris in 2018 to study with Manuel Rocheman and graduated from the CRR conservatory in Paris.

In 2017, he produced and released his first album in quintet Euforia, which had great recognition and international success after performing in Asia (Jazzmandu Festival in Nepal, Kolkata International Jazz Festival in India).

Euforia put Adrien Brandeis, in the spotlight of the Jazz scene, and led him to be awarded the prestigious Letter One Rising Stars Jazz Award 2018. This award, which recognizes the best young European jazz artist of the year, opened the doors for him to share his music on the biggest European stages during the summer of 2019: Nice Jazz Festival (France), Umbria Jazz Festival (Italy), Leopolis Jazz Festival (Ukraine), Love Supreme Jazz Festival (England), Heineken Jazzaldia Festival (Spain), Kongsberg Jazz Festival (Norway), JazzOpen Stuttgart (Germany).

Adrien Brandeis: Euforia
Adrien Brandeis: Euforia

Subsequently, he toured Mexico to present Euforia in trio, at the International Jazz and Blues Festival of Zacatecas 2019 and in several theaters in the center of the country.

On the French scene, he has won numerous awards: first prize at the Jazz à Juan 2017, public prize at the Jazz 2017 in Porquerolles, among others.

In Paris, he has collaborated with numerous musicians such as Orlando Poleo, Inor Sotolongo, Damian Nueva, Arnaud Dolmen, Abraham Mansfaroll, Felipe Cabrera and Philippe Ciminato.

Very attached to Latin music, he went to study in Havana, Cuba, with Ernán López-Nussa to perfect his piano skills, in September 2019.

These trips and experiences enriched his piano playing and allowed him to write his second album Meetings, a quartet album with Damian Nueva, Arnaud Dolmen, Inor Sotolongo and special guest Orlando Poleo.

Adrien Brandeis featuring Orlando Poleo: Meetings
Adrien Brandeis featuring Orlando Poleo: Meetings

Meetings, released in October 2020, allows him to move towards a more modern sound while maintaining a certain freshness. It was selected as one of the best jazz albums in France in 2020 by TSF Jazz radio.

In 2021, Meetings is presented more than 30 times; including festivals and clubs in France (Altitude Jazz Festival, Festival Jazz en Sol Mineur, Festival Musique en Cour, Duc des Lombards) as well as in Mexico (Festival Internacional de Polanco, Festival Internacional de Irapuato, Ciclo de Jazz del Forum Cultural Guanajuato, Festival EuroJazz, Festival Cultural de Mayo in Jalisco).

After two tours in Mexico in May and November 2021, where he was very well received by the Mexican public, he created a strong bond with this country and was fascinated by its culture and the places he visited.

It is then, that he decided to record his third album Siempre más allá, a testimony of his experiences and his personal tribute to Mexico.

Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá
Adrien Brandeis: Siempre Más Allá

This album was recorded as a quartet, with the musicians with whom he had shared the stage a few months before: Giliard Lopes (Brazil), José Loria Triay (Mexico) and Roberto Vizcaíno Jr. (Cuba).

Roberto Jr. Vizcaino, Adrien Brandeis, Roberto Vizcaino Guillot, Giliard Lopes, Pepe Triay - Photo: Nayeli Mejia.
Roberto Jr. Vizcaíno, Adrien Brandeis, Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot, Giliard Lopes, Pepe Triay – Photo: Nayeli Mejia.

He also had the collaboration of two great Cuban musicians of the international jazz scene: Horacio “El Negro” Hernández and Roberto Vizcaíno Guillot.

In the summer of 2022, he had outstanding participations in the A to jazz Festival (Bulgaria), Jazz à Toulon (France) as well as a special invitation to the San Jose Summer Jazz Festival (USA). He even had the opportunity to arrange and present his music in Piano Solo in Portugal and England.

YouTube Video – Adrien Brandeis – Siempre más allá (EPK)

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