It seems that only in recent years has American culture really begun to accept and acknowledge the rise of Latin culture in the United States. Latino pop stars like Shakira, Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin have enjoyed tremendous commercial success, and Latino comedians like George Lopez and Carlos Mencia have developed significant followings. There’s even a whole tribe of Latino folks on the new teams-by-race season of “Survivor.”
In the world of jazz music, however, the influence of Latin culture has been felt for decades, at least since Dizzy Gillespie took inspiration from Latino musicians like Tito Puente and Chano Pozo and started performing with Afro-Cuban bands in the ’50s.
Since Latin culture in general is becoming more familiar to the average American, it seems only natural to expect a resurgence in the popularity of Latin jazz.
Last year, Jazz Factory proprietor Ken Shapero partnered up with the Adelante Hispanic Achievers to come up with the Adelante Latin Jazz Festival, a program that not only celebrated Latin culture but also benefited the Hispanic community. The Adelante Hispanic Achievers is an organization that, as Shapero explains, “is very similar to the Black Achievers organization in the sense that they focus on providing education programs and enrichment and mentoring opportunities for middle school Hispanic youth, or Hispanic-speaking youth.”
This week, the Adelante Festival returns to the Jazz Factory. Shapero has booked some of Latin jazz’s most significant performers for the week-long event. With a wide range of countries of origin and performance styles, the performers represent a diversity within the genre: The week sees performances by Davíd Sánchez, a Grammy-winning, Puerto Rican-born saxophonist; Chuchito Valdés, a jazz pianist from a long line of jazz legends; JUNO Award-winning pianist Hilario Durán performing with Cuban drum legend Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez; and Brazilian bossa nova songstress Luca Mundaca.
Mundaca is definitely the performer least similar to others, but she isn’t fazed.
“I think maybe I’ve got a little bit of everything,” Mundaca said. “My music has a feel of jazz, because bossa nova shares a lot with jazz. One of the good things about me performing there is that though my music isn’t jazz, it’s also not that different that it’s going to shock the audience. I think I can fit my music in without any problem.”
Besides the national talent, local performers will be onstage through the week, such as the Middle-Eastern/Flamenco fusion act Alma Gitana, the Flamenco music and dancing troupe Al Sur, and Louisville’s own nine-piece Afro-Cuban outfit Kalór.
This year’s festival also features the return of the immensely popular Latin dance, on the rooftop garden atop the Glassworks building. The dance will feature live music from Cincinnati-based Latin dance band Tropicoso.
Shapero said he has worked hard to arrange a festival with many fun and exciting opportunities, but his main concern is of cultural significance.
“We get a lot of Hispanic-speaking people who take a lot of pride in this music, and it’s an important cultural thing for them to have a whole week celebration of this,” he said.
Contact the writer at