Felix Contreras

Felix Contreras is co-host of Alt.Latino, NPR's web-based program about Latin Alternative music and Latino culture. It features music as well as interviews with many of the most well-known Latino musicians, actors, film makers and writers.

Previously, Contreras was a producer and reporter for NPR's Arts Desk and covered, among other stories and projects: a series reported from Mexico introducing the then-new musical movement called Latin Alternative; a series of stories on the financial challenges facing aging jazz musicians; and helped produce NPR's award winning series 50 Great Voices.

He once stood on the stage of the legendary jazz club The Village Vanguard after interviewing the club's owner and swears he felt the spirits of Coltrane and Monk walking through the room.

Contreras is a recovering television journalist who has worked for both NBC and Univision. He's also a part-time musician who plays Afro-Cuban percussion with various jazz and Latin bands.

Marian McPartland, who gave the world an intimate, insider's perspective on one of the most elusive topics in music — jazz improvisation — died of natural causes Tuesday night at her home in Long Island, N.Y. She was 95.

It is not easy to play both jazz drum set and Afro-Caribbean percussion. Lots of drummers do it, but few have mastered it in a way that makes their sound in either style unmistakable from the first beat.

The music community lost one of those true innovators Wednesday with the death of percussionist Steve Berrios in New York at age 68. Berrios could move seamlessly from jazz to Afro-Cuban rhythms in a way that perfectly reflected his bicultural roots.

You don't really listen to an Omar Sosa concert so much as experience it. The Cuban-born pianist's overall demeanor exudes a sense of calm and deep reflection, while a spiritual connection to music and his ancestors comes through in his piano playing.

The percussionist and bandleader Tito Puente would have celebrated his 90th birthday this weekend on April 20. And the recently released box set Quatro: The Definitive Collection is a great place to start celebrating the once and forever King of Latin Music. It captures the driving sound of big band mambo and cha-cha-cha that launched people onto dance floors for decades.

With eight accomplished musicians from Argentina and Uruguay, and a sound rooted in tango traditions, Bajofondo lays out a visual and aural feast. Led by Oscar and Grammy winner Gustavo Santaolalla, the group mashes up traditional candombe sounds and other forms with electronica to produce a mix that's hypnotic and danceable.

Double bassist Renaud Garcia-Fons was destined to create music that spans genres and borders: He was born in France to a family with roots in the Catalonia region of Spain, and he's fluent in French, Spanish and English. Classical, jazz and flamenco represent equal parts of his musical DNA, and his technique reflects the delicate arco stylings of concert halls, the deep groove of jazz and the raw vitality of flamenco.

Every July, fans of Latin alternative music gather in New York for the Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC) to see and hear their favorite bands and maybe catch a peek at artists who will become big stars.

For the third year, Alt.Latino is packing our bags for a week of panel discussions, musical showcases, and opportunities to meet and greet bands and industry folks.

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