Cuban/Latin artists and recordings

I’m looking for recommendations for Cuban and Latin piano artists or recordings. Latin music is obviously a huge category to generalize about but I don’t know enough about it to know what I’m referring to.

Ruben Gonzalez was the first Cuban piano player I discovered years ago before I started playing

I’m working on learning that tune from this tutorial

This one is maybe cheating because it’s a New Orleans tune by Jelly Roll Morton with a latin sound. Piano Groove appropriate though, Jon Cleary plays this one and there’s a version on Kyle Roussel’s latest album.

And one of my favorite discoveries this year, Brazilian pianist Luciano Leães who plays outstanding New Orleans piano but lots of Brazilian and latin American music too. This is one of his

A video I found a while back, really like this improv. A much bigger topic/question for @Hayden is what is different about this music. The rhythm, the harmonic and melodic components that are part of these styles


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Hi @sam.baker

I’ve spent a lot of time listening to Afro-Cuban tunes. It’s a subject that can send me down that proverbial rabbit hole for a long time. So I’ll just start off with a few of the old-school greats.

First, I’d start with Peruchín. His most well-known album is The Incendiary
Piano of Peruchín–with Exciting Afro-Cuban Rhythm
. Gotta love the subtitle. Here’s “La Mulata Rumbera”:

Another great is Noro Morales with his “Missisippi Mambo”:

Here’s Bebo Valdés accompanying a Flamenco singer on an old standard, “Lágrimas Negras”:

I’ll close for now with two more tunes: Bebo Valdés with the tune that was the first of the genre to become popular in mainstream America, “El Manisero” followed by his son Chucho Valdés with “Mambo Influenciado.” (On the last two, you’ll see that they’re from Marcos Burbanos’ website. If you’re interested in partituras, that’s one place to check out.) If you’re interested in information about more contemporary Afro-Cuban pianists, let me know. Enjoy! :musical_keyboard:

With “El Manisero,” if you get a message in Spanish, just click on “Ver en YouTube.” It should connect.

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Hey @sam.baker and @scott1 :wave:

Thanks for sharing these recordings!

I have to be honest that my knowledge and understanding of Cuban piano is very limited. However, some good news is that we have an “Intro To Cuban Piano” course coming very soon.

Here’s a preview of one of the lessons on montuno patterns:

This course was recorded in back in February/March time. It’s been very slow on my side coordinating the editing this new course with my usual workload. Anyhow, the video editor is currently working on the final 2 lessons in the course.

Cuban Theory In Seminars

In case you missed this one @sam.baker , Jon discusses the relationships between Cuban piano and New Orleans piano which I think will be right up your street.

In the early chapters of the seminar Jon explains the harmonic components of montuno patterns and the similarities with New Orleans piano, check it out here:

There’s lots of great information in there.

I hope that helps and more updates to follow shortly on the Cuban piano course.


Thanks @scott1, those are all good videos. I think there are more variations outside of Cuba that I’d like to learn more about too, plenty of Mexican styles as well as (Spain) Spanish and other latin American countries. Only speaking a little Spanish doesn’t help with research.

I don’t want to diverge from piano-related material too much but here’s an outstanding band and performance, musically and vocally that I could listen to daily if I only had the time!

This is also a great album

Always interested in hearing more music if you have more recommendations.

Look at that, a Cuban course coming right up, that’s great. I’ll check out that Jon Cleary video too.

@scott1 I think Professor Longhair’s Crawfish Fiesta has Afro-Cuban influence too? I have a recording of me butchering that tune, I need to figure out how to use the sustain pedal and how to tap my foot while playing so the parts all fit together rhythmically - it’s a really fun tune to play though

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Sharing a real favourite, Ramon Valle. He is not really playing “cuban style”, he is more just an absolutely phenomenal jazz musician (from Cuba), here an example with his amazing trio, the connection between the three is absolutely exqusite!



That Professor Longhair tune obviously has some Afro-Cuban influences, but I’d call it more of a bluesy ragtime. Whatever you call it, it’s a fine tune (though I’m not really a big ragtime fan).

With regard to the other two videos you shared, I love a sad mariachi ballad, and it’s been quite a while since I’ve listened to Lhasa de Sela. I have always liked her stuff. So sad she died so young. You mentioned that you “don’t want to diverge from piano-related material too much.” That’s appropriate here, but I also share your enthusiasm for sharing the music you love. So I’m going to “diverge” a bit here too and share a few tunes that seem an appropriate response to what you’ve posted.

Hearing the Lhasa tune brought to mind the haunting harmonies of “Kiko and the Lavender Moon,” by Los Lobos. They’re a group of Latinos from East Los Angeles and one of the best American rock bands ever. They’re celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. They also put out an acoustic album years ago, La pistola y el corazón, which draws upon the roots music they heard played growing up. I’ve included the title track as well.

Since you expressed an interest “in hearing more music if [I] have more recommendations,” next time I post, I’ll get back to sharing more appropriate piano music from different parts of the world. Enjoy! :musical_keyboard:

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Anyone following this should check out Jon Cleary’s livestream today. I asked him about The Crave and he covered a lot of the tune, I love the way he plays it.

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Thanks Scott, I don’t know those Los Lobos tunes, always appreciate more links. I’m going to start one more post on New Orleans piano specifically which was my primary interest that led me to Cuban and related styles.

Oskar ly has some nice jazzy montuno lessons.

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This one has an amazing lesson on the history of styles

Emilio morales is an amazing teacher
He compares swing jazz to the different Cuban rhythms throughout and gets really jazzy towards the end

I love Mexican music, but its not super piano based unless you go back to the old mambos, chachas and boleros. Also the chacarera and zamba from Argentina (different than Brazilian samba) are wonderful for jazz piano chords with a different beat

Along those lines and one of the best of course is tango piano…

@luzioluna thanks for posting, Oskar Ly’s videos look great.

I’ll risk confessing here that I just can’t get into most jazz music, besides the funky stuff. Autumn Leaves for example, not a fan but as soon as Oskar gets to level 4 and level 6, it’s great! Jazz just needs more energetic syncopation :slight_smile:

Listening to Oskar’s other video too, a lot of different styles there, I will definitely work on some of those. I like La banda and El preso the most.

The Emilio Morales video looks like a great intro too, look forward to going through all of that. I’m going to look into tango piano more too - I appreciate all the pointers for new things to look at!

Gracias por compartir estos videos!

These are both interesting and instructive. I’ve got them bookmarked so I can review them more carefully. However, I wouldn’t lump tango in with salsa. They have very different approaches.


I get it. Some jazz tunes are boring. There are some that are considered great that leave me cold. But the whole Great American Songbook is a treasure trove of harmonic information that serves as one of the best places to begin studying and understanding the theory and harmony that will serve you in whatever genre you prefer to play. And you won’t find a better place to study them than right here on PianoGroove.

Are there are some tunes or styles that I don’t really want to play on a regular basis? Sure, but I love studying them for their insights on how i might improve my playing overall.

Also, that “energetic syncopation” you mention is really the result of understanding fixed rhythmic patterns the underly the various Latin genres.

But I agree, the more lively stuff is fun! :sunglasses:

Oh I know, I’m working through jazz foundations and excited to get to some jazz tunes. Not generally my taste but Hayden has convinced me that I need to learn all of this stuff to play like Jon Cleary and Dr John.

A lot of New Orleans piano players are self taught and talk about how they only learn the things they want to play but I’ve realized that the best ones know all of this theory inside and out.

I don’t like that I don’t appreciate jazz, some of the best musicians I know love it and play it - maybe learning it here will finally cure me!

@sam.baker - I’ve just uploaded the archived version of Jon’s stream. I added the light-up keyboard, straightened the overhead shot, and bumped up the mic volume.

You should find it much easier to study Jon’s demonstrations of “The Crave” now :sunglasses: enjoy!


Here’s someone you might like.

Roberto Fonseca replaced Ruben Gonzalez in the Buena Vista Social Club some years ago when Gonzalez had health issues. He’s since moved on and created a number of fine albums. His latest, La Gran Diversión was released last month. It’s a throwback to the dance bands of yesteryear and he shines throughout. Here’s a 2022 live clip of his current band. Enjoy! :musical_keyboard:

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