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by Zaccai Curtis

Jazzin' 03:58 video


Curtis brings along his quartet, which expands upon the Cubop era of the late 40's, with a mix of new compositions and classics from Dizzy Gillespie and Kenny Dorham to Machito and Mario Bauzá. Exploring reimagined Afro-Cuban jazz concepts, this quartet brings a new sound through their arrangements and musical vision. Featuring bassist Luques Curtis, timbale player Willie Martinez, and conga players Camilo Molina and Reinaldo De Jesus.

I would like to start from the beginning with a quick intro to ‘latin Jazz,’ specifically focusing on jazz influenced by Cuba. This includes “Cubop”, and“Afro-Cuban jazz”.
“Latin Jazz” is the umbrella term, describing jazz music that had been influenced by the cultural music of Cuba, Brazil and the rest of Latin America. This works in reverse of course as the music of Latin America has been influenced by ‘jazz.’ I remember the words of trumpeter Ray Vega telling me we should adopt a second term to fully describe the scope of what we do. “Jazz Latino’ ” …for when play jazz with Latin influences and “Latin jazz” for when we play Latin music influenced by jazz. This partly illustrates the depth of the music and how nuanced it can get. The modern history of Afro-Cuban jazz starts with Machito, Mario Bauzá, Dizzy Gillespie, Chano Pozo, and the explorations following ‘Cubana-Be Cubana-Bop’ by George Russell. The genre has deep African then Cuban roots and the explorations of musicians to come follow in the footsteps of Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo who wildly popularized Cubop in the mid 40s in New York City.

Afro-Cuban jazz can be divided into two schools. Imagine it more like two sides of a coin. Instrumental Mambo jazz and Cubop. I want to be clear that there is a great deal of grey area in this music and it isn’t always meant to be divided up like this but it may help the communication process. Omitting Afro-Cuban 6/8, both schools of Afro-Cuban jazz are fathered by Mario Bauzá but developed differently.
In one hand you have Instrumental Mambo jazz fathered and developed by Mario Bauzá and Machito. This is a term I first heard came from from Eddie Palmieri and describes instrumental mambos that you might hear from Bebo Valdés, Tito Puente, Peruchin, Eddie Palmieri and many more. In the early 40s, as the story goes, Mario Bauzá, the musical director for Machito and his Afro Cubans, composed a piece that incorporated jazz melodies and soloing. “Tanga” also used jazz improvisation as the main focus.
In the other hand I like to describe Cubop as an original or primarily a bebop composition with an Afro-Cuban rhythm section or with Afro-Cuban elements in the rhythm section. In other words, the original composition would have to lean more towards the bebop side of the musical fusion. Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo, in 1946, with the George Russell composition (Cubano-Be Cubano-Bop) along with “Manteca”, “Tin Tin Deo” (1947) inspired artists like Stan Kenton, Art Blakey, Cal Tjader, Tito Puente, Cándido, Billy Taylor, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker to create new paths that changed the world of music forever.

I’d like to dedicate this album to maestros Eddie Palmieri and Donald Harrison. Two genius musicians that daily inspire me to be the best I can be.

Thank you to God, and my family Julie Acosta and Adagio Curtis. Mom and Dad, I couldn’t do it without you! The whole Curtis family!


released December 25, 2023

Zaccai Curtis - Piano
Luques Curtis - Bass
Willie Martinez - Timbales
Camilo Molina/ Reinaldo De Jesus - Congas/ Percussion


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