NPR: 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.

Singer Jimmy Scott died of natural causes Thursday morning at his home in Las Vegas at age 88, according to his booking agent, Jean-Pierre Leduc.

Scott suffered from Kallmann's syndrome, a lifelong affliction that prevented his body from maturing through puberty. The condition slowed his growth, leaving his stature at 4 feet 11 inches until his late 30s. It also affected his vocal cords, giving him a high voice that was often misidentified as a woman's.

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.

Girl in a Coma is a trio of young women from San Antonio who play rock music — loud rock music — in both English and Spanish. Lead singer and songwriter Nina Diaz, 23, is the youngest member of the band. Her sister Phannie plays drums, while their longtime friend Jenn Alva slaps the bass. Girl in a Coma is signed to Blackheart Records — a label owned by rocker Joan Jett — and takes its name from the song "Girlfriend in a Coma" by The Smiths.

Over the next few weeks, we're producing stories about the business of putting on free concerts, how they work and what they bring to their communities. Last week's Weekend Edition Saturday story covered non-profit concert presenters in New York City.

Frank Foster, Jazz Saxophonist And Arranger, Has Died

Jul 26, 2011

Frank Foster, a saxophonist and composer/arranger best known for his longtime association with the Count Basie Orchestra, has died. He passed away in his sleep early Tuesday morning at his home in Chesapeake, Va., according to his widow and manager, Cecilia Foster. He was 82.

Foster was a key member of the "New Testament" Basie band — the large ensemble Basie led in the 1950s and beyond. In addition to his playing on tenor saxophone and other woodwinds, he contributed many melodies and arrangements. At least one of those tunes, "Shiny Stockings," became a jazz standard.

If the whole world were in school, the Cubans would have a Ph.D in rhythm. Even the seemingly easy swing of the Buena Vista Social Club was based on the African polyrhythms of the two-measure clave, which is part metronome, part rhythm marker.

English / Spanish

Vocalist and performer Gil Scott-Heron, called one of the padrinos of rap for his politically charged spoken word performances in the '70s, died yesterday at a Manhattan hospital. He was 62 years old.

English / Spanish

Carlos Santana made news this week, and not by playing music.

According to this article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Santana spoke out strongly against immigration legislation in Arizona and Georgia.

Los Tigres del Norte earned the respect they've generated in the music business and among their fans the hard way: note by note, line by line and mile by mile.

To explain the one of a kind connection to their audience, let me offer a short behind-the-scenes story about covering them for NPR News.

English / Spanish

About three years ago I finally replaced my turntable, and I've been returning to vinyl like a long lost friend.

During a recent crate-diving expedition to my local used vinyl store, I came across an album cover that caught my eye.

English / Spanish

Found Mariachi is an occasional series in which we shout out to mariachi found in unexpected musical places.

My first post featured Lady Gaga.

It's hard to believe that Julieta Venegas released her first album more than 10 years ago — I still think of her as a newcomer. But just as I mark time by checking in on my best friends' kids ("They're how old now?!"), so too do we see and hear Venegas maturing as a performer and songwriter who still defies expectations.

English / Spanish

Cinco de Mayo may be the world's most misunderstood holiday. It is NOT Mexican Independence Day (that's September 16). It is not a religious holiday. In fact, it's not even that big a deal in Mexico. Without making this a history lecture, let me briefly walk you through why this date matters.

English / Spanish

Last week's show featured a track by Latin music pioneer Joe Cuba and I promised to share the back story as to why we included it.

Seems a DJ who goes by the name DJ Turmix is rocking clubs, parties and other gatherings in New York not with various strains of dance music (house, trip-hop, trance, etc,).

He's doing it with straight-ahead, old school boogaloo.

Who knew a bunch guys in Mexican cowboy outfits would become part of a hip trend?

This post kicks off an occasional series of brief posts we're calling Found Mariachi in which we share unlikely mariachi sightings.

We kick things off with Lady Gaga.

No, seriously — Lady Gaga!

And because we recognize that one occurrence does not make a trend, but three do, here are two more: