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.


Sun February 22, 2015
A Blog Supreme

Clark Terry, Ebullient Jazz Trumpeter, Has Died

Originally published on Sun February 22, 2015 7:22 pm

Clark Terry wasn't just a trumpeter with flawless technique; he was also, according to one peer, a "natural-born educator" who devoted much of his later career to passing on his immense musical knowledge.
Courtesy of the artist


Fri June 13, 2014
A Blog Supreme

Ethereal Jazz Singer Jimmy Scott Dies

Originally published on Sat June 14, 2014 1:59 pm

Jimmy Scott performs at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 2001.
Leon Morris Redferns

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.

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Wed August 21, 2013
The Record

Marian McPartland, 'Piano Jazz' Host, Has Died

Originally published on Wed August 21, 2013 4:23 pm

Marian McPartland.
Courtesy of the artist

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.

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Wed October 19, 2011

Girl In A Coma: Rockers Tackle Their Second Language

Originally published on Fri October 21, 2011 4:19 pm

Girl in a Coma performs in both English and Spanish — though none of the members is fluent in the latter.

Josh Huskin Courtesy of the artist

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.

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Thu August 25, 2011
The Record

A Dwindling Trust Puts Free Concerts On The Rocks

Perth Amboy, NJ's long-running free concert series is just one program threatened by loss of funding as the Music Performance Trust Fund dries up.
Felix Contreras

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.

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Tue July 26, 2011
A Blog Supreme

Frank Foster, Jazz Saxophonist And Arranger, Has Died

American jazz saxophonist Frank Foster performs on stage circa 1981.
David Redfern Redferns/Getty Images

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.

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Wed June 15, 2011

Guest DJ: Ozomatli

Originally published on Mon June 17, 2013 11:12 am

Christian Lantry courtesy of the artist


Sun June 12, 2011
First Listen

First Listen: Stefon Harris, David Sanchez And Christian Scott, 'Ninety Miles'

Originally published on Wed June 22, 2011 9:54 am

Stefon Harris, David Sanchez and Christian Scott's collaborative album, Ninety Miles, comes out June 21.
Courtesy of the artist

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.

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Sat May 28, 2011

Gil Scott-Heron Dies: Rhymes For La Revolución

Gil Scott-Heron on the cover of The Mind of Gil Scott-Heron, the album on which "Jose Campos Torres" was released.
Courtesy of Arista Records

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.

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Fri May 20, 2011

Carlos Santana Visits Georgia, Blasts State On Immigration

ATLANTA, GA - MAY 15: Musician Carlos Santana prior to receiving the MLB Beacon Awards at the Civil Rights game between the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia.
Kevin C. Cox Getty Images

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.

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Thu May 19, 2011
First Listen

First Listen: Los Tigres Del Norte And Friends

Los Tigres del Norte with Rage Against the Machine's Zack de la Rocha.
Courtesy of the artist

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.

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Mon May 16, 2011

Diving For Vinyl: Discovering Ben Tavera King Y Los Jazztecs

Guitarist Ben Tavera King
courtesy of artist courtesy of artist

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.

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Tue May 10, 2011

Lady Gaga's New Bilingual Ballad

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.

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Mon May 9, 2011
Tiny Desk Concerts

Julieta Venegas: Tiny Desk Concert

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.

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Thu May 5, 2011

This Week On Alt.Latino: Mexican Artists To Watch For

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.

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Mon April 18, 2011

Boogaloo Revival: A 1960's Fad Is Cool Again

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.

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Thu April 14, 2011

Introducing: Found Mariachi

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:

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