Escovedo, along with such seasoned bandleaders as Eddie Palmieri and Ray Barretto, is today viewed as one of the standard bearers of Latin jazz. “There are so many great young players who are carrying on the tradition,” he says happily. “My job, as I see it, is to keep on doing what Tito, Mongo, Cal, Willie and others would be doing if they were still with us today. At the same time, we need to experiment and expand the genre.” The younger guys will see to that. But for Escovedo right now things couldn’t be better. “The audience is there, and it’s worldwide,” he enthuses.

A California native, Escovedo was raised in Oakland. His father was an amateur singer and guitarist who passed along a love of Latin music, while young Pete discovered and cultivated a love of jazz largely on his own. Early on, he embraced the Latin jazz style, steadily building a reputation in the Bay Area as part of The Escovedo Brothers Latin Jazz Sextet.

The Escovedo Brothers Latin Jazz Sextet grew into one of the most popular Latin jazz combos in California. In the late ’60s when guitarist Carlos Santana hired Coke and Pete for his hugely popular group. “That was our entry into the Latin rock scene,” says Pete. In 1970 they founded the band Azteca, a cooperative 14-piece Latin big band. Azteca recorded two albums for Columbia, an eponymous debut and Pyramid of the Moon. “Those were the days of Blood Sweat and Tears and Chicago, the big band sound,” Pete says, “and we wanted to have that same kind of thing.”

Today, Escovedo leads what is widely considered one of the finest ensembles in Latin jazz, a mix of musicians from both Los Angeles and the Bay Area. The end result is a joyous concoction of Latin rhythms with elements of jazz, R&B and funk that is hard to resist. Latin jazz fan around the world will rejoice.

Group Format: Ten Piece Salsa Orchestra / Latin Jazz Septet

  • Pete Escovedo Family with Peter Michael, Juan and Sheila “E” Escovedo
Music: Click to Listen
Video: Click to Watch

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