Biography of Roberto Fonseca

Roberto Fonseca is a Cuban jazz pianist.. From an early age, Fonseca was surrounded by music: his father was a drummer, his mother, Mercedes Cortes Alfaro, a professional singer (she sings on her son’s most recent solo album, Zamazu), and his two older half-brothers, Emilio Valdés (drums) and Jesús “Chuchito” Valdés Jr. (Piano) are also two young musicians of great international prestige. After an early interest in drums, Fonseca switched to piano at the age of 8, and by 14 was experimenting with fusing American jazz and traditional Cuban rhythms; he appeared at Havana’s Jazz Plaza Festival in 1991 when he was just 15. Fonseca studied at the Cuba’s prestigious Instituto Superior de Arte, where he obtained a Master’s degree in composition, even though he often says that he was a really bad student. After earning his degree, he left Cuba to find his sound. His first album, En El Comienzo, which he recorded with Javier Zalba and the group Temperamento, was awarded “Cuba’s Best Jazz Album” in 1999. This success encouraged him to work on two solo records: Tiene Que Ver and Elengo, combining latin jazz, drum and bass, hip-hop, urban music and Afro-Cuban rhythms. In 2001, Fonseca went to Japan to record No Limit: Afro Cuban Jazz. He also toured with the Buena Vista Social Club the same year and has worked with Rubén González, Ibrahim Ferrer, Cachaito, Guajiro Mirabal and Manuel Galbán. A dream that toured all over the world, with over 400 concerts, promoting Ibrahim Ferrer’s records next to great legends such as Cachaíto López, Guajiro Mirabal and Manuel Galbán, among others. Playing at the most prestigious venues, such as Frankfurt Alter Oper (Frankfurt), Palais des Congrčs (Paris), Albert Hall (London), Beacon Theatre (New York), Sydney Opera House (Australia), etc. Not a single review of Ibrahim’s concerts, from South America to Asia, would fail to mention Fonseca’s talent and his magnetic stage presence. That period of intense work, touring round the world, led Roberto to realise that his music was ready for creating his own project. He dug deep to compose each of the songs that form “ZAMAZU”, the result of the integration of all his influences; Afro-Cuban music, Jazz, classical music and traditional Cuban music. In the words of one reviewer, his last offering, Zamazu, is “a deftly varied and well-sequenced set that leaves a strong impression of who Fonseca is and promises plenty for the future". 2008 was a year full of work and experiences that have inspired Roberto’s new compositions, one being Columbia Pictures choosing the track “Llego Cachaito” from the “Zamazu” album for the Will Smith film “Hancock”. With his latest album “Akokan” Roberto wanted to bring the magic, strength and improvisation from a live show to the studio. With a quartet formation and accompanied by his band, the one that he has been playing with for the last 12 years, Roberto as the record’s producer has encouraged creativity and chemistry amongst the musicians There are also two very special collaborations from artists that Roberto admires, artists that have very different styles: Mayra Andrade, the Cape Verdean singer who wrote the words and sings on ‘Siete potencias’, and Raul Midon, the American guitarist, wrote ‘Second Chance’. On this track Roberto did the arrangements and Raul accompanied him on guitar. In comparison to “Zamazu”, on this new album the piano is the true protagonist with some incredible piano solos and a different way of playing, one enriched by many experiences and the desire for us to feel his passion for life and music as the driving force of each piece.

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