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San Diego’s Latin Take on Jazz

When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of a calorie-filled holiday complete with loud music and even louder family members. It is a time for loved ones to enjoy each other’s company following a hectic year. With that being said, jazz is perhaps the most dynamic genre of music that is applicable to this time of year. It has the ability to calm or liven a party, which can be precisely what a dull or overly eccentric family (like mine) needs. Around this time, my family and I particularly enjoy listening to Latin jazz fusions such as those performed by San Diego local Manny Cepeda.

Cepeda has been entertaining since the age of four. While he specializes in Caribbean genres such as bomba, plena and salsa, his music incorporates clear jazz influences.

Perhaps the most evident difference between traditional jazz and Cepeda’s music is the fact that Latin jazz employs a straight rhythm, rather than swung rhythm. A swung rhythm is one that typically calls for a response from its audience such as foot-tapping or head-nodding. Surely, you can nod your head to Latin jazz, but you will likely experience a migraine shortly after!

At a young age, Cepeda was on television shows in Puerto Rico performing with a wide variety of local musicians. As his talent matured, he was able to perform with more established musicians in the genre such as Willie Colón. Cepeda was later the leader of the US Navy Show Band and US Navy Steel Band. And as if Cepeda’s accomplishments weren’t impressive enough, he was also the director of the Grossmont College Jazz Ensemble this year.

Today, Cepeda performs at venues that range from the Little Italy Farmers Market to Anthology San Diego, one of the city’s premier jazz venues. Nevertheless, his performance nearly always eludes his location. Once the vibrant sounds of the congas and polished clangs of the orchestra begin, audiences are transported to San Juan, Puerto Rico or even the Bronx, New York in the 1950’s.

Don’t just take my word for it – experience it for yourself. Manny Cepeda and his orchestra will be performing at Anthology San Diego on November 26, 2011 at 9:30 p.m. Tickets range from $10 to $21. To learn more about this artist and his upcoming performances, please visit