Edgar Pantoja-Aleman

Oakland, CA

Many thanks to the photographers:

Tom Erlich

Martin Cohen

Danielle Moir

Lianetta Perello

Vic Brown

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Musical Foundations

From a young age, I listened to the Conga Santiaguera thundering with the force of an earthquake down the street in the city where I was born, Santiago de Cuba. This was my first great cultural and rhythmic experience; those drums fusing perfectly with the sounds of the metal truck rims, and the people euphorically chanting different popular melodies played by the Chinese trumpet. It was something primal that dragged in even the most skeptic of the dancers it found in its path.

Motivated by my mother, I began to study the trumpet in Santiago's "Esteban Salas" Conservatory at age 11, awakening all my desires to be a musician. I continued my studies in the music school "Jose Maria Ochoa" in Holguin, where I became curious about the piano as a harmonic instrument and took my first steps as a composer and arranger. In those days, my classmates and I would spend long hours in the library at school listening to LPs of American jazz, latin jazz, and Cuban "Nueva Trova".

Pictured on right: a classroom in Santiago's Conservatory of Music where I studied trumpet as a child 
 

Early Career Experiences

In the early 90s, I was a trumpet player, arranger, and band leader for several "timba" music bands in Havana. My life outside of Cuba began in Barcelona, Spain, at age 24. There I started to truly learn about traditional Cuban music, its folklore and its essence. I also had the opportunity to work with musicians of cultures different from mine, in particular the Moroccans, who taught me to understand their Gnawa music and other diverse African rhythms. It was a time of great professional growth.

In 2005, I began to work as a teacher at the music school in El Hierro, Canary Islands. I learned how to engage and educate children and arranged a large-format band with brass, woodwind, and percussive instruments. During this time I dedicated myself to studying the piano as a primary instrument, taking great inspiration from the music of Ernesto Lecuona, one of Cuba's greatest pianists and classical composers.
 

Pictured left: Inspiring words at Umbria Jazz Festival
 
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Recent Projects

Living in New York 2008-2018, I was been fortunate to work with many talented musicians among them John Benítez, David Murray, Angelique Kidjo, Rubén Blades, Descemer Bueno, and Pedrito Martinez. I most recently formed part of the Grammy-nominated Pedrito Martinez Group (PMG) as pianist/keyboardist, vocalist, and arranger.

 

With PMG I have had the privilege of performing in many prestigious venues and festivals such as: Los Angeles Hollywood Bowl (2017), Carnegie Hall (2016), Symphony Space (2016), Dizzy's Club Coca Cola at the Lincoln Center (2016), New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (2017), San Jose Jazz Festival (2017), Monterey Jazz Festival (2017), Umbria Jazz Festival (Italy 2016), San Francisco Jazz Festival (2015), Panama Jazz Festival (2015).

I have also recorded and performed with other New York City groups including Itai Kriss & The Havana Special at the Red Sea Jazz Festival (Israel 2016), Orquesta "SCC" Salsa Con Conciencia at Lincoln Center's Midsummer Night Swing (NY 2015) and Tempo Latino (France 2015), and Colette Michaan & Querencia in the Festival D'Essaouira Gnaoua et des Musiques du Monde (Morocco 2012).

Recently I finished my first album: VIVENCIAS, which reflects all my wandering and experiences being in these different places, each song is a snapshot of a feeling or moment lived. This project is something I have been anticipating doing for a long time, a commitment to myself, my family, music, love, and time. I recently moved to Oakland, California, and am looking forward to continuing to pursue music and education in this new home.
 

Pictured right: Performing at Yoshi's in California
Below: street near my childhood home in Santiago de Cuba