Felix Contreras

Felix Contreras is a reporter and producer for NPR's Arts Desk specializing in coverage of jazz, world music, and Latino arts and culture. He is also the co-host of Alt.Latino, NPR's new web based program about Latin Alternative music.

As a producer and reporter for the NPR's Arts desk, Contreras has covered arts and technology issues; reported a series of stories on the financial challenges facing aging jazz musicians; and recently profiled a legendary Mexican singer for the "50 Great Voices" series. 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.

A part- time jazz musician, Contreras plays Afro Cuban percussion with various jazz and Latin bands. He is a recovering television journalist who has worked for both NBC and Univision.

Tiny Desk Concerts
6:03 am
Sat February 22, 2014

Sofia Rei: Tiny Desk Concert

John Poole NPR

Originally published on Sun February 23, 2014 9:11 pm

A drum from the Argentine Pampas fuels the music of Sofia Rei in this video: The way Franco Pinna has it incorporated into a traditional drum set serves as a musical metaphor for the music Rei performs alongside Pinna and guitarist/bassist JC Maillard.

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Code Switch
5:24 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

Ringing In Black History Month With Latin Music

Peru's Novalima infuses the Afro-Peruvian landó of Susana Baca's music with electronica.
Courtesy of Musuk Nolte

Originally published on Fri February 7, 2014 6:40 pm

Editor's note: It is February and that can mean only one thing. It is time for Black, Latino And Proud: Black History Month With Alt.Latino hosted by our friends and colleagues Felix Contreras and Jasmine Garsd. We pass the mic to Felix to hear what they will be featuring on NPR's Latin Alternative music podcast.

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First Listen
9:02 pm
Sun January 26, 2014

First Listen: Gina Chavez, 'Up.Rooted'

Gina Chavez's new album, Up.Rooted, comes out Feb. 15.
Judson Baker Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue February 11, 2014 9:14 am

Gina Chavez's voice stops you in your tracks the first time you hear it. At least that's how it worked for me when I came upon her performance during South by Southwest a few years ago. She was playing a semi-acoustic set on a sunlit patio above a busy sports bar — a setting not exactly conducive to her intimate songwriting.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
12:19 pm
Mon December 16, 2013

La Santa Cecilia: Tiny Desk Concert

La Santa Cecilia performs a Tiny Desk Concert in November 2013.
Meredith Rizzo Meredith Rizzo/NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 10:22 am

La Santa Cecilia spreads joy every time its members plug in to do a show. They do it one dance step at a time, with cumbias, corridos, elegant mambos and plain old rock 'n' roll.

I first saw La Santa Cecilia perform in an Austin, Texas, parking lot about five years ago. As all great bands do, it showcased an It Factor that has only intensified as the L.A.-based, Mexican-American group works tirelessly to perfect its musical vision.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
8:42 am
Sat September 14, 2013

Arturo O'Farrill: Tiny Desk Concert

The Arturo O'Farrill Octect performs a Tiny Desk Concert in June 2013.
Hayley Bartels Hayley Bartels/NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 4:10 pm

Latin jazz works best when the musicians involved are as fluent in Afro-Cuban rhythms as they are in the deep grooves and advanced harmonics of bebop. Arturo O'Farrill has that pedigree in his DNA: His father, Chico O'Farrill, was part of a groundbreaking group of musicians who created the mash-up of Afro-Cuban music and jazz back in late-'40s New York.

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The Record
5:04 am
Wed August 21, 2013

Marian McPartland, 'Piano Jazz' Host, Has Died

Marian McPartland.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed August 21, 2013 2:23 pm

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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Summer Books 2013
6:03 am
Thu August 8, 2013

Of Ingenuity And Insane Clown Posse: 5 Books On Music For What's Left Of Summer

cover for Dinner With Lenny
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri August 9, 2013 5:58 am

It's already August 8, which means you've got maybe three or four weeks left to complain about preseason football, inadequately shield yourself from the scorching heat of the sun, and communicate with your kids about something other than why they haven't done their homework. So why not get cracking on a book?

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A Blog Supreme
3:30 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

'A Walking Encyclopedia Of Rhythms': Remembering Steve Berrios

Steve Berrios performs with the Fort Apache Band in New York City earlier in 2013.
Andrea Zapata-Girau Courtesy of Jerry Gonzalez

Originally published on Wed July 31, 2013 2:20 pm

It is not easy to play both jazz drum set and Afro-Caribbean percussion. Lots of drummers do it, but few have mastered it in a way that makes their sound in either style unmistakable from the first beat.

The music community lost one of those true innovators Wednesday with the death of percussionist Steve Berrios in New York at age 68. Berrios could move seamlessly from jazz to Afro-Cuban rhythms in a way that perfectly reflected his bicultural roots.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
3:25 pm
Mon April 22, 2013

Omar Sosa & Paolo Fresu: Tiny Desk Concert

Lizzie Chen NPR

Originally published on Mon December 23, 2013 4:35 pm

You don't really listen to an Omar Sosa concert so much as experience it. The Cuban-born pianist's overall demeanor exudes a sense of calm and deep reflection, while a spiritual connection to music and his ancestors comes through in his piano playing.

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A Blog Supreme
10:55 am
Sat April 20, 2013

Tito Puente: 90 Years Of Getting People To Dance

Tito Puente on vibraphone at the Palladium.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Sat April 20, 2013 5:38 pm

The percussionist and bandleader Tito Puente would have celebrated his 90th birthday this weekend on April 20. And the recently released box set Quatro: The Definitive Collection is a great place to start celebrating the once and forever King of Latin Music. It captures the driving sound of big band mambo and cha-cha-cha that launched people onto dance floors for decades.

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SXSW: Live From Austin
12:04 pm
Mon April 1, 2013

Bajofondo, Live In Concert: SXSW 2013

NPR

Originally published on Tue April 2, 2013 7:59 pm

  • Bajofondo, Recorded Live At Auditorium Shores

With eight accomplished musicians from Argentina and Uruguay, and a sound rooted in tango traditions, Bajofondo lays out a visual and aural feast. Led by Oscar and Grammy winner Gustavo Santaolalla, the group mashes up traditional candombe sounds and other forms with electronica to produce a mix that's hypnotic and danceable.

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Tiny Desk Concerts
8:38 am
Mon August 27, 2012

Renaud Garcia-Fons: Tiny Desk Concert

Renaud Garcia Fons performs a Tiny Desk Concert at the NPR Music offices.
Michael Katzif NPR

Originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 8:06 am

Double bassist Renaud Garcia-Fons was destined to create music that spans genres and borders: He was born in France to a family with roots in the Catalonia region of Spain, and he's fluent in French, Spanish and English. Classical, jazz and flamenco represent equal parts of his musical DNA, and his technique reflects the delicate arco stylings of concert halls, the deep groove of jazz and the raw vitality of flamenco.

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Alt.Latino
8:53 am
Thu July 26, 2012

Guest DJ: Camilo Lara From Mexican Institute Of Sound

Mexican Institute of Sound singer and producer Camilo Lara.
Thomas Bregardis AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon June 17, 2013 9:08 am

  • Hear This Week's Show

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Alt.Latino
11:40 am
Thu July 5, 2012

The Latin Alternative Music Conference Preview

Alex Anwandter is one of the musicians KCRW's Raul Campos is looking forward to seeing at the Latin Alternative Music Conference in New York. Anwandter's new album, Rebeldes, came out on June 26.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Tue July 17, 2012 11:36 am

Every July, fans of Latin alternative music gather in New York for the Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC) to see and hear their favorite bands and maybe catch a peek at artists who will become big stars.

For the third year, Alt.Latino is packing our bags for a week of panel discussions, musical showcases, and opportunities to meet and greet bands and industry folks.

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Alt.Latino: The Show
12:26 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

The Truth About Cinco De Mayo

La Santa Cecilia
courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri June 22, 2012 12:06 pm

  • Hear This Week's Show

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