Carlos Averhoff Jr. Debuts His Own Cuban-Jazz Hybrid Sound

Carlos Averhoff, Jr. debuts his own sound.
Carlos Averhoff, Jr. debuts his own sound.
Delio Photo Studio

If musical talent was encoded in our DNA, Carlos Averhoff Jr. inherited a genetic boon. Born in Havana to Cuban saxophone legend Carlos Averhoff Sr., his official bio playfully claims that he learned to play in the womb, and one can easily envision his father tapping rhythms against his mother’s belly. This week, Averhoff brings those rhythms, as well as new ones he’s learned along the way, to Miami as the kick off performance of Miami Light Project’s 26th Season.

After starting his training as a student at some of Havana’s top music schools, Averhoff moved to the United States to continue his musical studies, and graduated with honors from the venerable Berklee College of Music in 2011 and the New England Conservatory of Music in 2013. The tenor saxophonist has worked with everyone from Horacio El Negro Hernandez to Chucho Valdes, from Roberto Fonseca and Paquito de Rivera to Omara Portuondo and the Buena Vista Social Club. These days, he juggles a full schedule of teaching at both Berklee’s City Music program and the Concord Conservatory of Music, touring, performing, and recording music as an accompanist for others, but also, finally, for himself.

His debut album, iRESI, was released in April of 2015, and although rich in Cuban flavors, it is at its core a jazz album. As Averhoff says, “This is more like jazz with Cuban influence. iRESI is a presentation of what my music, or my point of view on what jazz music is. I’m from a generation that developed a certain musical knowledge in Cuba, I came from classical music, then I play a lot of salsa music, timba, and now, of course, I work in traditional jazz, which, since I was a little boy in Cuba, is what I wanted to study. iRESI is all that, it’s just my personality, and my point of view of the new generation of contemporary Afro-Cuban Jazz.”

Averhoff is also looking forward to introducing jazz audiences to a new dimension of sound than they may be used to. “You know, when I think of Latin Jazz of the 1990s or from the ‘80s, its different from what I do now, it’s more simple. The music itself was not rich in harmony,” he explains. “What I’m doing with my composition is taking elements from jazz, from contemporary musicians like Wayne Shorter, for example, where there is a lot of harmony change. The music changes, the chord changes a lot, so I tried to put this element in my composition.”

Fans listening for that trademark Cuban flavor won’t have to work hard, as his roots are firmly represented in his sound. “I always bring in the Cuban element, whether it’s the Cuban clave or the baseline,” he says with a laugh. “I am more focused on the jazz quartet sound, but I am adapting the jazz quartet to include elements from Cuba: it could be piano, it could be the sax melody or bass. I always want to bring something different, to give that taste of the Cuban traditional sound.”

His Miami concert will feature the same acclaimed jazz musicians who played on the iRESI album, including special guest saxophonist Greg Osby, pianist Aruán Ortiz, bassist John Lockwood and drummer Francisco Mela.

“Miami is always a surprise,” Averhoff says. “It’s developing a lot of music and a lot of art. For this concert, I will bring a high level of music and performance.

“It’s something new with great musicians, and I am looking forward to it. I always go there [to Miami, where his father is now based] and I have a great time, everyone is always very happy.”

Upcoming Events

– Rebekah Lanae Lengel, artburstmiami.com

Carlos Averhoff Jr. performs iRESI Friday, October 9, and Saturday, October 10, 8 p.m. at Miami Light Project, the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse, 404 NW 26th St., Miami. Tickets are $25 for general admission, $50 for VIP; miamilightproject.com or call 866-811-4111. 


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