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Charlie Sepulveda

A highly regarded trumpeter, bandleader, and educator, Charlie Sepúlveda is recognized for his ebullient jazz albums, which combine hard bop, Latin, and Afro-Cuban traditions. A professor at the Puerto Rico Conservatory of music, Sepúlveda emerged in the '80s, playing alongside his cousin Charlie Palmieri and other Latin stars, including Tito Puente and Dave Valentin. He has recorded with artists from across the musical spectrum, including Dizzy Gillespie, David Byrne, Danilo Perez, and They Might Be Giants. With his group the Turnaround he has released a bevy of albums, including 1993's Algo Nuestro and 2017's Mr. EP: A Tribute to Eddie Palmieri. He has earned many accolades, including a Latin Grammy for his big-band album with Jon Secada, To Beny Moré with Love. In 2021, he brought many of these influences together for his album This Is Latin Jazz. Born in 1962 in the Bronx, New York, Sepúlveda became interested in music at a young age after his parents exposed him to the music of Louis Armstrong and Herb Alpert. In 1970, he moved with his family to Caguas, Puerto Rico where he started playing the trumpet after serendipitously discovering a lost mouthpiece in his backyard. He excelled at the instrument through high school and further honed his skills, attending first the Escuela Libre de Música de Puerto Rico and graduating from the City College of New York, where he studied with Ron Carter and William Fielder. As a performer, he launched his career in the '70s and early '80s, playing alongside his cousin, noted Latin jazz pianist Eddie Palmieri. He found himself at the center of the vibrant New York club scene, playing a mix of Latin, Afro-Cuban, and post-bop jazz, working with luminaries like Mongo Santamaria, Dave Valentin, and others. With Palmieri he recorded 1989's Sueño. There were also notable sessions with Talking Heads, David Byrne, and They Might Be Giants. He also recorded and performed regularly with Tito Puente, even appearing on the Grammy- and Academy Award-nominated soundtrack to the 1991 film Mambo Kings. In 1991, Sepúlveda made his solo debut with The New Arrival, which found him leading his group the Turnaround with saxophonist David Sánchez and drummer Adam Cruz. It also featured a guest appearance from pianist Danilo Pérez and found Sepúlveda drawing upon his influences, including Rafael Cortijo, Kenny Dorham, and Art Blakey. A year later, he returned with Algo Nuestro, again showcasing his ensemble with saxophonist Sanchez, as well as a guest appearance by trombonist Steve Turre. The rest of the decade proved equally fruitful as Sepúlveda released his third album, 1996's Watermelon Man, and recorded with a bevy of pop, Latin, and jazz performers, including Hilton Ruiz, Terence Trent D'Arby, Bobby Valentin, and the TropiJazz All-Stars. He also worked closely with one of his main trumpet idols Dizzy Gillespie, appearing with the United Nation Orchestra and at the Blue Note concerts that were featured on Gillespie's final album, 1992's To Diz with Love: Diamond Jubilee Recordings. Sepúlveda also contributed to the star-studded 1997 Masters at Work collaboration Nuyorican Soul. In 2003, the trumpeter released Feeling Good Again, which found him continuing to push the boundaries of Latin jazz. Sepúlveda's Boulevard arrived in 2009. In 2017, he released Mr. EP: A Tribute to Eddie Palmieri. Also in 2017, he earned a Latin Grammy for his big-band collaboration with Jon Secada, To Beny Moré with Love. The album also cracked the Top 20 of the Billboard Jazz Albums chart. Along with performing, Sepúlveda holds the positions of musical director of the Jazz at Lincoln Center and the Rockefeller Foundation in Puerto Rico, and professor at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico. He is also the director of Jazz workshop as a facilitator in Trinidad and Tobago as part of Trinidad Pan Jazz Fest. In 2021, he showcased his deep Latin roots with his album This Is Latin Jazz on High Note.
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