promoting improvisation

Grammy nomination

Percussionist Michael Spiro and Trombonist Wayne Wallace’s Canto América Earns Grammy® Nomination for “Best Latin Jazz Album”



“Simply put, Canto América is a certified masterpiece – one of the most aurally-arresting and culturally-distinctive recordings in recent memory.”
– Mark Holston, Latino


World-renowned trombonist Wayne Wallace and percussionist Michael Spiro have earned a GRAMMY ® nomination for “Best Latin Jazz Album” for their CD Canto América on the Patois label. The Grammy Awards ceremony will take place in Los Angeles on Sunday, February 12, 2017.

“We are extremely proud of this recording, and would like to take the opportunity to personally thank the Academy and all of the musicians who participated in the making of this project,” say Spiro and Wallace.

Wallace, Spiro and La Orquesta Sinfonietta (consisting of 35 performers, many of whom are affiliated with Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music where Wallace and Spiro teach) weave a colorful tapestry of classic-to-modern rhythms – bolero to timba, Haitian petro to Cuban rumba, mambo to guiro – refreshed by traditional and newly composed compositions, along with surprising treatments of 20th-century standards. Thus the Great American Song “Stardust” is recast as a danzón, while the familiar John Coltrane vehicle “Afro-Blue” transforms into a Creole masterpiece.

Canto América artfully balances African and Western influences by way of “a strong rhythmic base over which orchestral elements of European classical music are featured,” write Wallace and Spiro in their engrossing liner essay. But here, the rhythmic base combines folkloric rhythms with the modern grooves of Wayne Wallace’s well-established Latin Jazz Quintet. This fusion forms the foundation for Canto América, upon which the co-leaders use post-bop harmonies, emblematic compositions, and their own eclectic experiences to create music far removed from the usual Latin Jazz formats.

The recording earned rave reviews:

“[Wallace], Spiro, and Orquestra Sinfonietta deliver something nearly peerless in Canto America. Though highly disciplined and carefully plotted, it is far from an academic exercise. Jazz improvisation and individual acumen shine through while feel and groove consciousness are paramount. Ultimately, this is more than the knowledge and practice of traditions; it is the collective expression of human imagination and heart. Brilliant.” – Thom Jurek,

“Simply put, Canto América is a certified masterpiece – one of the most aurally-arresting and culturally-distinctive recordings in recent memory.” – Mark Holston, Latino

Five stars: “…an ambitious and panoramic endeavor…an engaging narrative of the Afro-Caribbean experience on a grand scale…. Michael Spiro and Wayne Wallace have done a tremendous favor to those interested in not only the music, but also the academic and intellectual approach to its formation and evolution as well.” – James Nadal, All About Jazz

What beauty! What a rarity!….prodigious work…” – Eric Gonzalez, Herencia Latina

“…joyous, celebratory…. a vision of groundbreaking jazz. The longtime collaborators are in top form in this fusion of ancient folkloric rhythms, modern Latin jazz grooves, post-bop harmonies, and stunning orchestral work.” – Monarch Magazine

“…sweeping and gorgeous…. Never unwieldy in its largeness, the music is focused, unpretentious, and heartfelt. Highly rewarding.” – Jeff Potter, Modern Drummer

In his four-decade career, San Francisco native Wayne Wallace has collaborated with artists ranging from Count Basie to Stevie Wonder, Sonny Rollins to Carlos Santana, Tito Puente to Lena Horne and Aretha Franklin – as sideman, composer, arranger, and producer. His debut album as a leader, 2000’s Three In One (Spirit Nectar), showcased his writing skills and his encyclopedic knowledge of Afro-Cuban rhythms, the result of years of music-making in the close-knit Bay Area jazz community, where Wallace has played an oversized role. He has earned particular notice for his approach to Latin Jazz, a vision shaped by his work with Latin Jazz percussion giants Pete Escovedo and John Santos, in whose Machete Ensemble he served as music director for more than 20 years. This is the eighth time that Wallace — a San Francisco native who splits his time between the Bay Area and the Midwest where he’s a professor at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music — has been on a GRAMMY nominated album.

Michael Spiro has performed on each of those nominated albums – a mere fraction of the literally hundreds of wide-ranging albums on which he has worked, which include GRAMMY-nominated albums by John Santos, pianist Mark Levine, and vocalist Karrin Allyson. He has also performed with Ella Fitzgerald, Carlos Santana, and McCoy Tyner. He is an internationally recognized author of multiple books on the subject of Afro-Caribbean percussion, and also has released two critically acclaimed instructional DVDs. The first album under his own name, BataKetu (with Mark Lamson), released in 1996, was named by DRUM! Magazine as one of the “Top 50 Drum Records” of all time.

Wallace and Spiro met more than 30 years ago in San Francisco, forging a personal and professional relationship tempered by their shared interest in the music of Cuba. In 2008, Spiro joined the faculty of the Jacobs School of Music at IU, and under his direction the percussion department grew from its emphasis on orchestral work to include the world’s rhythms. He soon began leading a Latin Jazz big band at the school, which used many of Wallace’s acclaimed arrangements, which led to a guest appearance with the band — and eventually to the school hiring Wallace as a professor in 2013.

Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet Earns Second GRAMMY Nomination for Best Latin Jazz Album


“An earnestly grooving statement from Bay Area trombonist Wayne Wallace…great.” — Brad Farberman, DownBeat


“Gorgeous playing dominates along with highly inventive arrangements. Wallace’s trombone shifts easily from a seductive, warm ballad style to powerful statements on uptempo tunes. Every track offers a surprise and plenty of chops to back them up.” — Marc Myers, JazzWax


Latin Jazz - Jazz LatinWorld-renowned trombonist, composer, arranger, and producer Wayne Wallace has earned a GRAMMY nomination for “Best Latin Jazz Album” for his CD Latin Jazz / Jazz Latin his seventh CD on the Patois label. The CD, which topped the radio charts and earned rave reviews and a place on numerous top CDs of the year lists, displays all the thrilling interplay, melodic invention, and blazing improvisational flights that distinguish his music. Every tune reflects the flow of rhythmic currents between Caribbean and African-American communities. The project features The Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet with special guests including 77-year-old percussion patriarch Pete Escovedo and 17-year-old rising flute star Elena Pinderhughes, plus violinists Mads Tolling and Jeremy Cohen.

This is the second Grammy nomination for “Best Latin Jazz Album” which The Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet has earned and the sixth time Wallace — a San Francisco native now splitting his time between the Bay Area and the Midwest where he’s a professor at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music — has been nominated for a GRAMMY for one of his own projects.

“This is a tremendous honor,” says Wallace.  “All the members of the quintet and I are deeply thankful for the consideration of the Recording Academy, as well as the support of our families, musical peers, and our extended family in the community. We very much appreciate your continued support.”

In a career spanning four decades, Wallace has collaborated with a dazzling array of artists including Count Basie, Ray Charles, Joe Henderson, Carlos Santana, Lionel Hampton, Earth Wind & Fire, Sonny Rollins, Aretha Franklin, Tito Puente, Lena Horne, Stevie Wonder, John Lee Hooker, Earl “Fatha” Hines and cellist Jean Jeanrenaud. Wallace was a driving creative force behind some of the Bay area’s most creative ensembles, including the Machete Ensemble, and Anthony Brown’s Asian American Orchestra. One of his generation’s most eloquent trombonists, he’s been named in DownBeat polls as a leading force on the horn. Known to many as “The Doctor” for his production skills, Wallace is also a lauded composer and educator. He heads up Patois Records, which has released a rapidly growing catalog of acclaimed CDs.

The Grammy Awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, January 26th, 2014, in Los Angeles. For a complete list of nominees for the 56th annual GRAMMY Awards go to


YouTube Preview Image


Here’s what some journalists said about Latin Jazz / Jazz Latin and about Wallace:

“Trombonist Wayne Wallace and his Latin Jazz Ensemble have a well-oiled record-making machine that seems incapable of turning out a subpar album… Wallace’s trombone recalls the great trombone sections of the great Latin conjuntos, while his solos have the panache and lyrical intelligence of the late trumpeter Clifford Brown’s improvisational style.” – Jeff Dayton-Johnson, All About Jazz

“Wallace’s dazzling and spirited arrangements of both his own substantial compositions and four jazz classics help to make this album one of the most significant in Latin jazz so far this year.” – Scott Albin,

Five stars. “For the Latin jazz scene it is a pleasure to have a new piece from the brilliant composer and musician Wayne Wallace. This time around the five-time Grammy Award nominee brings us Latin Jazz / Jazz Latin, a powerful and tremendous ten-themed album where he showcases his incredible knowledge and his great playing, composing and arranging.” – Oscar Montagut, Latin Jazz Network

“Wallace… seems to have concocted the right formula to keep you moving while slipping in a little education too. Latin Jazz / Jazz Latin is an absolute joy from start to finish.” – Stuart Kremsky, Mr. Stu’s Record Room

“Yet another triumphant project from trombonist, composer, and bandleader Wayne Wallace, whose quintet continues to display a quality that is the holy grail of Latin jazz ensembles: the fiendishly difficult juxtaposition of utter tightness and rubbery looseness that makes Afro-Latin grooves possible… Highly recommended to all fans of Latin jazz.” – Rick Anderson, CD HotList

“San Francisco-based trombonist Wayne Wallace had the cojones to call his latest album Latin Jazz / Jazz Latin. That’s okay, because Wallace has the musical talent to back it up.” – Curtis Davenport, Jazz Inside

“If you have a hankering for Latin music that will set you soul on fire and cause you to dance around the house, Latin Jazz / Jazz Latin is what you want. As he has done throughout his career, Wayne Wallace hits all the right notes, ably supported by his fine Quintet.” – Richard Kamins, Step Tempest

“Horns, percussion and danceable rhythms are an essential combination for Latin jazz. Add to that stellar performances from all players, including guest musicians, and a biographical sketch of each song, and you get Latin Jazz / Jazz Latin.” – Woodrow Wilkins, The Jazz Writer

“The repertoire, instrumentation and even the generations of participants speak to the whirling, cyclical energy of the genre. A deft blend of jazz standards and originals provides the platform for Wallace’s soaring and soulful artistry.” – Jim Byers, Port of Harlem

“Wallace has been perfecting the small-combo Latin-jazz vibe for many years, and each new album is a delight. The ensemble’s 2013 release is called simply, and accurately, Latin Jazz / Jazz Latin. Once again, the group displays a mastery of the various rhythms of the Latin side of their double helix, while soulfully bringing jazz with the other strand.” – Jeff Dayton-Johnson, KUSP Featured Album August 2013

Media contact:

Media Contact:
Ann Braithwaite
(781) 259-9600

Radio contact:
Kate Smith

Press Room


Best Latin Jazz album

World-renowned trombonist Wayne Wallace and percussionist Michael Spiro have earned a GRAMMY ® nomination for “Best Latin Jazz Album” for their CD Canto América on the Patois label. The Grammy Awards ceremony will take place in Los Angeles on Sunday, February 12, 2017.

5 out of 5 Stars - Superb!
Not just great music—this is a great work of art. Exquisite musicianship, impeccable performances, with a range that includes vocals, instrumentals, ballads, and uptempo numbers that will get you up and moving—and yet the parts fit together seamlessly. A beautiful, beautiful album. Support these gifted, thoughtful musicians and buy a copy today! – Eric T. Macknight