CALJE (Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble) is regarded as the new and innovative force on the Latin Jazz scene. On Tuesday, March 25 at 7:30 p.m., CALJE will be taking the stage of The Matthews Opera House theater.  Tickets go on sale February 1, 2014, adults $25, $10 for youth and BHSU students.  Just below are some videos of their work!

With a global sound and ensemble, this band represents Afro-Cuban Jazz, as well as music from all of Latin America. They incorporate traditional Cuban rhythms such as son, guaguanco, and clave negra with modern Jazz harmony. Through this fusion concept, they have explored writing new music based on Argentinian Tango, Dominican Merengue, Puerto Rican Bomba y Plena, Spanish Flamenco and Jamaican Reggae. CALJE delivers captivating performances and high energy in the form of dance grooves. The music is primarily written by co-leaders trumpeter Victor Garcia and pianist Darwin Noguera. This group performs as small as a duo, to a 15 piece orchestra. CALJE has performed and recorded with artists such as Grammy winners Howard Levy from the Bela Fleck Group and Brian Lynch from the Eddie Palmieri group, master percussionist Paoli Mejias and legendary trombonist Steve Turre. They have also given performances and clinics across the midwest and in three cities in the country of Nicaragua. Their debut album “Blueprints” was critically acclaimed, receiving 3 1/2 stars from Downbeat Magazine, as well as other media outlets across the US and abroad.

CALJE made it’s debut by kicking off the “Jazz en Clave” Latin Jazz Festival at the famed Hothouse, alongside international artists such as multi-Grammy winning artist Eddie Palmieri & Dafnis Prieto’s Quintet. Musicians in this band have had the opportunity to share the stage with powerhouse artists such as Tito Puente, Danilo Perez, Paquito D’Rivera, Celia Cruz, Chick Corea, and many others. “This 15-piece band, playing before a standing-room only crowd at this international music venue, left everyone gasping and wanting more sounds after their near two hour, flawless set.” – Jazz Chicago

Founded in 2006 by Nicaraguan pianist/composer, Darwin Noguera & Mexican trumpeter/composer Victor Garcia, these long-time musical collaborators envisioned an endeavor Latin music that would follow in the innovative footsteps of the pioneering Cuban groups Chucho Valdes’ Irakere, Mario Bauza & His Afro-Cubans, & the Dizzy Gillespie United Nations Orchestra. This dynamic group is continuing the dance and listening legacy in the Latin Jazz genre.

CALJE is involved in educational presentations, varying from elementary to college age students. In a musical and historical interactive environment, they expose students to the diverse repertoire of Latin America, making learning a fun and insightful experience.

Meet the CALJE musicians

Darwin Noguera (piano)
darwin-noguera-4x6-hrDarwin Noguera is a Nicaraguan pianist, band leader and composer based in New York. He is considered one of the young masters of his generation and is known for his integration between jazz, classical, & Latin rhythms. He is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Jazz Performance at the Manhattan School of Music. He is the co-founder and composer for the Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble (CALJE) and has formed a new trio in New York, focused on developing a language between the classical and jazz genres. Darwin has released two albums under the Chicago Sessions label. The first, titled “The Gardner” with his Evolution Quintet, and the second “Blueprints” with the Chicago Afro-Latin Jazz Ensemble. Both albums received notable press and reviews in local and national media outlets.

He has performed with artists such as Paquito D’Rivera, Steve Turre, Brian Lynch, Paoli Mejias, and Howard Levy and often collaborates and plays with local musicians in Chicago and New York. His groups regularly take part in Chicago-area festivals, the most noted performance being Millennium Park’s “Made in
Chicago: World Class Jazz Series” and the Chicago Jazz Festival. Most recently they have performed at the Green Mill and the Hyde Park Jazz Festival in Chicago. He also forms part of the Grammy-nominated Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, directed by Bobby Sanabria.

joshua-ramos-4x6-hrJoshua Ramos – bass (cello)
Joshua Ramos is a fixture in the national music scene and a graduate of Northern Illinois University. He is currently playing with the Ramsey Lewis trio and has recorded an album and a live DVD with Ramsey. Joshua has toured all over Europe, Asia and the world and recorded, performed, and had the honor of sharing the stage with the likes of The Occidental Brothers, Wynton Marsalis, Willie Pickens, Conrad Herwig and many others.

Victor Garcia – trumpet
victor-garcia-4x6-hrVictor Garcia has been performing with his group, CALJE, and freelancing in Chicago and beyond for the past 10 years. He has had the opportunity to play with a multitude of artists from a wide variety of genres, such as Aretha Franklin, Arturo Sandoval, Spoon, Victor Manuelle, Nicholas Payton, La India, the Temptations, Steve Turre, Tito Puente, Jr., Paquito d’Rivera, and countless others.

His travels have taken him to Europe, Central America, and South America. In addition, he has recorded dozens of albums, two of which garnered Grammy nominations in 2005 (Angel Melendez & the 911 Mambo Orchestra) and 2008 (Sones de Mexico), and one which was nominated for a Latin Grammy in 2007 (Sones de Mexico). Victor also maintains a busy teaching schedule at the Music Institute of Chicago, Merit School of Music, Loyola University and at Roosevelt University.

Rocky Yera – sax
rocky-yera-4x6-hrCuban born tenor saxophonist Rocky Yera was musically conditioned at an early age. Rocky’s greatest musical influences came from his church youth band, with whom he continued performing with for ten consecutive years. Other influences include the music of Ed Calle, Paul Desmond, Stan Getz, Joshua Redman, and Lenny Pickett. Rocky received the Downbeat “Outstanding Performance award among other awards and recognition, has traveled throughout Europe and Asia and performed with the likes of Arturo Sandoval, Ed Calle, Wynton Marsalis, Tito Puente Jr., and numerous others. He is currently performing actively in the Chicago area, where he can be heard at jazz clubs, festivals, and city events, as he continues his search for experience and growth.

Xavier Breaker – drums
xavier-breaker-4x6-hrA native of South Carolina, Xavier Breaker came from a musical family, with his mother being a singer, and his father, a drummer. Xavier began developing his musical abilities at the early age of 5 in church, and it wasn’t long before he realized that music was his passion.

Xavier has played with numerous artists including Joe Sample, Randy Crawford, Howard Hewitt, Lalah Hathaway, Ernie Watts, and Bob Mintzer. He has also played for some of Chicago’s finest including Corey Wilkes, Kahil El Zabar, Dee Alexander, Eric Schneider, Chicago Jazz Orchestra, Chicago Yestet, and many others.  Xavier Breaker received his Bachelor’s in Percussion Performance from the University of South Carolina, where he studied under Professor Scott Herring and drummer, Jim Hall. Xavier has also received his Master’s in Jazz Studies from Northern Illinois University, under Professor Ronald Carter.

Along with being a sideman, Xavier Breaker is also a bandleader, arranging and composing for his own group, the Xavier Breaker Coalition.


This presentation is supported by the Arts Midwest Touring Fund, a program of Arts Midwest that is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, with additional contributions from SD Arts Council and General Mills Foundation.