Felix Contreras

Felix Contreras is co-host of Alt.Latino, NPR's web-based program about Latin Alternative music and Latino culture. It features music as well as interviews with many of the most well-known Latino musicians, actors, film makers and writers.

Previously, Contreras was a producer and reporter for NPR's Arts Desk and covered, among other stories and projects: a series reported from Mexico introducing the then-new musical movement called Latin Alternative; a series of stories on the financial challenges facing aging jazz musicians; and helped produce NPR's award winning series 50 Great Voices.

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.

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

Sometimes albums speak for themselves and other times hearing from the artists themselves helps us appreciate the nuances of motivation and influence. The Kansas City based band Making Movies certainly makes music that stands on it's own. Its 2017 album I Am Another You was a finely crafted collection of stories that reflected on the immigrant experience encased in a spectacular musical landscape.

What are the holidays without Charlie Brown?

Nowadays, the quietly elegant and celebratory recordings by pianist Vince Guaraldi have become as much a part of the holidays as the sound of unwrapping presents. And every year we are treated to at least one interpretation of that classic Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack by one of the pianists on NPR's A Jazz Piano Christmas. This year is no exception.

During one of my first visits to New York in the early '80s, I was invited to a "private party." I was told not tell anyone about it or even reveal where it would be. So — of course — I went, intrigued by the clandestine, members-only vibe.

It was held in a dinky basement somewhere on the Lower East Side, where some guy had set up his home stereo in a corner while drinks were sold in small plastic cups for five bucks (cash only). There was a killer mix of disco (the '80s, remember?) and tracks like Led Zepplin's "Kashmir."

The following is an Encore presentation of a program that originally aired on December 17, 2015.

Enjoy!

Holiday music is typically a love-it-or-hate-it sort of thing. I'm a fan — my favorite is Vince Guaraldi's A Charlie Brown Christmas — and I even I'll admit that musicians don't have many options for putting a new spin on holiday classics.

Then along came Gaby Moreno and her band.

For someone from my generation, which grew up with the sound, it is a complete joy to see younger artists embrace soul music in such creative ways. Equally thrilling is to witness the genre's influence in Latin America and how it has been interpreted by the region's vocalists, whose first language may not have been English.

Three years ago, I was putting together an episode of Alt.Latino that featured some of the contestants of the Tiny Desk Contest. When I clicked on the video for Bay Area vocalist Diana Gameros, I was immediately transfixed and life seemed to stop all around me.

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