Pete Escovedo

“Audiences today are definitely much more knowledgeable about Latin jazz than they were a few years ago,” Pete comments about the growth in popularity of the music. “A lot of people know my stuff. They come back stage with copies of all of my CDs and LPs and they know I go back to the days of Cal Tjader, Willie Bobo and Mongo Santamaria—the people who paved the way for the rest of us. It’s fun today, because we really don’t have to prove anything—we just go out and do what we do.”

Escovedo, along with such seasoned bandleaders as Eddie Palmieri, Poncho Sanchez and Ray Barretto, is today viewed as one of the standard bearers of Latin jazz. “There are so many great young players who are carrying on the tradition,” he says happily. “My job, as I see it, is to keep on doing what Tito, Mongo, Cal, Willie and others would be doing if they were still with us today. At the same time, we need to experiment and expand the genre.” The younger guys will see to that. But for Escovedo right now things couldn’t be better. “The audience is there, and it’s worldwide,” he enthuses.

A California native, Escovedo was raised in Oakland. His father was an amateur singer and guitarist who passed along a love of Latin music, while young Pete discovered and cultivated a love of jazz largely on his own. Early on, he embraced the Latin jazz style, steadily building a reputation in the Bay Area as part of The Escovedo Brothers Latin Jazz Sextet. Their growing fame led to an opportunity to tour with Carlos Santana. “At that time, a lot of people were not familiar with how Latin music could go in different directions and not be just for Latin people,” he recalls of that historic era in pop music. “Carlos’ success allowed us to incorporate jazz and soul and other styles into our music.”

Today, Escovedo leads what is widely considered one of the finest ensembles in Latin jazz, a mix of musicians from both Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Since moving to L.A., he is working more with daughter Sheila E. “When we perform in Southern California, I always check to see if she wants the gig,” Pete says. “Although with my group, she works for scale!” For Live!, which was recorded in San Diego during the summer of 2002, Escovedo’s sons, percussionist son Juan and brother Peter Michael, joined the ensemble of talented Latin jazz musicians on-stage to make this a truly swinging family affair. The end result is a joyous concoction of Latin rhythms with elements of jazz, R&B and funk that is hard to resist. Latin jazz fan around the world will rejoice.