The Juneau Latin Jazz Project

Mareya and her two bandmates, Salsa Borealis players Antonio Diaz and Eric Ocasio, are hoping to set up two more dates later this month, possibly the 21st and 28th.

In the meantime, The Project, a year-old experiment in Latin jazz based in Afro-Cuban and Afro-Peruvian styles, is headed for this weekend's Southeast Alaska State Fair in Haines.

"Mostly it's my original music, and we take different classic grooves, the boleros and the dance rhythms, and put jazz on top of it," Mareya said of the group. "So we play the full gamut. They're danceable rhythms, they're Latin American rhythms, and we put our original harmonies and melodies on top. Every show is different. We're reacting to the audience."

Mareya, a jazz instrumentalist and composer, has been playing Latin jazz and straight jazz for the past 30 years. According to her biography at mareya.freeservers.com, she's played with such notable jazz players as David Murray, Arturo Sandoval, Eddie Palmieri, Jane Bunnet and Poncho Sanchez.

She first came to Juneau in November 2002, at which point she wrote "People of The Tides," a two-hour work for a six-person Latin ensemble based on seeing Alaska for the first time.

She returned in the summer of 2003 and formed the Project with Diaz and Ocasio in July. They played three shows at the old Mike's Place in Douglas, before she left for Madrid, where she toured with guitarist Rosalia Roio.

Last winter, she played in San Diego with The Art of Peace Latin Jazz Ensemble. From April to July, she was based out of Vancouver, where she formed the Drum Jazz Sessions with percussionist ManDido Morris.

"I kind of like to stay on the move," Mareya said.

"There were some great drummers in town," she said of Vancouver. "Since piano is a percussive instrument anyway, we were doing an experiment to see what would happen if you were to put heavy African rhythms and Latin rhythms in jazz."

Mareya is back in Juneau for the month, writing and playing before heading to Toronto in September for a series of shows.

"We'll probably have some different musicians sitting in around town," Mareya said. "I like doing experiments, putting different genres of music together and letting the music happen. I'd love for us to get in a studio. We'll just see what happens."

Mareya plans to tour the country with jazz artist Eddie Benitez, starting in January 2005. Benitez' first album, "Night Life," is considered one of the finest Latin rock/jazz albums of all time, according to Downbeat magazine. In the late 1970s, his band Nebula, a Latin/punk hybrid, was one of the first Latin bands to play at the legendary New York City club CBGBs.

Next year, she plans to release two more posthumous CDs from the Kokopelli Latin Jazz Ensemble, a group she formed with percussionist Skip Howlett. They played and recorded in San Diego for six years. One CD, "La Luz Eterna," is already out. The next two are slated to come out on Tiara Music, a new Latin music affiliate of Blue Note.

Howlett is fighting brain cancer.

"I really wanted to get this material out there," Mareya said. "It's the last work he recorded, and it's really powerful music."

Korry Keeker can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: The Juneau Latin Jazz Project
  • Subtitle: Turiya Mareya and Antonio Diaz
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