12 Shows, 4 Days And A Whole Lotta Jazz!!!

Ray Santos at 2016 Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest

Ray Santos

The 26th edition of the Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest will take place from Thursday, March 17 to Sunday, March 20, at the Tito Puente Amphitheater in San Juan. This year, the festival will have a varied musical offering, including the introduction of HEINEKEN THE LAB, an experimental proposal that will combine jazz with other musical genres on the first night (Thursday). During the four-day event, many world acclaimed jazz musicians will take the stage to perform live. On Sunday, some of the guest musicians will unite in a tribute to jazz’s king of mambo and this year’s honoree, Ray Santos. Under the direction of Humberto Ramírez, the musicians will be presented as the Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest Big Band.

Thursday, March 17:

Henry Cole Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest

Henry Cole

8:00PM — Henry Cole & Villa Locura – Graduated from the Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico and renowned music school Berklee College of Music, Cole returns for the second time to the Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest. This time around as the opening act of the festival. The musician, who will debut the new concept HEINEKEN THE LAB, is known for his fusion of jazz with other genres like salsa, rumba, plena, funk and rock. This led him to share the stage with important music groups and to receive the support of legendary producer, Quincy Jones, who he claims as one of his heroes. For this occasion, Cole will light up the stage with his group Villa Locura, composed of: Mario Castro (Tenor), Ricardo Pons (Baritone), Luis Rodríguez (Electric Bass), Gabriel Vicens (Guitar), Benson Pagán (Guitar), Alberto Torrens (Barrel), Bryant Huffman (Chekere), Obanilu Iré Allende (Barrel and Voice), Kily Vializ (Voice and Percussion), Jonathan Powell (Trumpet), Jeremy Bosh (Voice), and Negro González (Voice\Rap).

Pirulo at Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest


9:30 PM — Pirulo Tribal Jazz Experience – With his entertaining musical offer, Pirulo debuts at the JazzFest stage after a year of unstoppable success. The producer, percussionist, and composer, also a graduate from Berklee College of Music in Boston, has worked with a very diverse group of artists, ranging from music legend Bob Dylan, to Vico C and Tego Calderón, making him the perfect fit for THE LAB.

DJ Guti Talavera at Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest

DJ Guti Talavera

11:00 PM — DJ Guti Talavera – Closing HEINEKEN THE LAB will be Puerto Rican DJ Guti Talavera. Based in Miami, the DJ will present his Hip Hop Jazz Live Show, where he will join forces with 3 fellow musicians to create a fusion of progressive rhythms. DJ Talavera will be accompanied by a saxophonist, trumpeter, and Joel Pierluisi (Danger Garden). The producer and expert in plates will integrate his distinctive “scratching” technique as part of this innovative closing.

Friday, March 18:

Charlie Sepúlveda at Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest

Charlie Sepúlveda

8:00 PM — Charlie Sepúlveda & The Turnaround – Puerto Rican trumpeter Charlie Sepúlveda has become a jazz propeller in his land with eleven recordings as a soloist and working as a professor in the Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico. His unique and melodic styles led his way participating in big latin jazz recordings with Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Hilton Ruiz and Dave Valentín. The experienced musician will be joined by Norberto Ortiz (Piano), Gabriel Rodríguez (Bass), Francisco Alcalá (Drums), Garwin Vargas (Conga drums) and Bienvenido Dinzey (Saxophone) as the opening act of the second day of the festival.

Ralph Irizarry Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest

Ralph Irizarry

9:30 PM — Ralph Irizarry – Timbalaye – Known as the timpanist with the greatest swing, Irizarry will be performing during the second night of the festival with his group “Timbalaye”. His credits include five recordings alongside Ray Barreto, as well as an excellent musical relationship with Rubén Blades and Seis del Solar, with whom he collaborated for thirteen years. Other partnerships include artists like David Byrne, Paul Simon, Harry Belafonte, Earl Klugh, Juan Luis Guerra, Cachao, Celia Cruz, and Yomo Toro. Celebrating 20 years with his septet will be fellow musicians Dennis Hernández (Trumpet), Aníbal Rojas (Saxophone), Hommy Ramos (Trombone), Roberto Quintero (Conga drums), Alexander Ayala (Bass), and Adán Pérez (Piano).

Luis Salinas Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest

Luis Salinas

11:00 PM — Luis Salinas Quintet – A guitar expert and passionate for the musical fusion, Salinas has demonstrated his ability in music since his early stages where he self-taught the instrument that has now earned him a spot as a big contender in the jazz music industry. The Argentinian musician has worked with the great singer Mercedes Sosa, who expressed that “it is a joy working and listening to Luis’s subtle and melodic voice”. He will be accompanied by Argenis Luis Peña (Drums, Percussion and Flamenco box), Alex Tosca Laugart (Piano and Keyboard), Ricardo José Martínez (Electric bass), and as a special guest, his son, Juan Salinas (Electric guitar).

Saturday, March 19:

José “Furito” Ríos Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest

José “Furito” Ríos

8:00 PM — Jose “Furito” Ríos & Standard Bomba – If you were to take a look at Furito’s resume, you’ll find a wide variety of abilities and experience. Skillful in the saxophone, the flute, piccolo, and clarinet, Ríos also excels as a composer and arranger. His diversity has led him to participate in over 300 recordings with artists from different musical genres, like Ray Barreto and Arturo Sandoval in jazz, Celia Cruz and Bobby Valentín in salsa, and Franco de Vita and Marco Antonio Solís in popular music, just to name a few. He has played in various Broadway musicals, as well as with the Symphonic Orchestras from Puerto Rico and the Bronx. He knows no limits when it comes to his dedication to music. During the JazzFest, he will play his most recent production, “Standard Bomba”, with Ramón Luis Irizarry (Bass and Electric bass), Juan Luis Anglero (Piano), Jimmy Rivera (Drums), Omar “Pipo” Sánchez (Barrel pump, maracas and cuá), Hector Calderón (Barrel pump, maracas and cuá), Raúl Rodríguez (Barrel Pump), Giovanna Sosa (Modern dancer), and Milton Cordero (Digital Artist and Programmer).

Antonio Sánchez Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest

Antonio Sánchez

9:30 PM — Antonio Sánchez & Migration – The Mexican musician is catalogued as one of the most influential drummers in today’s music industry. With the recognition he gained after his nominations for Best Original Score during 2015 Golden Globes and BAFTA for the movie Birdman, who won the Oscar for best movie, Sánchez has benefited from his well-deserved success to promote two new and unique productions, alongside his group Migration, with whom he’ll debut in Puerto Rico during the third night of the festival. The group is made up of Antonio Sánchez (Director and Drums), John Escreet (Piano), Matt Brewer (Bass), Thana Alexa (Voice), and Seamus Blake (Saxophone).

Paquito D'Rivera Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest

Paquito D’Rivera

11:00 PM — Paquito D’Rivera Ensemble – Closing on Saturday night will be one of the biggest Latin jazz figures in the world. The Cuban saxophonist, clarinetist, and musical director returns to the Heineken Jazzfest to celebrate his more than six decades of musical career. In his lifetime he has played bossa nova and tango, participated in compositions for philharmonic orchestras, and played tribute to many influential artists. This shows in his last production where he plays tribute to the classic boleros of composer Armando Manzanero. D’Rivera will share the stage with Alex Brown (Piano), Oscar R. Stagnaro (Electric bass), Mark Walker (Drums), Pernell Luciano Saturnino (Percussion), and Victor Provost (Steel drum).

Sunday, March 20:

Berklee In Puerto Rico Equi Castrillo

Berklee In Puerto Rico – Equi Castrillo

5:00 PM — Berklee in Puerto Rico – Our Island may be small in size but huge in talent. Directed by Eguie Castrillo, the Puerto Rican students that have had the opportunity of studying and learning in one of the most important music schools in the world, Berklee College of Music, will take the JazzFest stage on its last day. The young musicians that will play on Sunday are: Manuel E. Castrillo (Congas and Timbales), David E. Suleiman Orozco (Saxophone, Tenor), Orlando A. Latorre (Trumpet), Joseph Omar Rivera (Piano), Jonathan Salas Rodríguez (Drums), and Flavio Lira de Oliveira (Bass).

Roberta Gambarini Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest

Roberta Gambarini

6:00 PM — Roberta Gambarini Quartet – Influenced by the music of the great Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Billie Holiday, the Italian singer moved to the United States in 1988 to pursue a career in music while studying in the New England Conservatory of Boston. Her career took flight quickly, becoming a recurring act in the North American jazz festivals. Gambarini will be joined by Cyrus Chestnut (Piano), John Webber (Bass), and Victor Lews (Drums).

Ray Santos Puerto Rico Heineken Jazzfest

Ray Santos

7:30 PM — Ray Santos Tribute – Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest Big Band: Directed by Humberto Ramírez, a group of guest musicians will play tribute to the master of mambo, Mr. Ray Santos, this year’s honoree during the PR Heineken JazzFest.

Tickets On Sale!!!

puerto-rico-heineken-jazzfest-logoTickets for the Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest are available for sale. Prices vary depending on a per-day basis. Prices begin at $15.00, up to $75.00 for the JazzPass, a special pass that allows patrons to enjoy all four days for less than $25.00 a day plus a 15-minute fast track entrance before the general public. Prices listed below do not include service charges nor taxes (IVU).

Thursday, March 17- $10.00 (Students with I.D.)/ $15.00 (General Public)
Friday, March 18- $25.00
Saturday, March 19- $25.00
Sunday, March 20- $30.00

Jazz Pass (Full four-day access to the festival with 15 fast track entrance) $75.00

Tickets are available at www.ticketpop.com and at La Bodega de Méndez & Compañía in Guaynabo (787) 277-5880, Ponce (787) 651-1999, or Añasco (787) 826-7570.

How To Get There

For more information regarding the Puerto Rico Heineken JazzFest, visit the website www.prheinekenjazz.com.

©2016,Orlando Mergal, MA

Bilingual Content Creator, Blogger, Podcaster,
Author, Photographer and New Media Expert
Tel. 787-750-0000, Mobile 787-306-1590


Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means that if you click on a link and purchase an item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services that I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Old San Juan Is For Walking


walking in old san juanI’ll never understand how there are people who jump in their cars and waste hours driving around Old San Juan.  That’s the idiot’s way to see the Old City!  But there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of those.  Just visit Old San Juan any Sunday afternoon and you’ll see the long line of cars going from Fort San Cristobal to Fort San Felipe del Morro on Norzagaray Street.

Old San Juan was built by people who had no cars.  Hence, the city streets are narrow, there’s hardly any parking space and the Caribbean sun is so blistering hot that even the best air conditioners can hardly keep up.

The Old San Juan Walking Tour

The Old San Juan Walking Tour. Click on image to see it larger.

Besides, the devil is in the details.  You need to be standing on your own two feet to read the placards on historical landmarks, visit interesting shops, talk to the people, visit the many museums and parks, and stop for a refreshment (adult or otherwise) at one of the city’s many bars and cafeterias.  You just can’t do any of that while sitting in a car.

Then there’s the element of time.  Many tourists arrive on cruise ships and hardly have 8 hours to enjoy the city.  That’s barely enough to explore the Spanish forts, grab a quick lunch or souvenir and rush back to your ship.

Others arrive by plane and have fewer time constraints.  But if they don’t know what to look for they’re prone to wander through the Old City without really getting to know it.

Guía del Caminante del Viejo San Juan

Guía del Caminante del Viejo San Juan. Click on image to see it larger.

Of course, there are trained guides that you can pay to show you around, but they’re expensive and often you’ll be competing for attention with fellow tourists in your party.  If you like feeling like you’re part of a herd, by all means go for it!.

That’s brings us to “The Old San Juan Walking Tour”“The Old San Juan Walking Tour” is an illustrated e-book for your Amazon Kindle that takes you on a step-by-step imaginary tour of Puerto Rico’s most beautiful city.  And it leaves nothing out.  You’ll explore the Spanish forts, the statues, the plazas and every other popular landmark in a virtual walk (complete with 66 stunning photos) that starts right next to Pier #1 and returns you to the same place 8 hours later; just in time to catch your ship!

And the best thing is that you can read “The Old San Juan Walking Tour” in the comfort of your own home, determine exactly what you’d prefer to see and hit the ground running when you arrive!  All for less than the price of a sandwich.

Oh, and did I forget to tell you that it’s also available in Spanish?  That’s right!!!  It’s called “Guía Del Caminante Del Viejo San Juan” and it’s just as useful if “español” happens to be your native tongue.


So if you’re coming to Old San Juan, and you really want to get to know this city in a very short amount of time, do yourself a favor.  Leave the car at any of the city’s many parking garages, jump into your sneakers and hit the cobblestones on foot.  Then you’ll really be able to say “I visited Old San Juan”.

©2015,Orlando Mergal, MA

Bilingual Content Creator, Blogger, Podcaster,
Author, Photographer and New Media Expert
Tel. 787-750-0000, Mobile 787-306-1590


“Puerto Rico For Beach Bums” hits the “virtual bookstands”

Puerto Rico For Beach Bums

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During the past several months I’ve been a busy beaver.  I’ve been writing my third book for the Amazon Kindle titled: “Puerto Rico For Beach Bums”.  And, as you might imagine, it has to do with the fact that Puerto Rico has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

In a few weeks it will be high season.  That means that thousands of tourists, from all over the world, will arrive in Puerto Rico eager to enjoy our wonderful Caribbean climate.

In the mainland they call them snowbirds.  These are the people that live in the northern states and Canada and migrate south (like the birds) during the winter months.  Hence the term “snowbirds”.

Many have vacation properties in Florida, but after a while the amusement parks and gated communities tend to get old.  The more adventurous ones go to the Caribbean where there’s a myriad of things to do and a great climate all year ’round.  And there’s no better place to go than sunny Puerto Rico.

Luquillo Beach

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Puerto Rico has everything!  First of all it’s a U.S. territory.  That means no passports, no visas, no currency exchange, no language barrier and all the protection provided by the U.S. Constitution.

Then there’s the weather.  Average temperatures in Puerto Rico are usually around 80°F.  That’s summer weather all year long.  And where better to enjoy that great summer climate than at the beach?

I could tell you about Old San Juan with its famous Spanish forts, the rum distillery, the Rainforest, the Arecibo Radio telescope, the Camuy River Caverns, the longest zipline in the world and many, many more places.  But if you’re a “beach bum” you’ll only care about one thing: “the beaches”.

Balneario Pico de Piedra

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According to the Cambridge British Dictionary a “beach bum” is someone who spends most of his or her time having a good time at the beach.  Sounds like fun, right?

The Macmillan, Oxford, Collins and Merriam-Webster dictionaries all define this type of person in a similar fashion, basically: “someone who loves to relax on the beach and enjoy life”.  If that sounds like you, then you’re in for a treat, because “Puerto Rico For Beach Bums” is just the book for you.

I wrote this book only for the Amazon Kindle because I wanted it to be within the reach of the largest possible group of people.  At first glance it would seem that a traditional book would have been easier to distribute.  But that’s not true.  It would have been more expensive and harder to place in all the right stores.

Domes Beach

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By putting it in the Kindle store it became instantly available to anyone toting a smartphone (Apple, Android or any other brand), a tablet or a genuine Kindle.  Plus you can even read it on Windows and Macintosh computers.  Why?  Because Amazon makes applications for all those platforms.  And believe me, that’s a lot of devices.

Then there’s the price.  There’s no way I could have printed a book with 22 color photos and sold it for $2.99 a copy.  Believe me.  I know.  I’ve been doing this for 20+ years.  That’s the beauty of electronic publishing.

Mar Chiquita

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Puerto Rico For Beach Bums” starts in San Juan and goes on an imaginary journey around the Island in a clockwise fashion.  Why?  Because San Juan is where most tourists arrive and stay.  If you’re staying somewhere else feel free to start at the closest point to where you’ll be staying.

There are 22 color photos in the book; one for every beach and one of “mua”.  And here’s something you’ll probably like.  Each beach has its own GPS coordinates right below its photo.

Did you know that the same smartphone that you’re probably carrying in your pocket can also double as a portable GPS unit?  That’s right!  Just copy the GPS coordinates from “Puerto Rico For Beach Bums”, punch them into your favorite map application and you’ll arrive at each beach on a dime!

Playa Sucia

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And then there’s the descriptions.  I actually took a dip in each beach.  That way I could write about them with the authority that only experience can provide.

And which beaches did I cover?  Well, I went to the same beaches that most Puerto Ricans love and recommend.  And believe me, they’re here all year round and they know their beaches.

Here’s the list:

  1. Balneario El Escambrón
  2. La Playita Del Condado
  3. Condado Beach
  4. Balneario de Carolina
  5. Balneario La Monserrate
  6. Seven Seas
  7. Playa del Tamarindo
  8. Playa Sucia
  9. Combate Beach
  10. Boquerón Beach
  11. Buyé Beach
  12. Domes Beach
  13. Balneario Pico de Piedra
  14. Crash Boat
  15. Playa Jobos
  16. Mar Chiquita
  17. Los Tubos
  18. Puerto Nuevo
  19. Cerro Gordo
  20. Sardinera Beach
  21. Punta Salinas

You’ll notice that the beaches in Culebras, Vieques and Caja de Muerto (the smaller islands to our east and south) were not included in the book.  That was not an omission.  In fact, they are mentioned at the end but they weren’t covered.  Why?  Because reaching these islands can be quite challenging.  The ferry service is pathetic, vehicle rental prices are onerous and the average tourist just doesn’t have the time or inclination to put up with mediocrity.

Cerro Gordo Beach

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That being said, the beaches at Culebra, Vieques and Caja De Muerto are among the best in the world!  There’s no doubt about that.  It’s just the getting there that’s a pain.  Maybe I’ll add them in a future edition if conditions improve.

If you own any of the devices mentioned above, and you’re coming to the Island in a near future, you can order your copy of “Puerto Rico For Beach Bums” by clicking on the book title anywhere in this article.

Enjoy Puerto Rico,

©2014,Orlando Mergal, MA

Bilingual Content Creator, Blogger, Podcaster,
Author, Photographer and New Media Expert
Tel. 787-750-0000, Mobile 787-306-1590