Latin Jazz hits North Bergen

Grammy-nominated Raphael Cruz and band to perform

A night of Latin jazz will take place in North Bergen next week as Temple Beth-El hosts Grammy-nominated percussionist Raphael Cruz.
Cruz, a North Bergen resident of nearly 20 years, will perform with his band at Temple Beth-El at 300 75th St. on Sunday, Oct. 30 at 3 p.m. According to producer David Kronick, the Latin jazz event will attempt to cater to the large Hispanic population of Hudson County.
“This is a reflection of the demographics,” said Kronick. “The community is changing. Let’s give them [the Latino community] an opportunity to attend a function that they can perhaps relate to better.”
Kronick, a former 32nd District assemblyman of Hudson County and current vice president of the temple, is organizing the concert. As an event coordinator, Kronick has brought the arts to North Bergen for the past 15 years.
“The goal [is] to expose the community to quality programs in the arts at a fraction of New York prices,” said Kronick.
According to Kronick, proceeds from the event will go toward improving the Temple Beth-El facility, which took in water during Hurricane Irene.

Worldly styles

As a native of the Dominican Republic, Cruz first learned percussion in his grade school marching band, where he played the snare drum. He continued his musical studies in the College of Don Bosco.
After graduating college, Cruz eventually met fellow drummer Carmelo Garcia in the capital city of Santo Domingo. Under Garcia’s tutelage, Cruz was exposed to various percussive instruments and styles from many different cultures, including Haitian and African rhythms.
Cruz learned a diverse range of music from having resided in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Manhattan. He eventually boiled down his mastery of a wide variety of styles into the Latin jazz genre, which he has contributed to for over 30 years.
With a wide range of knowledge under his belt, Cruz quickly found work as a studio percussionist for record labels such as CBS, Atlantic, and Warner Brothers. He recorded different works with a variety of artists, including Bette Midler, Herbie Mann, and Stanley Turrentine. He also performed live with artists such as George Benson, McCoy Tyner, and Chaka Khan.
Cruz has since embarked on a solo career of his own, having released three albums, including “BeBop Timba,” which was nominated for a 2005 Grammy award for Best Latin Jazz album.

The North Bergen scene

According to Cruz, the Hudson County area is quickly becoming a great area for musicians in the Latin jazz scene.
“A lot of well-known [Latin] musicians live around here,” said Cruz, citing Pacquito D’Rivera, a nine-time Grammy-winning saxophonist, as well as Cuban singer Chico Alvarez, who contributed to Raphael’s latest album, the self-titled “Raphael Cruz.”
“A lot of people that live around here like the music,” he added. “They know a lot about it.”
Cruz, who plays regularly at the Moonstruck in Asbury Park, said that because there are a number of local jazz clubs in the Hudson County area, he’s excited for the chance to play in his hometown.
“The place is perfect,” said Cruz, “It’s a great opportunity for the people to come and see how the Latin music scene in North Bergen is going. It’s a great way to support the music around the area. They’re going to have a great time.”
Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, and $9 for children. For more information, call (201) 869-9149.
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at

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