Sylvia Cuenca Comes to Yoshi’s

by E. "Doc" Smith on October 12, 2012

Sylvia Cuenca is an active young drummer on the New York jazz scene who is contributing outstanding performances in a variety of situations. Recently, she has been performing extensively with trumpet legend Clark Terry as part of his quintet. This group performs annually at the Village Vanguard and the Blue Note in New York City, on the Royal Caribbean and the S.S. Norway jazz cruises as well as many clubs, concerts and jazz festivals.

In addition to working with Clark Terry, Ms. Cuenca has performed with artists such as trombonist Al Grey, saxophonists Red Halloway, Jimmy Heath and Frank Wess, to name a few. On Tuesday night, October 23rd, Ms. Cuena brings her Organ Trio to Yoshi’s in San Francisco, featuring Paul Bollenback on guitar and Jared Gold on organ. This trio exudes a strong personal sound rich with interplay and hard driving swing: soulful guitar, bluesy organ and funky drum grooves.

Originally from San Jose, California, Cuenca attended San Jose City College where she performed and recorded with the City College Big Band. Over the years, she has studied with Victor Lewis, Keith Copeland, Adam Nussbaum, and Portinho. She currently resides in New York City.

Other achievements include several tours of Europe and the United States with saxophonist Joe Henderson. Since 1987, this quartet performed at the Taxi International Jazz Festival in Milano, Italy, the Brecon Jazz Festival in Wales, the Viersen Jazz Festival and the Burghausen Jazz Festival in Germany, as well as many concerts in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Belgium, England, Switzerland and France. In a trio setting, she performed with Joe Henderson and Charlie Haden in 1989 and also with Joe Henderson and George Mraz in 1994.

As a sideman, Ms. Cuenca has also performed and toured with such jazz luminaries as Eddie Henderson, Gary Bartz, George Cables, Marian McPartland, Jon Faddis, Kenny Barron, Michael Brecker, Emily Remler, Mulgrew Miller, Lew Tabackin, Etta Jones, Dianne Reeves, Joshua Redman, as well as her recordings as a leader, The Crossing and Exit 13.

Most recently, she was a clinician for the Sisters in Jazz Program at the 2001 IAJE (International Association of Jazz Educators) in New York and the Jazz for Teens Program at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. She has taught and performed with the Clark Terry Quintet and the Eddie Henderson Quartet at various colleges and universities in the United States and Europe. She has been a staff member at the Stanford Jazz Workshop in Stanford, California since 1985. She was also Artist-In Residence at the Clark Terry Institute of Jazz at Westmar University in Iowa. In 2005, Guest Director for Sisters in Jazz Program at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

In 1988 and 1991, Ms. Cuenca received jazz performance grants from the National Endowment of the Arts, and in 1992, she was a semi-finalist in the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Drum Competition.

Trumpeter Clark Terry once said of Cuena’s first CD, “Sylvia Cuenca is affectionately referred to by those of us in our quintet as ‘Cuenc’s. She is an extraordinarily talented percussionist, who doesn’t like to be thought of as “a girl drummer.” I think of her as an alert, supportive, versatile and swinging drummer. This is ‘Cuenc’s first CD under her own name, and I’m happy about it. She has chosen some fantastic players, and the group is really swinging. I’ll give it six stars!!! Save a space in your CD rack – you’re going to want to keep this one. Go, go, go, ‘Cuenc’s – keep on keepin’ on!!!”

The Sylvia Cuenca Organ Trio
featuring Paul Bollenback on guitar and Jared Gold on organ
Yoshi’s San Francisco
Tuesday, October 23 @ 8pm $12

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