Marco Diaz Steps Forward

With his multi-instrumental prowess the San Francisco-born musician is often referred to as a double threat, but that’s selling him short. He’s also an arranger, composer, and now he’s a recording leader, too.


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Marco Diaz goes way beyond double threat status.

Courtesy Marco Diaz Quartet

Amid the dazzling musicianship displayed at a typical performance by the John Santos Quintet, one particular moment always stands out. Marco Diaz is hammering a fierce, two-handed montuno on the piano, dialing up the rhythmic tension. Suddenly he drops out, reaches to the side of the piano bench, and puts a trumpet to his lips, playing an ebullient refrain with a feel as burnished and warm as a late afternoon sunbeam.

With his multi-instrumental prowess the San Francisco-born musician is often referred to as a double threat, but that’s selling him short. He’s also an arranger, composer, and now he’s a recording leader, too. On Saturday, July 27, the Marco Diaz Quartet celebrates the release of his first album under his own name at Freight & Salvage.

Like Diaz, all the members are respected players and educators, with Puerto Rican-born percussionist Julio Perez, Mexico City-reared bassist Saul Sierra, and Bay Area icon John Santos filling in for Carlos Caro on percussion. Diaz co-leads several ensembles, including Afro-Caribbean dance band Vission Latina, and the VL Trio with Sierra and Caro. But with its percussion tandem the quartet creates a bigger sound, combining the intensity of an orchestra with the interactive imperative of a small Latin jazz combo.

Focusing on original compositions and arrangements of gems from the American and Latin American Songbooks, Diaz’s quartet draws on a rich array of Afro-Caribbean rhythms. When he’s not teaching in public schools as part of the SFJAZZ education program, Diaz often serves as accompanist and music director for the great Cuban vocalist Bobi Céspedes. And now he’s establishing himself as a bandleader in his own right.

Marco Diaz Quartet, 8 p.m. Sat., July 27, $20-$24, Freight & Salvage, 2020 Addison St., Berkeley, 510-644-2020, TheFreight.org.

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