After 20 years bringing its special flavor of Afro-Cuban jazz to the Tampa Bay area, Guisando Caliente (“cooking hot”) is serving up its tasty debut album, Coolantro, inspired by jazz great Dizzie Gillespie. “Dizzy was the first guy to start playing a combination of jazz and Latin music,” says band leader Frankie Piñeiro. “In fact he was the first jazz guy with a conga player in his band. I wanted to go back to that era, with a modern sound, but inspired by that music of the past.“
Guisando Caliente includes Piñeiro on percussion, John Jenkins on drums, Kenny Drew, Jr. on keyboards, Mauricio Rodriguez on bass, and Jack Wilkins on tenor sax. Piñeiro and Jenkins hand-picked the selections for Coolantro, working closely with Gillespie’s original arrangements to get an equally compelling Latin-jazz feel.
“‘Tin Tin Deo’ is such a powerful tune,” says Piñeiro. “It’s my favorite on the whole recording, it’s got a lot of energy. And with ‘A Night in Tunisia,’ we stuck to Dizzy’s original arrangement so we could get that same effect he had, while of course, doing stuff in the recording that Dizzy didn't do. Kenny does an incredible solo on that number, he’s a monster.”
Originally from New York but with Puerto Rican roots, Piñeiro asserts that Cuba is at the heart and soul of their sound. “I mean, Puerto Rico plays salsa, but everything started in Cuba,” he says. “Real jazz, with authentic Cuban rhythms, is what Guisado Caliente's all about.”
More than a decade ago, Piñeiro sought out musicians living in Tampa’s Cuban community, learning the rhythms and folklore by sitting in with such luminaries as jazz flutist Herbie Mann, and Latin jazz trombonist J.P. Torres. Later on, Frankie teamed up with bassist Mauricio Rodriguez. “I had been playing some stuff I’d learned in Puerto Rico, but I wasn't playing it correctly,” Piñeiro laughs. “In those days in Puerto Rico, for example, they played the rumba on the opposite side of the clave. So until I learned Cuban rhythms, I didn't really understand clave, which is the most important thing about Latin music.“
Ten years ago, Rodriguez joined Piñeiro’s band, having come to Florida straight from Cuba where he'd studied with the best musicians and performed in a symphony orchestra. “Mauricio really turned the band around,” explains Piñeiro. “He’s in both worlds. He knows jazz, he knows Cuban folklore upside down, and captures a real authentic Cuban sound. And that in turn also brought us back to African rhythms. I feel closer to Africa now with him in the band.”
After decades of popularity in the Tampa Bay area, along with the praise and support of other Latin Jazz greats including the late Tito Puente, Guisando Caliente is looking to bring its music to new audiences worldwide. Recorded at the Palladium in St. Petersburg, Coolantro is the first step, enabling Piñeiro and the band to send their spicy Afro-Cuban beats to music lovers far outside the Tampa Bay area. “Our name is going to be out there,” says Piñeiro. "With Coolantro, this will open doors where we can really be heard and appreciated by a lot more people. That's what a musician wants.”