Keeping Latin Grooves Alive: A Ritmo Bello Interview with KSDS Jazz 88.3 FM’s Chris Springer

Friday, July 8, 2011

San Diego is blessed by many things.  Great weather all year around, a great Latin dance scene, and of course the wonderful people who share their passion for Latin music with the world.  One such person is Chris Springer, host of KSDS Jazz 88.3’s Latin Grooves.  Chris’ radio program promotes and educates the world about Latin music every week  from a studio here locally in San Diego.  I had a chance to talk with Chris about his experiences on his radio program and how he helps keep the Latin groove alive.

Special thanks to Roman Castro Photography for providing the fine photos you see throughout the interview of Chris Springer.

John ;-)

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Ritmo Bello:  Chris, it’s great to finally sit down with you and to learn about what you do here in San Diego. Let’s begin. What led you to start working at KSDS Jazz 88.3?

Chris Springer:  Well , I was going through a transition of my life.  I was going through a divorce and did not know what I was going to do.   So I decided to go back to college and I enrolled at City College.

One of my friends was doing a project in his radio and television class and needed an actor for his final, which was a commercial.  I have an acting background from doing commercials on television so he asked me to help him.  Well he got an “A “on his final , but the professor asked “who was the other guy”?   That was me and he told my friend “hey that guy was really good and he has a wonderful voice “.  It got back to me and I decided maybe I should try it so I enrolled in radio and TV classes and started doing the morning sports on KSDS Jazz 88.3 at  7 am and 8 am.  KSDS  began giving me little stuff like reading spots on the air.  Joe Kocherhans was our program director at the time and offered me a 9-12 am morning  jazz show.  I was let’s just say raw, cause i was not very good but Joe stuck with me.  He thought I was playing really good music because  I do have a jazz background, he always told me to let the music speak for itself…the year was 2000…

Ritmo Bello:   I understand that you first started “salsa hour” back in 2003. How did that come about and what was the listener response?

Chris Springer:  I was doing my jazz show now for 3 years now and things were going good, but Fred Ubaldo was doing a latin jazz show from 11-12 am on Mondays called “Jazz Latino”.  Fred is a amazing bassist and composer who really knows Latin music.  Fred was not happy there so he decided to leave the station and being a Latino myself with knowledge of some of the music they asked me to develop a Latin show.   So it was Joe Kocherhans again who said “well let’s call it the salsa hour and see what happens”.  I said yes I would love to even though I thought to ‘myself how am i gonna do this?’ …So the listener response was slow at first because I was playing a lot of Latin jazz even though it was the ” salsa hour “.   I went out and started to buy as much salsa music I could find, I knew the people like Puente and Palmieri but I did a lot of research watching documentarys and so on…..thats when people started responding in a big way.

Ritmo Bello: For people who may want to tune into your show Latin Grooves on Saturdays what can they expect to hear?

Chris Springer:  Latin Grooves is on Saturdays from 12-3 pm.   After the salsa hour the station decided to give me another hour so they came up with another name for the show, Latin Grooves.  The name sounded good because I wanted to cover all types of Latin music.  My idea was to play Afro-Cuban, Salsa Classics, Mambo, Boogaloo, Cuban Salsa, and Latin jazz. It turned out to be a great ideas since that format took off like crazy!!!  People were calling and listening to the show saying how much they were digging the Latin grooves.  As a result the station decided to give me that third hour based on the public calling and e-mails that were coming like crazy.    So on Saturdays expect to dance your ass off!  It’s kind of funny because I have a lot of women listeners who tell me that they are at home cleaning the house and dancing at home.  So it is dance oriented…

Ritmo Bello: In your opinion how is Latin Jazz different from what people identify as salsa music today?

Chris Springer:  Salsa music is really different in many ways from Latin jazz.  With Latin jazz you would most likely sit down and listen to all the music.  It’s a more artistic, creative and a beautiful musical art form.  Salsa music is street ! In your face!   Dance, sexy, it’s very powerful and you just can’t sit down and watch.  I love it!

Ritmo Bello: I know that part of what you do for the public is to educate on the history of Latin music. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned and shared with listeners on the radio concerning this music?

Chris Springer:  I love to share some of the amazing stories about the people who really were innovators of this music and there are some great stories about this art form we call salsa music from the Fania days in NYC to today.  The most surprising thing that I have learned actually happened about a year ago.  I was watching a documentary about the great Cuban bassist “Cachao” on KPBS and found out that the song “Oye Como Va”, the song that Tito Puente and Carlos Santana had big hits on their own,  was actually Cachao’s  song.  Puente and Santana were both saying they wrote the song but it was actually Cachao who created the song first.

Ritmo Bello:   Being a radio personality here in San Diego I know that you also interviewed some key figures in salsa and Latin Jazz. Could you share with me some of your most memorable interviews and what about them you remember?

Chris Springer:  Wow, I have been blessed to interview some of the biggest names in Latin music like Eddie Palmieri, Poncho Sanchez, Arturo Sandoval, Jack Costanzo, Pat Rodriguez, Oscar Hernandez, Angel Lebron, Johnny Polanco, Jose Madra., Pete Escovedo and so many more I can’t remember all of them.  Poncho Sanchez was really cool because he did 3 hours on my show with me!!!  But one person that sticks out in my mind is Arturo Sandoval because he has an amazing story about how he had to leave Cuba.  About 1 minute before the interview he tells me NO questions about Cuba so I had to throw away all my questions and just wing it.  It turned out pretty good despite what had happened…

Ritmo Bello: On a personal note Chris, what’s been the most rewarding aspect of working at Jazz 88.3?

Chris Springer:  Working at KSDS  Jazz 88.3 FM has been so amazing because I get to play this wonderful music all the time and go to concerts for free!!! Ha ha…no but all kidding aside this station is a Marconi award winning radio station.   I get to meet and hangout with some amazing artist.  The station let’s me have the freedom to play whatever I want and to make this show the best in San Diego and around the world. I guess it is like being on a championship team in sports and knowing your organization is number one every year.

Ritmo Bello:   Apart from your DJ duties I understand that you are asked to emcee many events. What are some of the venues and events you’ve been asked to lend your talents?

Chris Springer:  One of the perks of having a very popular show is being asked to make appearances everywhere from San Diego to LA.  I do get a lot of that, some of the places like Anthology where I emcee all the Latin shows there.  One of the shows I recently emcee’d was the Dia de San Juan Salsa Festival in Point Loma on June 25th. Spanish Harlem Orchestra and Conjunto Costazul were great.  It’s always a lot of fun to meet my listeners and sometimes have a drink with them…

Ritmo Bello:   In your opinion, what is the best thing about the salsa and Latin Jazz scene here in San Diego?

Chris Springer:  The best thing about salsa in San Diego is that there is a major dance comunity here!  But I do have a small problem with some of the dancers here in San Diego.  Some of them don’t care if there is a band or dj, they just wanna dance.  I feel that they should learn the history of this amazing art called salsa music.  Back in the late 60’s and 70’s people only wanted to see live bands and they knew all the band members, what they played, who they played with and all the singers! As for Latin jazz there is not as good of a following here and a lot of places because it is really going through bad times when comes to Latin jazz.  For instance the Grammys eliminated the category of Latin jazz from its awards categories and that’s just not right  They are even having protests all around the country as we speak about this very change.

Ritmo Bello: Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Ritmo Bello readers about you and your work that we haven’t covered yet?

Chris Springer:  First of all I wanna say that what you are doing is fantastic here with Ritmo Bello.  You are keeeping this music alive! That’s what I am trying to acomplish, because I am not getting rich off this….  To the dancers, please learn how this music came about and who were the innovators of this music. Most of all this next fact is VERY important ! If it were not for the American art form called JAZZ this music would have never had come about.

Ritmo Bello: What contact information can I share with the salsa and Latin Jazz community in case anyone wants to contact you?

Chris Springer:  If you ever want to contact me it is very easy.  I have my own Facebook page and also a ” The latin Grooves Show ”  fan page as well. You can email me at,  say hi to me at any Latin show here in San Diego and of course through KSDS Jazz 88.3 FM here on the campus of San Diego city college…

Ritmo Bello: Chris it was great talking with you today. I’ll be listening to you on your Latin Grooves show.

Chris Springer:  Thank you John! The best guide to salsa dancing in San Diego is Ritmo Bello!! ” Keep it salsa dura”!

Carlos Santana and Latin Jazz Artists Protest Grammy Awards Cuts to Ethnic Music Categories

Friday, May 27, 2011

It was announced last month by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) that Latin Jazz and other ethnic categories would be cut from consideration for the 2012 Grammy nominations.

Carlos Santana, Paul Simon and Herbie Hancock expressed their support that the categories be reinstated in a letter to the Recording Academy on Thursday.

“We will not be disenfranchised,” the letter states, reports the Associated Press.

Yesterday protests by Latin Jazz artists took place in Los Angeles to demand the Recording Academy reinstate more than 30 categories to the Grammy Awards. Last year there were 109 categories and now they are just 78. Latin Jazz was left out.

Wielding signs reading “Grammys Honor All Music” and “It’s Not Just About Rap, Rock or Country,” the musicians claimed that the reductions discriminatorily targeted ethnic music.

Grammy President and CEO Neil Portnow, says that the changes will make the awards more competitive and that the protesters concerns will be reviewed.

Carlos Santana expressed his concern in the letter to the Academy:

“To remove Latin Jazz and many other ethnic categories is doing a huge disservice to the brilliant musicians who keep the music vibrant for their fans — new and old. … We strongly protest this decision and we ask you to represent all of the colors of the rainbow when it comes to music and give ethnic music a place in the heart of music lovers everywhere”

What do you think? Should Latin Jazz be a category for the Grammy’s still?

John ;-)


Tito Puente, Carlos Gardel and other Latin Music Legends Honored on 2011 US Stamps

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Time to visit your local US post office if you are a Latin music lover!  The new 2011 Latin Music Legends US Stamp collection features Celia Cruz, Carlos Gardel, Carmen Miranda, Selena and Tito Puente in close up portrait shots.  The music styles represented include Tejano, Argentine Tango, Samba, Latin Jazz, and Salsa.

They won’t be available until March but you can get a quick preview of some of the images here below.  You can find out more information about the artist Rafael López and all the stamps he’s created on his blog. Good to see Latin music represented in this novel way!

John ;-)


Pete Escovedo Orchestra Returns to Anthology Friday July 9th!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

That’s Right!  The Pete Escovedo Orchestra will once again be playing this Friday July 9th at Anthology in Little Italy and they are bringing some of the best Latin Jazz there is today.  Pete Escovedo, along with his kids Juan, Peter Michael, and Sheila-E will be celebrating his 75th birthday during a fun night of music and dancing.

If you haven’t heard the Pete Escovedo Orchestra in action check out the video above courtesy of David Moye at Anthology San Diego.  Tickets are still available directly from Anthology on their website, but make sure to get them soon as this show is sure to sell out!

See you all at Anthology for the Pete Escovedo Orchestra July 9th!

John ;-)


Tito Puente Jr. Carries On His Father’s Legacy in San Diego: A Ritmo Bello Interview

Monday, August 31, 2009

If you’ve been a part of the salsa and Latin jazz music scene for a while I have no doubt you’d recognize Tito Puente.  Known throughout the world as “El Rey” (the King) of the timbales and “The King of Latin Music,”  Tito Puente left an incredible legacy of Latin jazz and mambo music.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Tito Puente Jr. continues that great musical tradition and brings new life to Latin jazz and mambo today.  Tito Puente Jr. will be performing live in San Diego on September 5th at Anthology in downtown’s Little Italy district.  Ritmo Bello was fortunate enough to connect with Tito Puente Jr. before his upcoming San Diego show and talk with him a bit about him being the standard bearer of Latin jazz royalty.


Ritmo Bello: Tito Puente Jr., thanks for taking time to the talk to the Ritmo Bello readers about yourself and your music.  Let’s begin with a question I’m sure you get all the time.  How has being the son of the famous Tito Puente affected your decision to pursue a musical career for yourself?

Tito Puente Jr.: Music was always a part of me growing up, but by choice – my father never forced it on me. Of course, being my father’s son poses challenges in the sense that it’s next to impossible to follow or match such an incredible talent, so I’m very clear that my mission is not to try and compete, it’s simply to entertain audiences and carry the torch of my father’s music to a new generation of people.

Ritmo Bello: When and how did you begin your own musical career?

Tito Puente Jr.: I started in the mid 1980’s surrounding myself with all types of music growing up in New York City, where there were so  many influences. Professionally I started on the trap drum kit when I was 16 years of age, working in different nightclubs in Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens.

Ritmo Bello: It’s clear that you are often compared to your father, Tito Puente and his musical style.  For those unfamiliar with Tito Puente can you explain how you might be similar and different to his legacy?

Tito Puente Jr.:  I think of course one blatant similarity is that I look a lot like him! I seem to have a connection with older fans that were fans of his and to younger ones as well. I have a certain quirkiness about me when I’m performing that people seem to enjoy. I dance and sing like my father did when he was younger in the 1950s, but I give it a modern edge, like a taste of Latino classic and urban mixed up with cha cha and mambo…

Ritmo Bello: How and where do you find inspiration for creating new music?

Tito Puente Jr.:  My father taught me to always surround myself with creative people, as they will serve as inspiration…it works.

Ritmo Bello:     I know that you have collaborated and performed with many notable artists in the salsa and Latin jazz world.  What are your most memorable performances that you’ve had over the course of your career?

Tito Puente Jr.: Well, I’ve been fortunate to have many: Ricky Martin, Gloria Estefan, Celia Cruz and José Feliciano come to mind. But I think the most influential would have been with my father himself – being on stage together.

Ritmo Bello:   Can you tell me a little about the albums that you’ve released to date?

Tito Puente Jr.:  I’ve had three major label releases to date but the most exciting is my new album coming out next month entitled “Got Mambo?”. It’s a really exciting project where I step up my game with original material and some great guest artists like Jon Secada and others.

Ritmo Bello:    Are there current plans for new CD releases coming up soon?

Tito Puente Jr.:  “Got Mambo?” is scheduled for a late October release, along with a new music video, tour and the whole internet promotion scene.

Ritmo Bello: I know that you, like your father, are a master at percussion and in particular the timbales.  What is it about this particular instrument that excites you the most?  Are there other instruments that you feel comfortable performing with as well?

Tito Puente Jr.:  I have to correct you – I am a student of percussion, not at all a master percussionist. I would hope through practice and time I could be. My father was a “master.”

Timbales have a distinct sound in all aspects of music plus it gives an engine to any song. I also enjoy piano and bass.

Ritmo Bello:   On a side note, I know that you’ve expanded into different enterprises including acting as the official spokesperson for Havanera Co., a clothing line I absolutely love to wear myself.   How has this and other experiences outside of your music affected your musical career?

Tito Puente Jr.:  In today’s world attaching yourself to a brand is important. I like to be a part of certain brands which can help bring our Latin music to the masses. The consumer is looking for more now. Branding and endorsing certain products and items has helped me bring my music to other parts of the globe.

Ritmo Bello:   My first contact with you was via Twitter and I was impressed to find you using the medium to reach out to your fans.  How has social media like Twitter and Facebook impacted how you interact with your fan base?

Tito Puente Jr.:  Amazing how Twitter and Facebook has gotten me directly in touch with the fans. It’s the new millennium of marketing and promotion for any artist out there. And yes it’s really me responding to you!!!

Ritmo Bello:   Although I know that you perform great music, do you ever get an opportunity to dance to salsa or Latin music as well?

Tito Puente Jr.:  I do, at home in front of my kids because that way I will look silly for them and not the rest of the world. I have great rhythm in my blood but it doesn’t seem to travel to my feet that well.

Ritmo Bello:    I’ve heard that you’ve also given back to the community in a number of ways.  Can you share with me some of the fundraising events you’ve supported?

Tito Puente Jr.:  The cancer, leukemia, diabetes and AIDS foundations are the ones closest to my heart since I have people and personal friends who have these horrible diseases. I love animals as well so give back wherever I can for them.

Ritmo Bello:   Is there anything else you’d like to share with the San Diego salsa and Latin dance community that we haven’t covered yet?

Tito Puente Jr.:  Get ready to mambo and cha cha the night away on September 5th at Anthology…and bring your dancing shoes!

Ritmo Bello:  Do you have contact information in case anyone from the Ritmo Bello audience wants to contact you?

Tito Puente

Ritmo Bello: Tito Puente Jr., it has been an honor to talk to you today.  On behalf of the San Diego salsa dance community and Ritmo Bello thank you for your time!

Tito Puente Jr.:  Muchas gracias and thank you to all the Tito Puente fans and the new Tito Puente, Jr. fans…I’m looking forward to seeing everyone!

John F. Bello

Meet John ;-)

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