Latin Jazz Instrumental Music to Listen to Right Now

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


In need of some musical inspiration? Check out this Latin Jazz playlist – perfect for getting those creative juices flowing!

The Best of Latin Jazz

There’s nothing quite like Latin jazz to get you moving and grooving. The infectious rhythms and sultry melodies are impossible to resist. And, lucky for you, we’ve curated a playlist of the best Latin jazz tracks for your listening pleasure. So sit back, relax, and let the music take you away.

Tito Puente

One of the most innovative and exciting bandleaders of his time, Tito Puente was a master of Latin jazz who helped bring the Afro-Cuban rhythms of his native Puerto Rico to a mainstream audience. A virtuoso percussionist, he was equally skilled at playing the piano, timbales, and drums. He was also a gifted composer and arranger, with more than 300 tunes to his credit. Born Ernesto Antonio Puente Jr. on April 20, 1923, in New York City’s Spanish Harlem (he later took his mother’s maiden name as his professional moniker), he was exposed to Latin music at an early age through such radio programs as Carmencita forgetti’s Spanish Hour and Xavier Cugat’s Waldorf-Astoria Orchestra show.

Puente made his professional debut as a drummer in 1940 with the band of trumpeter Antonio Rocco; he also played congas in Machito’s Afro-Cubans during this period. In the early ’40s he joined Luis Russell’s big band; during this time he switched from drums to timbales and began studying composition at Manhattan’s Juilliard School. After Russell disbanded in 1947, Puente formed his own ensemble; two years later the band — which featured such up-and-coming jazz talents as trombonist Willie Cook, tenor saxophonist David Amram, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie sideman Howard McGhee — began appearing regularly at New York City’s Palladium Ballroom. It was there that Puente became known for such hits as “El Rey del Timbal” (The King of the Timbales), “Ran Kan Kan,” and “Mambo Macabre.”

Poncho Sanchez

Poncho Sanchez is a conga player and band leader from Laredo, Texas. He is of Mexican descent. Sanchez’s father was a professional mariachi musician and his mother sang boleros. Poncho Sanchez was born on October 30, 1949, in Laredo, Texas, and raised in a musical family. His father was a professional mariachi musician and his mother sang boleros. As a child, Sanchez was exposed to a wide variety of Latin American music, including mambo, salsa, cha-cha-cha, bolero, and Mexican folk music. He began playing the congas when he was eight years old.

Sanchez began his career as a professional musician in 1967, when he joined Cal Tjader’s Latin jazz band. He recorded his first album as a leader in 1969. Since then, Sanchez has recorded 32 albums as a leader and has performed and recorded with many of the greatest names in jazz, Latin music, and popular music. He has received eight Grammy nominations and won one Grammy Award for his work on the album Conga Blue (1992).

Sanchez’s music is based in Afro-Cuban rhythms but also incorporates elements of bebop jazz, funk, salsa, and other Latin American rhythms. He is known for his high level of energy and his ability to get people dancing.

Cal Tjader

Cal Tjader was one of the most popular Latin jazz musicians of his time. He was born in 1925 in St. Louis, Missouri, and moved to San Francisco as a teenager. It was there that he first became interested in Latin music, and he went on to play with some of the biggest names in the genre, including Tito Puente and Mongo Santamaria. Tjader’s own recording career began in 1951, and he went on to release more than 60 albums over the course of his career. He passed away in 1982, but his music continues to be popular among Latin jazz fans all over the world.

The New Wave of Latin Jazz

If you’re looking for something new to listen to, check out this Latin jazz. This type of jazz has been influenced by Latin American music and covers a wide range of styles. From traditional Cuban genres like son and Afro-Cuban jazz to more experimental styles like free jazz and jazz fusion, there’s something for everyone.

Arturo O’Farrill

Arturo O’Farrill is a Cuban-American composer, bandleader, and jazz pianist. He is the son of Chico O’Farrill, a well-known Afro-Cuban jazz arranger and trumpeter. Arturo O’Farrill was born in Mexico City and moved to New York City at the age of 9. He has played with such jazz greats as Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner, Roy Haynes, Clark Terry, and Max Roach. He has led his own bands and orchestras, including the Grammy award-winning Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra. His composition “The Forgotten Promise” was inspired by the forced displacement of people from their homes in Latin America.

Dafnis Prieto

Pianist, drummer, and composer Dafnis Prieto was born in Havana, Cuba in 1971 and arrived in New York City in 1999. He is a leading voice in the new wave of Latin Jazz. His playing is characterized by a deep understanding of Afro-Cuban rhythms and a profound command of the jazz idiom. He has released eight albums as a leader, including the Grammy-nominated Back to the Sunset (2013). He has also been a member of the bands of Arturo Sandoval, Charlie Haden, Joshua Redman, and Alex Sipiagin.


Formed in 1992, Cubanismo! is a Cuban band that infuses traditional Cuban music with elements of jazz and other genres. The band is led by trumpeter, bandleader, and composer Jesus Alemañy, who has played with some of the biggest names in Cuban music, including Buena Vista Social Club and Afro-Cuban All Stars. Cubanismo! has released nine albums, including their most recent, “Mardi Gras Mambo,” which was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Latin Jazz Album category.

Where to Start

If you’re looking for some great Latin Jazz instrumental music to listen to right now, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll share some of our top picks so that you can start jamming out to some Latin beats.

The Best of Latin Jazz

Latin jazz is a genre with a rich history and a bright future. If you’re new to the genre, or just looking for some good music to listen to, we’ve put together a list of some of the best Latin jazz tracks out there.

We’ve included a mix of classic and modern tracks, so there’s something for everyone. And we’ve linked to Spotify so you can easily listen to each track.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy the best Latin jazz has to offer.

1. “Mambo Inn” by Machito and His Afro-Cuban Orchestra
2. “Afro Blue” by Mongo Santamaria
3. “A Night in Tunisia” by Dizzy Gillespie
4. “Guachi Guaro” by Cal Tjader
5. “Besame Mucho” by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd
6. “Manteca” by Tito Puente
7. “The Sermon” by Jimmy Smith
8. “Salsa y CONTROL!” By Tito Puente 9. “Perdido” by Chick Corea and Gonzalo Rubalcaba
10. “CityQ’s Mambo” By Quincy Jones

The New Wave of Latin Jazz

Latin Jazz has been on the rise in recent years, with a new generation of musicians bringing the genre to new heights. If you’re looking for some great Latin Jazz to listen to, here are some of the best artists out there right now.

1. Trombone Shorty – Trombone Shorty is one of the most popular and acclaimed Latin Jazz artists today. His mix of Jazz, Funk, and Hip-Hop has won him fans all over the world, and he’s considered one of the best trombone players in the world.

2. Arturo O’Farrill – Arturo O’Farrill is a Grammy-winning composer, arranger, and bandleader who is at the forefront of the Latin Jazz scene. His Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra is one of the most respected ensembles in the genre, and his work has been hailed by critics as some of the best in contemporary jazz.

3. Dafnis Prieto – Dafnis Prieto is a Cuban drummer and composer who is considered one of the leading innovators in Latin Jazz today. His unique blend of Cuban folkloric music and contemporary jazz has won him critical acclaim, and he has collaborated with some of the biggest names in both genres.

4. The Claudia Quintet – The Claudia Quintet is a jazz ensemble led by drummer John Hollenbeck that fuses elements of chamber music and progressive rock with Latin Jazz traditions. The group’s critically acclaimed albums have earned them a loyal following, and they are considered one of the most innovative ensembles in jazz today.

5. Miguel Zenón – Miguel Zenón is a Puerto Rican saxophonist and composer who is one of the leading exponents of contemporary Latin Jazz. He’s won multiple Grammy Awards for his work, and his album Alma Adentro was hailed by critics as one of the best Latin Jazz albums of all time.

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