Asere, qué bolá?: Afro Cuban Jazz music and storytelling from Virginia Lopez, Ivan Alamo, Mieke Bruggeman and Chris Nakato from Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble.

(PORTLAND, OR)— Saturday, November 14 at 4:00 pm PDT, Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble (PJCE) premieres a short music film featuring the world premiere of a newly commissioned song by Virginia Lopez and Ivan Alamo, a traditional Afro Cuban song, and a conversation with Lopez, Alamo and Bruggeman about how John Coltrane’s recording of Afro Blue inspired a new piece of music to promote healing in a difficult time.

Virginia Lopez was teaching Mieke Bruggeman, a saxophonist who is a member of Lopez’s salsa band Melao de Cuba, a traditional Afro Cuban melody and Bruggeman knew she was hearing something familiar though she couldn’t remember exactly what it was. Eventually she heard John Coltrane’s saxophone in her mind’s ear and recognized the melody to a classic 1963 Coltrane recording, Afro Blue. It turns out this piece was actually composed by Mongo Santamaria, a Cuban American percussionist and singer who adapted the melody from a traditional song in 1959. 

This project takes the journey of this Afro Cuban music into American jazz music as its inspiration, and asked Lopez and Alamo to compose a new song inspired by a traditional song, that celebrates the idea of healing from the COVID pandemic. The composers performed the music along with Bruggeman on saxophone and flute along with bassist Chris Nakato in a socially-distanced, outdoor space in Lopez’s backyard, then tell the story of the project, along with a healthy dose of information on Afro Cuban music, how salsa music is different from Afro Cuban traditional music, and how the pandemic has affected each of these musicians personally and professionally. The artists will be joining the audience for a livestreamed discussion immediately following the film premiere.

Online event information:

Saturday, November 14th, 2020, 4:00 pm PDT.
More information at
Tickets: $10 General Admission, $5 for those 65 or older and 35 or younger, free for PJCE Sustainers.
Link to a private page on will be provided to ticketholders.