Hudson County's own musical savants CuJazz do just that with their eclectic fusion of traditional Latin styles with some Broadway, rock, funk, and of course - all that jazz.
"We started out as three [people], and then little by little, we began to add more members," said Roxanna Rey, lead singer and one of the original members. "Now we're seven."
CuJazz first banned together in January of 2003 with Rey, Luis Chaves, drummer and Latin percussion, and Octavio Ponce, saxophone and flute. The three brought the distinct sounds of their heritage including the typical music of Colombia, Ecuador, and Cuba.
"We have been musicians all our lives, and we wanted to create a fusion of everything we brought," said Rey. "The most important thing to us is utilizing all these different rhythms, and then we give them our own touch of jazz."
The players The group, which all hail from the local area, includes: Teddy Cardenas (West New York), pianist and musical director; Luis Chaves (Union City); Octavio Ponce (West New York); Willie Miranda (West New York), congas; Fernando Aguilera (Union City), guitar; Diego Aquino (Union City), bass; and Roxanna Rey (North Bergen). CuJazz is also managed by Jim Charneco, who first introduced Rey to Chaves and Ponce.
"I have been singing [here] since I came to this country, and [when first arrived] I had the opportunity to meet James, and he knew Luis," said Reyes. "That's how we all came together."
Since their inception back in 2003, CuJazz has enjoyed moderate success around the New Jersey/ New York metropolitan area, bringing their unique sound to classic audience favorites.
"We play all the different rhythms of music from classical to Spanish, and even some Broadway tunes," said Reyes.
The group credits their success due to their ability to work together, and giving everyone an equal role from composing the music to decisions in performances.
"We are like a family, if anyone has an idea we discuss it and the decision is made by all of us; not individually," said Rey.
CuJazz has conducted performances in both English and Spanish in order to reach a more extensive audience. However, since a majority of their fan base is from the local Latin American community, the group's music has introduced more Latinos to the world of jazz.
"A lot of people are used to traditional jazz, and then there are those who don't typically listen to jazz," said Rey. "So now we're bringing jazz in a more subtle form to the people who love merengue and salsa [among other things], and they get into it without realizing it."
They have performed at major concerts and have shared the marquee billing with performers like the renowned bachata group Aventura and Cuco Valoy. CuJazz has also appeared on ABC's morning news program, and has done a number of local performances sponsored by Union City.
"We have done a lot of presentations in Union City, and we have this opportunity to play, not only in areas that people have to pay, but we have participated in events that the city organizes with other groups and artists," said Rey. "We have the opportunity to showcase what is the art and culture of this area."
The road ahead Now CuJazz is working on their first CD compilation.
"We're making a CD and we're including a variety of original tracks, so you can hear CuJazz playing all these different rhythms, and that bit of jazz that we include in everything," said Rey.
Right now the members are preparing their material for production, which are composed by all the members of the group, and will be actively seeking contacts that would help in the albums promotion.
"We're planning to release the CD in a few months," said Rey. "Right now we are in pre-production working on the music arrangements, which are all original works, and [will] include anywhere from 10 to 12 tracks."
In addition to there many performances in the Hudson County area, CuJazz has also crossed the river a few times to perform at venues such as in Natives and El Restaurante de Antigua in New York City. They are currently in negotiations to do shows in Las Vegas and Miami.