OTRA – Afro-Cuban Jazz &Grooves – New Orleans Premier Latin Band


Raised in Slidell, LA, Sam has been working in the New Orleans music scene since 1991. He has had the opportunity to perform in a variety of musical genres from Blues and rock (Rockin’ Jake, Irene Sage, The Desires) to Funk (New World Funk Ensemble, Smilin’ Myron), Bluegrass (Uptown Okra) and Latin (Fuego, Elegant Gypsy, Acoustic Swiftness, Fredy Omar’ and Hector Gallardo’s Impulso).

After a four year stint in the Marine Corps band, Brent went on to earn his Masters of Music degree from the University of New Orleans Jazz Department.

He has performed with Galactic, New World Funk Ensemble, Nicholas Payton, Frank Morgan, The Temptations and many others.

As one of New Orleans’ most sought after saxophonists, Brent currently performs with Quintology, Gatemouth Brown, Stanton Moore, New Orleans Night Crawlers, Joe Krown Organ Combo, Have Soul Will Travel, Chevere, The Naked Orchestra, New Orleans Street Beat and New Orleans Rhythm and Blues Company.

Born in Matanzas, Cuba, Pupi began his musical career playing drumset in Miami in the 60’s. He continued playing drums in a rock band called ‘Ocean’ before shifting to percussion to play with great Cuban sonero Ruben Gonzalez. idn live

Since then he has become a fixture of the New Orleans Latin scene, playing with many popular acts including: Santiago, Caliente, Elegant Gypsy, Pedro Cruz Band, Acoustic Swiftness, and others. He also toured and recorded with funk band Smilin’ Myron.

Pupi is currently a member of Fredy Omar con su Banda and a jazz group called Two Pan Sam.

Rob moved to New Orleans in March 2002 with his wife Tomoko, also an accomplished piano player, and baby daughter Mimava.

Residing previously in St. Louis, he spent ten years teaching in the Jazz Department at Webster University, performing at the Adams Mark Hotel as artist in residence, and as musical director for ‘El Caribe Tropical.’ He performed for many years with St. Louis legend Willie Atkins as well as touring and recording with organ greats – Richard ‘Groove’ Holmes and Charles Earland.

An in-demand guitarist as well as piano player, Rob currently performs with Hot Club of New Orleans, Ian McPhail Quintet, David Torkanowski’s ‘Organism’, Wendel Brunius and New Orleans Street Beat. slot gacor

Cristobal ‘El Canyon’ Cruzado is a native of Columbia. He has resided in New Orleans for 39 years and has performed with Ruben Gonzales, Grupo Santiago, Peter Toma Band, and Fredy Omar Con Su Banda. He also spent 14 years on Bourbon Street as a member of the Chris Owens house band.

A native of New Mexico via southern California, Eric has been a fixture on the New Orleans music scene for more than ten years. He lends his talents to a variety of bands including Sunpie Barnes and the Louisiana Sunspots, the N.O. oxplay

premier rock band-Better Than Ezra, the funky soul-jazz group Have Soul Will Travel and the eclectic Naked Orchestra. He also performs straight-ahead jazz with Otra pianist Rob Block in his quintet. And now you can find him playing with the hard hitting Afro-Cuban Jazz band Otra….Enjoy!


“Together the soaring horns, propulsive grooves, and shake that ass sound make Otra an unbeatable combination. They sing and swing the latin thing in their own sweet way creating exciting music that leaves a lasting impression.” — Michael Dominici, Offbeat, WWOZ and other dimensions
1.Con Otra in New Orleans
4.Mid-City Mambo*
5.Todo Pa’la Gente
6.Baila Mi Son
7.Nature Boy*
Total playing time over 1 hour!

The Other Latin Beat
The night grows deep as the band Otra hits the stage. The drummers lock into a brisk percolating rhythm oozing with the essence of Afro-Cuban music. Amplified tones from an upright bass enrich the sound, and electric piano begins to plink with rolling precision. Conversations slowly die down as people are drawn to the warm energy coming from the stage. The trumpet and saxophone are being played rapidly, arching lines that weave in and out of each other. Otra is officially operating at full power, and as the sound washes over the crowd, a gaggle of frantic dancers struggle to keep the pace with the music.
Otra is the brainchild of bassist Sam Price, who developed the concept in the summer of 2002. “Otra, of course, means ‘other,’ and I wanted this band to be filled with fresh, great players out of nowhere, outside of the usual Latin scene. I also wanted to merge jazz concepts with the Latin beat and dig deeper into the African roots of Afro-Cuban music,” says Price. Price couldn’t have had better timing from this project because a “great player out of nowhere” showed up in New Orleans in the spring of 2002. Keyboardist Rob Block moved to town from St. Louis with a pedigree as thick as his original songbook. Block, a guitarist, had been teaching in the music department at Webster University in St. Louis and playing gigs with organ master Charles Earland. Soon after arriving in New Orleans, Block discovered he shared a musical kinship with Price and was sold on the Otra idea. “With Otra, I like to combine the roots of Cuban music with the improv style of modern jazz. The rhythmic style I play in this band is known as the ‘montuno.’ It is a way to play repetitive yet intriguing patterns.”
Otra’s percussive backbone is formed by Humberto “Pupi” Menes and Cristobal “El Cañon” Cruzado. As Price likes to say, Menes and Cruzado are “the real deal.” Between them they share more than 60 years of musical experience. Menes adds to Otra’s sound, playing bongos, tumbadoras and the chekere.
Cruzado plays the timbales in a manner that leaves no doubt as to why he is nicknamed “the cannon.” He is consistently and powerfully on the beat, because as he says, “If I slip, everybody else will.”
There is certainly some mystical quality about the two. It is almost as if they are of the music; the Afro-Cuban sound circulates and courses through their veins. Menes, in particular, is a marvel to watch on stage – a cool, Havana Shiva in a newsboy hat, arms flying akimbo but under control, forcefully manipulating the skins of his drums and controlling the hip-shaking antics of the dancing audience, much like a puppeteer pulls the strings on his beloved puppets.
This elusive mystical quality identified in the percussionists is in line with Price’s desire to explore the deeper aspects of the African side of the music. One style Otra plays is the rumba, which Price explains is from the “sacred ceremonies of Africans living in Cuba and maintaining their religious traditions while pretending to pay homage to Catholic saints.” Other less supernatural styles include the cha-cha-cha, mambo and guajira. Thus, Otra can best be described as dance music that is a collision of salsa with Afro-Cuban. slot88
The brassy front line of Otra is provided by saxophonist Brent Rose and trumpeter Eric Lucero. Both players are well respected within the New Orleans music community and bring a high level of tasteful skill and energy to the band.
Rose performs with a fiery soulful and bluesy resonance and his playing is a nice contrast when paired with Lucero’s high-range explorations of the Latin music dialect on the trumpet.
“To me, this band is the perfect mix of improvisation and dancing.” Rose says, “We present a party atmosphere at our shows that is appealing to the masses. With Otra, I feel the balance of what I want to be as a musician and an overall sound that I want people to experience.”
Within the last year, Otra has established itself as a steady draw on the late-night dance and party scene. They aren’t afraid to bring their soulful organic groove to Frenchman Street haunts such as Café Brazil, Spotted Cat and dba or to The Maple Leaf and Twi-Ro-Pa Mills. Their first album, entitled “Todo Pa’la Gente (Everything for the People),” was released in June.
It is obvious members of Otra have a deep respect for each other as well as for the music they perform. Brent Rose sums up Otra when he says, “This band has a voice. It is six people not conforming and being themselves completely while staying within the context of a certain sound.”

  • Billy Thinnes

Todo Pa’la Gente

Afro-Cuban bands are multiplying exponentially of late. That doesn’t mean any of them are any good. Throwing a conga player in the mix and faking one’s way through a cha cha cha does not quite fit the bill. Amidst this sea of half-assed fumbling imitators comes the refreshingly ambitious sextet Otra.

Their debut release Todo Pa’la Gente is brimming with not only the essential boogaloo rythms, but with impressively complex melodies. It’s the compositional and melodic element that is what is lacking in most neo-Latin jazz ensembles, and it is where Otra separates itself from the pack. Not content to take the easy way out with Tito Puente and Buena Vista Social Club covers, Otra finds inspiration in their own creations. The album’s opener “Con Otra In New Orleans” exemplifies the band’s compositional fortitude. Beginning with a percussion/chant intro, the band slowly folds in Rob Block’s piano until finally exploding into a soaring horn-blasting chorus. Block is actually responsible for four of the record’s nine tracks, and each one delivers in spades. “Candela” (not to be confused with the Buena Vista Social Club tune of the same name) is an album highlight with its lyrical, weaving melody, as is the dance floor beckoning sway of “Baila Mi Son”. The playing throughout is first-rate, starting with the relentless rhythmic attack of conga player Pupi Menes and Cristobal Cruzado’s timbales. The mingling of Eric Lucero’s trumpet and Brent Rose’s saxophone is seamless while bassist and leader Sam Price holds down a steady but intriguing bottom. Other album highlights include the Latin jazz makeover of the jazz standard “Nature Boy” and the hand-clap breaks and snaky horn solos of the orisha-inspires “Ebioso”. Unlike many other “Latin” jazz dance bands, Otra brings a passion and dedication to the ever-expanding genre. Simply put, they just get it.

  • Christopher Blagg

Todo Pa’ La Gente

This band is all about high-octane, full-throttle, positive energy musical explorations. The Afro-Cuban/Latin jazz hybrid created by Otra has made them a favorite on the Frenchmen Street club scene, and Todo Pa’la Gente does a remarkable job of harnessing the band’s live energy into a recording that can be enjoyed in one’s living room. In fact, this reviewer would even be so bold as to declare this album as an essential inclusion in any and all future house parties. What makes Otra special is their ability to play as one and subvert all ego – Otra music is a finely concocted blend of timbales, congas, bass, percussive piano lines and trumpet and sax leads that weave in and out of each other like the fabric of a finely stitched Oaxacan shirt. Tunes like “Mid-City” and “Loisaida” are utterly infectious and original while they pay homage to influences like Eddie Palmieri and Jerry Gonzales and the Ft. Apache Band. Even if you don’t know a damn thing about this genre of music, this album is worth checking out and should make an otherworldly improvement to your music collection.

  • Billy Thinnes

Todo Pa’ La Gente

One of the nicest surprises on the New Orleans music scene the last two years has been the emergence of the Afro-Cuban jazz band OTRA. Founded by the eclectic bassist Sam Price (a force behind the bluegrass band Uptown Okra as well), OTRA serves the primal function of a Latin band: playing music for dancing your butt off. Two rhythm section veterans, the Cuban conguero Pupi Menes and the Columbian timbalero Cristobal Cruzado, guarantee that.

Unlike many bands that might be lumped together in the “salsa” category, however, OTRA’s appeal extends beyond its rhythmic allure. A good deal of credit for this must go to the band’s keyboard player, Rob Block. An East Coast native who lived in St. Louis for 10 years before moving to New Orleans two years ago, he is a modern jazz wizard as well as master of Afro-Cuban styles (and if that isn’t enough he’s a killer guitarist, too). Block composed five of the CD’s nine tracks, and in addition to his wonderful playing and writing, he has a knack for keeping the horn charts interesting and for providing fine backing for hornmen Eric Lucero and Brent Rose. Much of this has to do with avoiding that most dreaded of latin music devices (for the non-dancing listener anyway), the endless one-or two chord montunio.

In addition to the Block originals, Todo Pa’La Gente contains two traditional melodies, paeans to the Cuban “orishas” or spirits arranged by Price, and a jazz standard, “Nature Boy.” It’s a well-rounded program fit for musicologists and booty-shakers alike.
-Tom McDermott

Latin music
Bassists Andrew Wolf, left, and Sam Price lead Los Vecinos and Otra, respectively, two local ensembles at the vanguard of a revitalized Latin music scene. Within the progressive-minded Otra, Price and a band that features saxophone, trumpet, piano, bass and percussion use traditional Cuban rhythms – cha cha cha, mambo, rumba, boogaloo – as a jumping-off point for jazzier explorations, as evidenced on Otra’s new debut CD, “Todo Pa’la Gente.” “We’re not reinventing the wheel – Latin jazz has been around since the 1940s,” Price says. “But we like to think that we put our own spin on it.” “But we like to think that we put our own spin on it.” Wolf’s Los Vecinos adheres more closely to the tenets of traditional folkloric Cuban music on a program of standards and some originals. Melodic and rhythmic instruments – acoustic bass, two acoustic guitars, a flute, two saxophones and percussion – interlock in tight arrangements overlaid with Spanish vocals on Los Vecinos’ 2002 release “P’aqui, P’alla.” The music of both Otra and Los Vecinos is highly conducive to dancing.

  • Sound Advice

El Grupo “Otra” Presenta Su CD
Por Carlos Flores

El centro nocurno “BLUE NILE” en 534 Frenchmen Street, en New Orleans, tuvo el honor de presenter al grupo “OTRA”, los que en un ambiente de mucho baile y alegria y en un centro nocturno completamente lleno, presentaron su primer CD, “TODO PA’LA GENTE”. El show tuvo a la gente bailando hasta altas horas de la madrugada y los invitados tuvieron el placer de compartir un delicioso plato de arroz con pollo y frijoles guisados que estuvo muy delicioso.

La banda esta integrada por los musicos siguientes: Director, compositor, arreglos y bajo, Sr. Sam Price (U. S. A.), compositor, arreglos y pianista, Sr. Robert Block (U. S. A.), saxofon y flauta, Sr. Brent Rose (U. S. A.) trompeta, Eric Lucero (Mexico Americano), timbales, Sr. Cristobal Cruzado (Colombia), y Tumbadoras, Sr. Humberto (Pupi) Menes (Cuba).

Los invitados comenzaron a llegar a la fiesta de presentacion como a las 10:30 y las 11:30 el lugar estaba totalmente abarrotado. Los presentes motivados por la musica caliente de “OTRA” bailaron sin parar durante la presentacion del grupo. El centro nocturno en esa noche conto con la presencia de una gran variedad de personajes del norte y sur America.

Refiririendome al CD presentado esa noche por el Grupo “OTRA” puedo decirles que se trata de un disco en el que se manifiestan los ritmos tropicales del Caribe con un legeitimo sabor afro-cubano que en conjunto con la influencia del Jazz americano nos introducen en un mundo musical de salsa en Jazz muy dificil de escuchar sin sentir el deseo de bailar. Esta obra musical es el resultado de la composicion y arreglos proprios de la banda. El disco es una pieza digna de poseer.

Lagniappe (Times-Picayune),- Music

Otra’s Latin sound aims to be ‘a little grittier, earthier and funkier’

by Keith Spera, Music Writer

As a student at Slidell High School in the 1980’s, bassist Sam Price pledged his allegiance to hard rock. Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Kiss made up the bulk of his musical diet.

Then he and classmate Todd Duke, a guitarist with similar tastes, discovered community jazz and roots-music radio station WWOZ-FM, and everything changed. So enamored were Price and Duke with WWOZ that they embarked on a pilgrimage across Lake Pontchartrain one night to find the station in Armstrong Park.

“Our ears were blown open,” Price said recently. “Our whole world expanded just by listening to the great deejays on ‘OZ.”

His discovery of WWOZ triggered a musical conversion from hard rock to jazz and, eventually, Latin music. The process culminated last year when he founded Otra, an “Afro-Cuban jazz and groove” band staffed with both jazz and Latin musicians. They included veteran percussionists Humberto “Pupi” Memes and Cristobal “El Canyon” Cruzado, plus jazz saxophonist Brent Rose, trumpeter Eric Lucero and keyboardist Rob Block. Otra performs Saturday at Cafe Brasil, makes its Snug Harbor debut on Sunday, then joins Almas Gemelas and Avatar for a Mo’ Tunes showcase at the Howlin’ Wolf on Wednesday.

The path Price followed to Otra was not a direct one. After graduating from Slidell High in 1987, he served a three-year hitch in the Army. He then moved to New Orleans and enrolled at the University of New Orleans. Juggling classes, a job and nighttime gigs proved too much, so he left UNO to focus on music. He gigged with rock, funk and blues bands, including The Desires, the Marc Stone Band, Irene Sage, Rockin’ Jake, the New World Funk Ensemble and Smilin’ Myron.

Then he received a call from Ray Moore, the leader of the Brazilian band Brasilliance. Could Price do some gigs? “I’d never played Latin music,” Price said. “Ray said, “I don’t care. We just need a bass player. SHow up, and we’ll teach you how.’ So I stumbled into playing Latin music by virtue of being a bass player in a city that, at the time, was low on bass players.”

And thus began Price’s education. “Initially, the most obvious thing is learning how to feel the syncopation of Latin music,” he said. “The bass almost never plays on the one (beat). Typically you’re emphasizing the four and the end of two. It just takes a little while to adjust, especially when you grew up a white kid in the suburbs listening to Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin and banging your head on one and three.

“But right from the beginning, I was intrigued by the feeling of that syncopation. And once I saw it written out on paper, it connected with the feeling, and it clicked. It had me, from that point on.”

With Brasilliance, Brazilian music reigned supreme. Eventually, Price also fell under the spell of Cuban music. He became more fluent via gigs with Fuego, Elegant Gypsy, Acoustic Swiftness, percussionist Hector Gallardo’s Impulso and vocalist Fredy Omar’s band. In the spring of 2002, he assembled his own Latin jazz band and named it Otra, Spanish for “other.” It would avoid the overplayed standards of the Latin repertoire in favor of original music approached in a unique way.

“I love jazz and instrumental, improvised music. I wanted to get into that area, where you’re able to be in that groove that feels so good and makes people dance, but at the same time, you’re able to deal with some interesting, challenging music and improvise. To me, that seemed like the best of both worlds.”

To that end, he sough musicians capable of playing both modern jazz and Latin music, not necessarily fixtures on the local Latin scene. Rob Block, who taught jazz at Webster University in St. Louis, had recently arrived in town. He became Otra’s pianist, and composes much of its material. Saxophonist Brent Rose and trumpeter Eric Lucero are bandmates in jazz-groove band Have Soul Will Travel and the avant-jazz Naked Orchestra.

Price also recruited two long-tie veterans of the local Latin scene. Cuban-born percussionist “Pupi” Menes launched his career in Miami in the 1960’s. Since moving to New Orleans, he’s contributed tumbadora, bongo and chekere to many bands, including Fredy Omar’s. Born in Columbia, Cristobal Cruzado has spent the last 39 years playing drums and timbales in New Orleans, including 14 years as the drummer in Chris Owens’ house band on Bourbon Street. Price coaxed Cruzado out of retirement to play timbales in Otra.

Together, Menes and Cruzado form the percussive backbone of Otra. The group’s repertoire favors instrumentals, with the occasional chorus; samples can be hears at www.otramusic.com. Otra is finishing its debut CD, “Todo Pa’La Gente” (“Everything for the People”), for release later this fall.

“We’re trying to acknowledge the roots of the music, but (play) a little grittier, earthier and funkier,” Price said. “Play with intensity and passion. We want to set us apart from everything else going on in the Latin scene in New Orleans. We’re trying to do something different, to approach the music in an original way.”

Lagniappe Stage, Latin/Contemporary Jazz
New Orleans Beat Street Magazine, Jazz Fest Edition – ‘Picks and Pans’
The brainchild of bassist Sam Price, these guys throw down New Orleans-style Latin jazz with aplomb. Their saxophonist, Brent Rose, is vying for the most paychecks collected from the festival this year-he plays 3 times today.

Gambit Weekly• Hot Seven
New Orleans has seen the sprouting of many different Latin bands, each with its own unique sound, and bass player Sam Price has played with the likes of Latin mainstays such as Fredy Omar. Now Price is leading his very own “Afro-Cuban Jazz and Grooves” group called Otra. Drawing upon an array of different periods and styles of Latin music, such as mambo, cha-cha-cha, and boogaloo, Otra plays standards from the Latin and Cuban songbooks for a unique sound of their own. This is also your change to see Otra members and jazz saxophonist Brent Rose performing outside their usual milieu. Also featuring veteran New Orleans Cuban percussionist Pupi Menez and Rob Block on piano, this seven-piece orchestra which also includes drums, trumpet and percussion, will take you on a listening tour of the world of Latin music every Monday night. No cover. –Manny Lander

Maybe the newest Latin band on the strip is an Afro-Cuban jazz band, Otra, which translates in English to “other.” Unlike many of the Latin bands in New Orleans, Otra looked for fresh blood when it formed, adopting two newcomers to the city, pianist Rob Block and timbales player Steve Reichlen. Rounding out the ensemble are veterans Brent Rose on saxophone, Bob Garrett on trumpet, and Cuban born percussionist Pupi Menes. Their style is not confined to one specific rhythm or dance, but is an amalgam of several. Says Price, “I’m not trying to reproduce a sound. I try to weave different elements together…I have a great respect for the history of this music and the variety of rhythmic styles, which you really do have to learn in order to internalize them, but I’m not trying to fit any specific style within the Afro-Cuban genre.” When asked if he considers it a probleme that there is only one true Latino in a band playing Latin music, Price acknowledges this disparity saying, “In recent weeks I have noticed more Latino couples dancing at our shows, but I’m glad we have a true Cubano in Pupi.” In fact, while there are several Latino musicians playing in the various ensembles, most of the bands playing Latin music on Frenchmen Street are made up of primarily white musicians, and the audiences for all the shows are also overwhelmingly Anglo. Does it take away from the authenticity of these “Latin” bands? Yolanda Estrada doesn’t think so. She champions bands such as Otra, Los Vecinos and Son Del Pantano regularly on her weekly radio show. “As long as it’s getting out there, I don’t care who plays it,” says Estrada. Concerning the largely white audience patrolling the clubs on Frenchmen she asserts, “Music is the international language. You don’t have to understand what they’re saying to enjoy it.”