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Jazz Caliente's Rhythm Makers: Part 14 features powerful percussionist Mayra Casales

Percussionist Mayra Casales at Chicago's Auditorium Theater, 2016
Vernon Hester
Windy City Times/
Percussionist Mayra Casales at Chicago's Auditorium Theater, 2016

Mayra Casales is recognized as a powerful and versatile percussionist, and she's certainly done her share of advocating for women in music. Let's get to know our Jazz Caliente Rhythm Maker No. 14!

Mayra was born in Havana, Cuba, and grew up in Miami. She studied with Carlos "Patato" Valdés and performed with Celia Cruz, Machito and Tito Puente. Moving to New York City, she was able to also connect with jazz greats like Dizzy Gillespie, Wayne Shorter and Ray Barretto. Mayra spent nine years on tour with violinist Regina Carter.  

In 2008, Mayra founded the all-women World Latin band Cocomama. Their debut album "Quiero" was in the running for a nomination at the Grammys in 2016 for Best Tropical Latin Album. 

Most recently, Mayra appeared on Monika Herzig's album "Sheroes," adding her special brand of Cuban spice to another outstanding all-women band.  

Listen for Mayra Casales this week on Saturday Jazz Caliente. I'll be playing the title track from her 2006 album "Mujer Ardiente: Woman On Fire."

In the meantime, here's Mayra and Cocomama with "Quiero."

Jazz Caliente airs Saturdays at 5:00 p.m.  The show is hosted by Robin Lloyd and produced by KNKX Public Radio.

Originally from Detroit, Robin Lloyd has been presenting jazz, blues and Latin jazz on public radio for nearly 40 years. She's a member of the Jazz Education Network and the Jazz Journalists Association.