Cromwell, Conn — Leslie Cartaya has come a long way, literally and figuratively. As a four year old in Cuba she dreamt of being a professional singer. She said she started “small” playing birthday parties. This past week, the three-time nominated Grammy singer came up big, playing where the pros indeed play, as the featured performer in the Ventana al Jazz series at the Travelers Championship.
Like her hit song, “No Pares” the gathering crowd at the Travelers Championship fan zone concert pavilion, the “dancing and the joy ‘did not stop,’” Cartaya said.
Leslie grew up in Cuba but for the past 15 years she and her husband—Raymer Olalde—the Quartet’s percussionist have called South Florida home.
“I have in my blood the rhythms of my homeland, but also the influence of my new home—American jazz and funk,” Cartaya said. Together, they have shaped her artistic personality.
For Leslie, singing is the best therapy. “Singing has always been a natural process of communication, I love to write and express what I think and feel, what I live and watch,” Cartaya said.
Leslie admits she remembered her family, especially her cousins who were the first to teach nursery rhymes and accompany with the guitar while she sang, discovering traditional Cuban and Brazilian music.
The Travelers Championship concert was also the sneak peek into the Quartet’s newest CD — “Take Me With You” with the release this Monday, June 29. The Ventana al Jazz at the Travelers Championship was Presented by Univision TV Hartford-Springfield, The River 105.9 and CTLatinoNews.com, with special support by The Rums of Puerto Rico.
This was a first in many ways for Leslie Cartaya; it was her first time in Connecticut and her first time performing at a PGA TOUR event. But according to Pedro Zorrilla, President of Ventana al Jazz the Travelers Championship event is only the beginning. “We are excited to bring a culturally significant show to the Travelers Championship.”
Tournament Director Nathan Grube agrees, “We’re always looking for new and innovative ways to broaden our market.” This year’s concert series certainly delivers on that promise with rockers Bret Michaels and Dennis DeYoung and the Music of STYX and now the Latin sound of Leslie Cartaya.
Ventana al Jazz events in Miami and Orlando attract thousands of Latin jazz fans. “Our formula is simple —we try to make the event spicy but not too spicy to try it,” Zorrilla said.
“We’re growing the series. We’re reaching out to other PGA TOUR events and to other other cities,” Zorrilla said. “We hope to grow from our anchored events in Florida to 20 additional cities, including Hartford.”
“Eight years ago I left the banking world to make music. I wanted to do the classics, but an 80 year old friend said go jazz and we’ve never looked back,” Zorrilla said.