Lucy Blanco Develops a New Garifuna Music Genre
By: Jos� Francisco �vila

� 2014 by Jos� Francisco �vila, All Rights Reserved


As we continue the celebration Garifuna Arts & Culture Appreciation, we are pleased to introduce you to Ms. Lucy Blanco who is evidence of the Garifuna artist's need for improvisation and adaptability as they strive to meet the musical needs of the community. 


Lucy Blanco

 Lucy Blanco is a Garifuna-American vocalist who has   developed a new musical concept of fusing the music of her ancestry Garifuna with America's classical music Jazz. She was born in New York and lived in Los Angeles, CA for over twenty years and relocated back to her hometown in 2009


Her musical influences are varied and include Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Hector Lavoe, Gloria Estefan and Celia Cruz. Her life was forever changed when she got a chance to attend an Artist in Residence program at The Conservatory of Music in Den Hague with Dr. Barry Harris as a member of The Radiant Voices. She credits The World Stage, The late Billy Higgins, and the late Dahl Scott, pianist/composer/arranger the late Michael Andrews and many other artists and friends who graciously opened the door and provided wonderful opportunities to learn about the art of jazz.


Since relocating to New York City, she has worked with some of the best musicians the East Coast has to offer such as Benito Gonzalez, Mala Waldron, Mimi Jones and Andrea Brachfeld. She performed at The 8th Annual Lady Got Chops Jazz Festival founded by Kim Clarke.  Ms. Lucy Blanco was the featured artist at Trinity-on-Main's Night of Jazz in New Britain CT. "Soaring vocals and comping, well done"  WWUH's Maurice D Robertson of her set.


Lucy Blanco is a foundingmember of the Afri-Garifuna Jazz Ensemblewith Garifuna musician James Lovell and are currently recording their debut album. The ensemble is developing a new musical concept of fusing the music of her ancestry Garifuna with America's classical music Jazz.  They have performed to audiences at various venues in New York City, including the historical landmark theatre Flushing Town Hall  as part of the Cultural Crossroads Concert series produced by Clyde C. Bullard


The Garifuna Jazz union has its beginnings in Los Angeles California when Lucy  began researching and learning more about her Garifuna heritage. Through her research she learned about the work of prominent Garifuna artists like the late Andy Palacio and Aurelio Martinez. She began working on the concept of blending the Jazz genre with the Garifuna language and percussive rhythms with her then music director the late Michael Andrews. The first piece recorded in this concept came in May 2009 with a demo recording of Wayne Shorter's "Speak No Evil" . The instrumentation was simple with Hartford born pianist/MD Warren Byrd; Lucy Blanco on vocals and Ricardo Guity a Seattle based Garifuna musician/percussionist on drums.


The concept continued to develop as Lucy made her way to what is considered the Jazz mecca, her native hometown of New York City in August 2009. There she met and had the pleasure of working with some of the best jazz musicians in the city. The ideal blend for this sound would be traditional Garifuna musicians and jazz musicians bringing what they have to the table and create a new sound with familiar jazz standards. The concept came to fruition with a performance @ Garage Restaurant in Greenwich Village during Garifuna Heritage Month with Benito Gonzales on piano, Ariel De la Portilla on Bass, Henning Stumm on drums and Garifuna Musician James Lovell on vocals, guitar and Garifuna drums. The Garifuna Jazz sound continued to shift as James Lovell and Lucy Blanco collaborated and the movement morphed into what they now call The Afri-Garifuna Jazz Ensemble.


 Ms. Blanco received a citation from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams for her work in preserving the Garifuna culture through music. She continues to perform as a solo artist as well as a key member of the ensemble. "My goal is to make music that speaks to the love I have for Jazz and Latin music and reflects my Garifuna/Afro/Latina heritage."


You can enjoy Ms Lucy Blanco and the Afri-Garifuna Jazz Ensemble at Bronx Rising! A Celebration of Garifuna Culture, Saturday, May 17th at 6:00 - 10:30 pm at the Bronx Music Heritage Center Lab: 1303 Louis Ni�� Blvd. Bronx, NY



Photo courtesy of Teofilo Colon, Jr.