Led by pianist Jan Laurenz Hartong (b. c.1941, Netherlands), eight-piece band Nueva Manteca are a Netherlands-based Latin jazz outfit who produce a highly authentic distillation of Latin music and also embrace traditions such as Arabic, classical, Dutch Antillean and salsa. As Hartong told the press in 1996, ‘It’s the same situation as hearing a Korean violinist playing a Beethoven concerto. It’s already accepted in the jazz world. In the whole world music development, a lot of people are digging into all kinds of cultures.’ Hartong began playing dixieland piano at the age of 12, before progressing to bebop by 15, at which time he began to work professionally. He played alongside Jan Hammer and Joachim Kühn in a 1966 international jazz festival judged by Cannonball and Nat Adderley where he won a medal.
A fan of Latin music since his childhood, Hartong formed a 10-piece salsa band in Rotterdam in 1983. He also visited the music’s home in Cuba in 1984 and 1987, which led to him switching to a Latin jazz style and changing his group’s name from Manteca to Neuva Manteca. For the first three years of the group’s existence he was joined by highly respected New York timbales player Nicky Marrero. The group won its live reputation playing festivals throughout Europe, also performing alongside guest artists including Giovanni Hidalgo, Juanito Torres, Orestes Vilató, Armando Peraza and Bobby Sanabria as part of the state-sponsored Nueva Manteca Meets The Legends series. The group also toured the USA in 1995, preparing for the release of Let’s Face The Music And Dance. Dedicated to Vernon Boggs, the late New York professor who championed salsa in Scandinavia, it featured Latin-flavoured treatments of material by Duke Ellington (‘Caravan’), Miles Davis (‘All Blues’) and an Irving Berlin medley. Previous albums included Porgy & Bess, a revision of the George Gershwin opera set to a Latin rhythm.