Biography of Alvaro Benavides
(Except where noted, all photos © 2011 Russ Titelman/Jill Nelson)

Born in Caracas, Venezuela, Alvaro Benavides' interest in music began at the age of 12 when he heard Paquito D’Rivera’s album Why Not. The sound of the saxophone on that recording entranced him and led his grandfather to present him buy him a saxophone; his first musical instrument.

The next few years were marked by musical curiosity and experimentation. After trading in the sax for a drum set, and joining a high school rock band, Benavides enrolled in the Ars Nova Music School at 16 years-of-age. At the school, he set aside the drums and delved into piano studies, music theory, harmony, and ear training.

While playing keyboards in a rock band, fate brought him and the bass together. The band’s bass player quit, and Benavides decided to take his spot. He proceeded to buy his first bass - and never looked back. Soon after, Benavides formed his first band as a bass player. Named Zig Zag, the band was a rock power trio that played clubs and private events throughout Caracas.

During these formative years of his bass playing, Benavides was strongly influenced by The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Michael Jackson, Pat Matheney, Chick Corea, Ruben Blades, and Puerto Rican salseros Willie Colon and La Sonora Ponceña. With so much music to listen to, his passion began paying off in gigs.

He played gigs with Séptima Raza, a salsa and merengue cover band, and Séptimo Capítulo, a band with original music fusing genres that ranged from rock, salsa, and ska, to reggae, jazz, and Venezuelan folk music. With Séptima Raza, Benavides had the chance to branch out from Caracas and tour parts of the Caribbean circuit, such as Trinidad y Tobago and Margarita Island. This experience opened his mind and musical knowledge.

In 1995, Benavides received the "Best Entering Scholarship" award from the Berklee College of Music. He packed his bags and his instrument, and moved to Boston, Massachusetts, in January 1996.

Four years later, he emerged from Berklee with newfound influences ranging from Cuban timba bands such as NG LA Banda, Los Van Van, and Charanga Habanera, to funk legends Earth Wind and Fire, Brothers Johnson, and Parliament Funkadelic, and jazz virtuosos Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. Almost immediately, his career began to thrive.

Benavides gigged with numerous bands that played a variety of genres, including: Solstice Bells (original rock ‘n roll); Team Malin (original salsa); La Timba Loca (original timba), founded and directed by Grammy nominee Gonzalo Grau; Gonzalo Grau Quintet (original Venezuelan folk/jazz fusion); Bandón 33 (Latin jazz); and Cyan Tinted Soul (funk rock). Parallel to playing with these different bands, he had a steady gig at Sophia’s, a hot nightspot in Boston, and toured the United States and Europe with The Latin Party Boys salsa band.

On January 1, 2004, Benavides' dream of moving to New York City became a reality.He quickly made his way into the music scene, connecting and playing with several Cuban bands, including: the Enrique Lopez Quartet, NuGuajiro, and José Conde. He also landed gigs with original projects such as Positive Catastrophe, a free jazz big band playing in New York and touring Europe; and Zemog, a Latin alternative band that gigs in and around New York and played at the world-renowned Montreal Jazz Festival in 2009. He also formed the Venezuelan fusion trio Los Crema Paraiso together with Si*Se percussionist Neil Ochoa and guitar player José Luis Pardo, a Grammy-winning leader of Los Amigos Invisibles.

2009 found Benavides playing with many of these groups at New York City hotspots SOBs, Joe’s Pub, Nublu, The Blue Note, and Central Park Summer Stage. He also spent time touring England with Grammy winning vocalist Willy Torres and his Magic of Salsa Kingdom musical theater accomplishment.

This was also the year that he became the official bass player for the Pedrito Martinez Group, marking a major turning point in his career.

Benavides first met Martinez in 2006 when he was called to sub for the bass player at Guantanamera Restaurant. Martinez loved Benavides’ groove and Benavides was inspired by Martinez's talent and musicianship. With every gig, their musical connection has grown stronger.

The quartet is now a tight and connected ensemble, completed by Axel Tosca and Ariacne Truillo switching off on keyboard and Jhair Sala on percussion. The group has garnered acclaim by highly respected musicians, including: Steve Gadd, Eric Clapton, Roger Waters, Will Lee, Ravi Coltrane, Taj Mahal, and John Scolfield, among others.

The buzz surrounding the Pedrito Martinez Group, as well as the steadily increasing fan base, has lead to the band’s upcoming and highly anticipated live and studio albums.

Alvaro Benavides endorses and uses D’Addario strings.

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