There are many solo artists and musical groups out there who have performed over decades without ever receiving a Grammy nomination. However, the Pacific Mambo Orchestra is an exception. They were recently nominated in the category of Best Tropical Latin Band for their self-titled debut album. This group was found back in 2010 by Steffen Kuehn, a German trumpeter, and Christian Tumalan, a Mexican pianist and piano teacher at Woodland School in Portola Valley.
Steffen and Christian first met during a recording session for an album in which they both made contributions. While socialising between the breaks, they realised that they have a mutual interest in forming a larger Latin jazz group. For Christian, he had grown keen in Latin jazz about a decade earlier while he was studying for his first musical degree. He was doing classical piano music at the Escuela Superior de Musica in Mexico City. When he was listening to the radio in his car one day, he came across Tito Puente’s song, “Ran Kan Kan,” a classic of the Latin jazz genre. That reminded him of how much he liked it. At that point of time, he was immediately inspired and he told himself that he would do something similar someday.
After Steffen and Christian joined forces, they made a deal with the owner of Cafe Cocomo, San Francisco’s popular salsa club. The deal was to allow them to rehearse on every Monday night. Within a period of eight months, Christian stated, “We had a packed house on any given Monday night. Word spread (to elite local musicians), and that’s how we put the band together.”
In 2012, a year and a half after the group had been performing together, they decided to release an album. Both Steffen and Christian managed to raise money through a Kickstarter campaign to independently produce the album under the “Stefrecords & Tumalan Music” label. Their ultimate aim for the record was to help a wide range of people to “connect with Latin music,” explained Christian.
After the album’s released in October 2012, it reached the top charts in both Europe and South America. The news eventually reached Tim Fox, the president of Columbia Artists Management, and he secured them on a national tour, which was completed few weeks ago. Their competition for the Grammy is pretty steep against the likes of past winners such as Carlos Vives and Marc Anthony. Regardless, the members of the Pacific Mambo Orchestra are hopeful that their novelty will work in their favor come 26th January at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards.