Guitarist and composer Oscar Peñas epitomizes a new wave of talented artists who are an integral part of New York’s flourishing music scene. Trained in his native Barcelona, Spain in classical guitar at the age of 8 and before exploring the Jazz world at 17. In 1994 was his first public performing while still his studying at the Taller de Músics with a co lead band called Es-3 at Jazz-Si club in Barcelona.
Peñas now a New Yorker, has been performing and recording throughout his career, and shared his love for music combining performing with teaching. Oscar Peñas’ compositions are diverse transcending and yet merging different genres, cultures and styles with fluidity, grace and power. His style has been described at WNYC as “transnational cool”. Although his music can be called “jazz”, it crosses the boundaries of classical, and traditional music labeling, blending the idiom through original compositions with hints of new Spanish folk music and some Brazilian urban grooves.
After graduating cum lade from Berklee College of Music, where he was awarded with a Professional Music Achievement in recognition of his outstanding musicianship, Oscar returned to Barcelona in 2000 to hone his chops by performing in Festivals and local jazz venues. His recording history started with his two albums on Fresh Sound, Astronautus (2003) and The Return of the Astronautus (2005). Both CDs featured original compositions in the format of an electric quintet.
Back in USA after his second recording, in 2005 Peñas decided to enroll for a master at the New England Conservatory earning a Master’s degree in Jazz Performance from the NEC in 2007 and moved to New York, making Brooklyn his home. Since this year, Peñas created and actively works with his band that performs in the duo, trio or quartet format, crossing genres and featuring instruments uncommon in jazz like the accordion and violin.
From Now On released in November 2011 is Peñas third disc and his debut in USA, this third critically acclaimed recording features music legend Gil Goldstein, on accordion and piano along with his current ensemble. Peñas’ most consistent output in recent years has taken place in the trio format. The sound palette of the group flows naturally between acoustic and electric textures with a recent and exciting classy addition of violin. This year, Oscar has been a recipient of ASCAP Plus Award (2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012, for his work performed in unsurveyed media, as well as a writer whose catalogs have prestige value. After a successful fundraising campaign with former USA Projects, Peñas released his fourth and his second self-produced album, Music of Departures and Returns, which features his working quartet and special guests Grammy Winners Esperanza Spalding and Paquito D’ Rivera. Almadraba 2017 will mark his first classical-jazz suite with a string chamber orchestra, and his third self produced album. The live performance recording is scheduled for November 13 and it will be at the historical Teatro Martí, Old Habana, Cuba with 2015 Latin Grammy Nominees Solistas de la Habana and pianist and his former NEC professor Frank Carlberg.
Peñas’ jazz ensemble has performed all sold out shows at Kennedy Center, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Strathmore Performing Art Center, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Decatur House at the White House, Atlas Performing Arts Center, Old Town School of Folk Music, Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, Jazz Plaza, Habana Jazz Festival in Cuba, Barcelona Jazz Festival, Long Island Winter Fest, and in many New York area clubs (Tea Lounge, Bargemusic, Fat Cat, Bar Next Door, Jazz Standard, 55 Bar and Blue Note Jazz Club …), toured Europe and South America. Most of Oscar’s performances were combined with seminars or masters classes where Peñas facilitated master classes and clinics offered to the impoverished children giving them an opportunity to take part in a hands-on musical experience.
Beside Peñas work with his ensemble and as an educator, Oscar has played with vocalist Esperanza Spalding, trumpeters Jason Palmer and Ralph Alessi, saxophonist Paquito D’ Rivera, and pianists/accordionist/arranger Gil Goldstein.