La Lucha
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La Lucha

Saint Petersburg, Florida, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | INDIE

Saint Petersburg, Florida, United States | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Jazz Latin


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"La Lucha Nails It"

In case you haven't noticed - PC Jazz only reviews albums we like. (Why waste time?) There's a concerted effort made to keep album reviews brief - very hard to do when you are excited about the music, and nearly impossible in this case. If you're looking for the short version, here it is: you must go out and buy this album. You won't want to miss it; and we wouldn't steer you wrong!

The bio: La Lucha is a Tampa-area based piano trio with members from 3 different countries (Columbia, Mexico & United States). Alejandro Arenas - bass, Mark Feinman - drums, John O'Leary - piano. They've many accolades including the Umbria Jazz Festival, a grant from Hampton Arts Management and a commission from American Stage. This is their second release.

The aesthetics: "to create music that transcends genres and classifications". La Lucha is not the first jazz act to 'jazzify' music by current (or older) pop acts; nor is this their only output (very fine originals and a bright "Stella by Starlight" also grace the cd). The difference being that they are so incredibly successful at doing it; the results are so dang pleasing and often surprising, that one instantly embraces their ideas, and fans are won quickly (the first run of the cd sold out within a few months - rare in jazz!).

The music: John Lennon's "I'm So Tired" opens the album & sums up neatly the aesthetics of the band - simple production, stark emotion, tongue-in-cheek melodrama, bittersweet piano, organic meter changes and a trio very frequently functioning as one. The addition of vocalist Jun Bustamente is nothing short of genius - her broad range; warm, wonderful tone and conviction (with a grand sense of irony) are entirely perfect for this project, and frankly - indispensable. As an instrumental, No Doubt's "Don't Speak" becomes a rhapsodic jazz saga, showcasing O'Leary's subtle style and skill, suddenly breaking down into naked, gritty funk with both bass & piano endowed with fascinating electronic processing. More importantly, these boys can play! Attention to detail in the arranging is also a high mark.

Saxophonist Austin Vickrey joins the trio for both originals and "Stella", his tenor sound is clear with enough bite (a la Brecker); adding a welcome new color, some extra fire and a chance for the arrangements to expand in depth. The latin "La Migra" airs out some refined and modern compositional abilities from Feinman & Arenas, the melodies stand up well next to all the familiar tunes.

Other highlights include the Beach Boys' "Dont Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder", an exquisite rendering with Bustamante and trio giving a hear-a-pin-drop, edge-of-your-seat performance. Seriously, you need to hear this.

"Papparazzi" (Lady Gaga) is stunning and dramatic, putty in La Lucha's hands; another must hear (see video below). The groove from Feinman & Arenas is first-rate, and O'Leary responds every step of the way. The bass solo is gorgeous. (ps - this album is well recorded, mixed and produced.)

A jazz version of Britney Spears is laughable. Of course it is! La Lucha have nailed it twice - this time around it's a delightfully re-harmonized "Oops...I Did It Again". Bustamante magnificently laments, moans and croons her social faux pas, almost Shirley Bassey-esque, all flirt; while slinky bass lines & film noir jazz creep and crawl under her. It will change your thoughts about the song, (surely their goal).

A lot of great jazz albums have come our way this year, and labeling one 'the best' can't be done. If you're looking for jazz that's essential; both stimulating and easy on the ears; an album that will satisfy nearly every age group - this might be the best album in decades. - PC Jazz - Palm Coast Jazz

"Jazz Trio: La Lucha"

I had the good fortune of running into the jazz trio La Lucha while sharing the green room at NBC Daytime with a baby tiger and four models.

The band is comprised of pianist John O’Leary, bassist Alejandro Arenas and drummer Mark Feinman. They are talented, smart and highly engaging. Often reimagining pop songs, their jazz is polished as well as sultry when accompanied by Jun Bustamante’s vocals.

My intern, Kelly Richard, and I put their CD into the car, before even turning on the AC to combat the 98-degree Florida heat, as we headed out to lunch.

We both loved the music – she is 22, and I am Hhhmm Hhhmm years old. Later, I took the CD home and shared with my family. My Hubby loved it and so did our cubs, who are 11 and 13 years old. So it passed the test for all that are near and dear to me and resinated with all ages.

My friends and family will be recipients of this CD for Birthdays, Christmas and housewarming gifts. I just love it and so will you.

If you ever meet Alejandro, you must ask him to share with you the instant love and connection he found with the bass. It is a short, beautiful story that will bounce around my heart for years to come.

Mark’s bride, Gloria Munoz, wrote the beautiful poem for the inside cover. John O’Leary’s dad, a famed photographer, took the photo that appears on the front cover.

Here is a link to their site. - Patricia Rossi

"La Lucha | Album Review"

"Jazz Trio, La Lucha's sophmore project ("La Lucha") takes great strides in maintaining an improvisational jazz voice with today's pop music. The project shines with their compositions and interpolations, as well as noted performances by guest saxophonist Austin Vickery."

Cornelius White
Spectra Jazz Records - Spectra Jazz Records

"The state of the art of jazz with "La Lucha""

Just when jazz traditionalists and aficionados are shaking their heads regarding the state of music, and young discoverers believing that reggae comes from the state of Nebraska or that a cello is a tuba (…not kidding), there comes a trio on the horizon who may gain the attention of both young and mature listeners alike.

“La Lucha” (meaning the struggle in Spanish), is a trio of talented young musicians known around Tampa Bay as sidemen Alejandro Arenas, bass (28), Mark Feinman, drums (25) and John O’Leary, piano (25), who have banded together to allow public entry into a musical conversation utilizing jazz as contemporary art for their debut release “A Cup Of Fuzzy Water”.
The recording produced in 2009, receives its release with a listening party planned for April 30, 2010 at The Sacred Grounds Tampa.

The CD (seven selections in all), represents an expressiveness of the trio’s musical influences by today’s music culture combining a mixture of Latin and American heritage: Arenas from Colombia, O’Leary from Mexico and Feinman from the United States.

It’s Jazz, with hints of Salsa, Bop, Metal, Green Day, and even Britney Spears - though just barely. As a matter of fact, at certain moments, one can imagine substituting the acoustic instruments for electronic instruments transporting the listener to a rock venue, but guides them safely back to a jazz genre.

Though the mastering is simplistic with a live “coffee house” feel, one cannot deny how the talent and music comes out at you, with such compositions as the contrapuntal “P.L.” (“piel/skin”) - or how Arenas sings melodically with his acoustic bass in tunes like David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”, while O’Leary passionately dominates throughout with his inventive style, making use of every element of the piano. However, a little more attention could have been placed on the mix of Feinman's drum performance.

Both Arenas and Feinman are composers on this project, with the former interchanging styles and noteworthy arranging, and the latter keeping an understandably simplistic pulsating style of composing for tunes such as the title “A Cup of Fuzzy Water” and “Who Knows”.

Though these musicians are young, they maintain a high regard for style. And
for a first go round, it’s an admirable introduction as to who “La Lucha” is, and what we can expect for years to come. - The Examiner

"Three best friends, plus two guest artists, come together as La Lucha in the Side Door this weekend"

The three musicians at the heart of the band La Lucha all hail from different parts of the world – Colombia, Mexico & United States. They met studying music at USF six years ago and launched a band that mixes originals, Latin rhythms and jazz interpretations of popular songs.

Along the way, Mark Feinman, the U.S. born drummer, Alejandro Arenas, a bassist from Colombia, and John O’Leary, a pianist born in Mexico, have played in lots of other bands, doing jazz, rock, Latin music and classical.

Saturday night at the Palladium the three best friends, along with singer Jun Bustamante and guest sax player Austin Vickrey, will celebrate the release of their new CD, simply titled La Lucha.

“We’ll do some originals, a whole bunch of pop songs redone in jazz style and some traditional Latin music – even a salsa arrangement of Stella By Starlight,” Mark Feinman told me, as the band broke from rehearsal Tuesday.

Jazz greats like Miles Davis and John Coltrane often worked with the pop music of their day as the basis for their jazz excursions. That idea provided inspired La Lucha.

“Like Miles and Coltrane, we wanted to do some music from our own generation,’ Alejandro said.

La Lucha was featured in TBT recently and here’s what they said about the band:

“Pianist John O’Leary, bassist Alejandro Arenas and drummer Mark Feinman have all toured and performed at jazz festivals around the world, including events in Italy and France. Their music puts unique twists on non-jazzy songs — their 2009 album A Cup of Fuzzy Water features smooth covers of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, Britney Spears’ Toxic and Deftones’ Change (In The House of Flies); and they were recently commissioned by American Stage to perform jazz versions of songs from The Rocky Horror Show.”

For their Palladium show, the band will be doing some tunes from their first CD – A Cup of Fuzzy Water – and lots from the new CD. Their new disc was partially funded by a mini-grant from Hampton Arts Management, run by local creative kingpin, Hampton Dohrman.

You can see and hear this hot young band on Saturday night at the Side Door Cabaret. You can probably also corner Hampton and see if he’ll bankroll your next project. I’m told the guy is awash in cash.

Showtime is 8 p.m. For tickets and more details visit or call 727 822-3590.

And don’t miss the great blues guitarists, Sarasota Slim and his band on Friday night and the 18-piece Helios Jazz Orchestra on Sunday, doing soundrack music from spy films and TV shows. It’s another great weekend of Side Door Summer at the Palladium. - Paul Wilborn

"Artist of the day: La Lucha"

Jazz group La Lucha plays Latin-inspired jazz with true global inspirations — its members are from Colombia, Mexico and the United States.

Pianist John O’Leary, bassist Alejandro Arenas and drummer Mark Feinman (pictured with guest vocalist Jun Bustamante, above, who will appear on their upcoming sophomore album) have all toured and performed at jazz festivals around the world, including events in Italy and France. Their music puts unique twists on non-jazzy songs — their 2009 album A Cup of Fuzzy Water features smooth covers of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, Britney Spears’ Toxic and Deftones’ Change (In The House of Flies); and they were recently commissioned by American Stage to perform jazz versions of songs from The Rocky Horror Show.

This creative spirit led them to a grant from Hampton Arts Management (the same group that awards the Awesome Tampa Bay grants) to help fund their next album, which will be released June 30 with a concert at the Palladium in St. Petersburg. - tbt* (Tampa Bay Times)

"CDs of Note - Short Takes"

La Lucha, La Lucha (self-produced) How do you help make jazz appealing to general, non-jazz audiences? Try covering material that young people are familiar with. That’s the approach of the St. Petersburg FL-based trio La Lucha is taking with its second CD. The trio members – pianist John O’Leary, bassist Alejandro Arenas and drummer Mark Feinman – are joined on select tracks by singer Jun Bustamante and saxophonist Austin Vickrey. The band's CD release concert is this Saturday in St. Petersburg.

The covers include The Beatles’ B-side tune “I’m so tired,” the punk band No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak” by Gwen Stefani, Brian Wilson’s “Don’t Talk,” Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi,” the Norwegian pop group A-ha’s “Take On Me” and the Britney Spears hit “Oops… I Did It Again.” There’s also a standard jazz fare cover here: “Stella By Starlight,” as well as two originals. The latter are the Arenas-Feinman collaboration “La Migra,” and Arenas’ composition “Troublesome.” Bustamante adds her dark vocals to the Lennon/McCartney opener and the Brian Wilson and A-ha tunes. Vickrey shines on “La Migra” and “Stella,” which is a strong jazz romp for the band in this CD, a follow-up to 2009’s A Cup of Fuzzy Water.

La Lucha may be onto something with its bridges from pop to jazz and Latin jazz. St. Pete’s American Stage Theatre Company commissioned the trio to arrange the music of The Rocky Horror Show for jazz trio and vocals for local performances this year. - Ken Franckling


Still working on that hot first release.



La Lucha is a Tampa Bay based trio that consists of three best friends from three different parts of the world; Colombia, Mexico & United States.  Its members are Alejandro Arenas, bass; John O’Leary, piano; and Mark Feinman, drums. Their repertoire is a diverse mixture of Latin inspired rhythms with Jazz standards, twisted arrangements of pop songs and original compositions. Each member of the trio has extensive national and international performance experience, including a tour of Italy and France with performances at the “Umbria Jazz Festival” and “Jazz a Juan” in Juan Les Pins. 

La Lucha aims to create music that transcends genres and classifications. They consider music to be live art, which will continue to breathe, grow and evolve with their commitment to it. 

La Lucha was awarded Creative Loafing’s “Best of the Bay Jazz Ensemble” in 2013, 2014 & 2015; the “Think Small to Think Big Grant,” by Creative Pinellas; featured presenters at TEDxTampa Bay (2014) & TEDxUSF (2015); and were recently honored by a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, to present a multi- media project raising awareness for Alzheimer’s disease.

Their debut album, “A Cup of Fuzzy Water” was released in 2009 and their second self-titled album was released in June 2012. Their third album, “Standards, Not-Standards,” featuring vocalist Jun, was released January, 6th 2015 on Blue Line Music. 

Band Members