Oskar Cartaya

Oskar Cartaya


Oskar has experience in Touring, Production, TV, Composing/Arranging and Studio Albums thanks to his work with the likes of: SpyroGyra, J Lo, Herb Alpert, Arturo Sandoval, Steve Winwood, Tito Puente and Jodie Foster (for the movie Contact).


Born in New York City and raised in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Cartaya was determined to become a professional athlete like his grandfather, Raul Alvarez, who played baseball for a Cuban team. "Then one day when I was ten, I woke up and told everyone I was going to be a musician", he recalls. "I don't know why, nobody in my family had a musical ear. I guess I was just hypnotized by music."

After his annoucement, he was given a tiny guitar, a child size drum set and a keyboard, "and I played like there was no end in sight". By age 12, he settled on playing the upright bass. "I didn't have one, so I taped my mom's broom to the guitar so I could play standing up. I didn't know what I was doing but I thought I looked cool. I used to blast my records by Willie Colon and Hector La Voe, stand in front of my bedroom mirror with that guitar on a broom and pretend I was in the band."

A year later he was invited to enroll in the Escuela Libre de Musica in San Juan, Puerto Rico. At the same time, he studied with the director of a municipal band in Bayamon, P.R.. His talent also earned him a place in the band, "But there was a problem" Cartaya says. "I was in a marching band and I played electric bass. So I played drums when we were marching and as soon as we were stationary, the bass would come out, with an amp." Just as he was getting comfortable with such quick-change adaptations, Cartaya learned his first harsh lesson about music business politics. He announced to the director that he'd been accepted into the Escuela Libre de Musica; angered that he was losing a favored pupil, the director promptly fired him. "Here I was at the beginning of my career, and I thought it was over before it even started!" Cartaya adds laughing.

Life at the Escuela Libre de Musica was ample consolation. His teachers included Puerto Rico's leading musicians and his fellow students are among today's top Latin and Jazz artists. Latin music was at a popular peak in the mid 1970's. "I played in a chamber orchestra and youth symphony, but Latin music was my life. Then one day a friend of mine brought a Stanley Clark album to school."

Jazz opened his ears to a whole new expression. "I found the freedom I didn't find in Latin styles. In a Salsa band, the essence is when you are playing as a unit. In jazz the pinnacle is when all the musicians are going crazy, improvising, but you all know exactly what's going on." The minute he turned 18, Cartaya headed for Los Angeles to attend the Musicians Institute of Technology, where he spent 15 hours a day practicing with his bass, a devotion that earned him an award as Outstanding Musician of the Year. Less than two years after graduating, he was teaching at the school and playing with the likes of Joe Sample, Alex Acuna and Justo Almario.

Afterwards, he moved to New York in 1984. "I was willing to trade everything I had at that point for a wild card, and it turned out to be the best move I could make. New York turned out to be the cradle of all my dreams." The late Argentinian pianist Jorge Dalto hired him, and he played and recorded with Tito Allen, Willie Colon, Ruben Blades, Celia Cruz, Dave Valentin, just as he'd once imagined as a kid in Puerto Rico. He served as Musical Director for Willie Colon for two years and for Tania Maria during 1987-88.

From there Oskar headed across borders and styles adding experiences that have brought him to this place and time where the release of his innovative solo album opened a whole new chapter in his varied career.


"My Music, My Friends, My Time" (2004) -Solo Debut-

Played bass in:

-Winners (1987) - Celia Cruz & Willie Colon.

-Rites of Summer (1988) - Spyro Gyra.

-Point of View (1989) - SpyroGyra.

-Two Amigos (1990) - Dave Valentin w/ Herbie Mann.

-Fast Forward (1990) - Spyro Gyra Featuring Jay Beckenstein.

-Strikes Back (1992) - Hector Lavoe.

-Master & the Protege (1993) - Hector Lavoe & Van Lester.

-Hot House (1998) - Arturo Sandoval.

-Tribute to the Cure: Porque No Puedo Ser Tu (1999) featuring various artists (Producer).

-Clase Aparte (1999) - Tito Nieves.

-Very Best of Spyro Gyra (2002) - Spyro Gyra

-Let's Go to Rumba (2003) - Rumbantela (featuring Eguie Castrillo, Humberto Ramírez, Tito DeGracia).

-E Music (2004) - Pete Escovedo (featuring Shelia E. , George Duke).

-El Grupo Live (2005) - El Grupo (Steve Lukather,Steve Weingart Oskar Cartaya and Joey Heredia) Producer/Bass Player.