Michael Colina

Michael Colina

Photo by Holly Gordon

Michael Colina is a multiple GRAMMY® winning composer and producer who is based in New York with deep musical roots in his father’s homeland, Cuba. In his commissions and recordings, Colina embraces classical, jazz and Latin music – often in an engaging and distinctive mashup that displays his love for the sheer diversity of his musical influences.The Cuban dance rhythms and percussive stylings that infuse his classical and jazz compositions have recently inspired such works as the “Shadow of Urbano” and “Cinco Clamas”. The Shadow is a musical portrait of Colina’s father. Consisting of three movements: 1. Mambosa, Pavane, and Tango de Tangueros. The “Clamas” was originally commissioned for the Segovia Music Festival in Madrid and is a work scored for guitar, acoustic bass, piano and percussion.“I grew up listening to rumba, mambo, samba, and my father loved to dance. He would come home at dawn, having won the rhumba contest the evening before, along with the nickname ‘snake hips’. That music is in my bones and it evokes an atmosphere of cigars, Cuba Libres and ecstatic sensual dancing. Latin music is an expression of passion and ritualized seduction. It makes you want to get up and move,” says Colina of his ‘first’ music.

Colina’s youth was spent traveling between the U.S, and Cuba. Exposed to the sounds of Latin music and  surrounded by soul and gospel from America’s south, he also immersed himself in classical music and discovered he loved it all. Colina studied composition at the North Carolina School of Arts with Vittorio Giannini, Louis Mennini (brother of composer Peter Mennin) and Robert Ward. He continued studies at the Chigiana in Sienna, Italy with Thomas Pasatieri and Roman Vlad, and was the first recipient of the Vittorio Giannini Memorial Scholarship award.

But, when he arrived in New York City and realized he needed to learn to make a living, he turned to jazz. “Classical music satisfied my intellectual side, but jazz was free, revolutionary, radical; it spoke to my bad-boy side.”

Over the past three decades, Colina’s ‘bad boy side’ has proven highly successful. He has written music for television, film, theatre, dance and live performances on concert stages throughout the United States, Europe and Japan and, as a jazz musician, composer, producer and engineer, he has won three Gold Records, received four GRAMMY® nominations and won three in the field of Contemporary Jazz, and won an Ace Award for Best Film Score. Colina has made a name for himself as producer and engineer on recordings for legendary musicians, including Bob James, David Sanborn, Michael Brecker, Marcus Miller, Bill Evans, and Michael Franks. He has also worked alongside George Benson, Earl Klugh, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt and Bonnie Raitt.

A 1999 trip to Cuba with his father reawakened Colina’s love for the rhythms of his childhood, and this affinity is evident in his most recent commissions. “New elements are pouring into my music as I learn to appreciate and integrate my Cuban roots,” he says. “It’s a very personal blend. I write what I want to hear, and am infusing the world of Western European classical culture with Latin rhythms.”

“Many of the groups I’m working with want something different from the standard repertoire,” says Colina. “Blending in classical music is no longer forbidden, and performers as well as listeners are excited, challenged and deepened by the creativity and spontaneity that’s occurring now in music.”