Luis Bonilla

Luis Bonilla

Bonilla Brass Ecstasy at Chicago Jazz Festival 2008
Photo: Mark Mahar
Background information
Birth name Luis Diego Bonilla
Born (1965-10-12) October 12, 1965
Los Angeles, California
Origin United States
Los Angeles, California
Genres Jazz, Afro-Cuban jazz, Latin jazz, R&B, pop
Occupation(s) Musician, composer, Bandleader, record producer, Instructor
Instruments Trombone
Years active 1988 - present
Labels Candid Records
Planet Arts
Associated acts Vanguard Jazz Orchestra
Lester Bowie
Dave Douglas
Website Luis
Notable instruments

Luis Bonilla (born Luis Diego Bonilla, October 12, 1965, Los Angeles, Ca.) is an American Afro-Cuban and jazz trombonist born in Los Angeles, California of Costa Rican descent. He is a Grammy Award- winning performer, composer, and Music Professor,[1] about whom the New York Times has described as the artist who "explodes the usual musical structures of both Afro-Cuban and Latin Jazz".[2][3]



As a youth, Bonilla was introduced to music in general, and exposed to jazz in particular, while still a young student in school. He tells the anecdote of how he was enrolled in a brass class, believing it to be a metal shop class, only to find himself with a trombone in his hands. While learning to play the instrument, he found within himself a talent for music, and an enjoyment of jazz. He attended Eagle Rock High School in Los Angeles where he studied under John Rinaldo, director of music at the school. After he graduated high school Bonilla studied at Cal State Los Angeles,[4] earning a B.A. degree, and a M.A. degree in Jazz Performance and Composition from the Manhattan School of Music.[1] He first studied in Los Angeles with Don Raffell and Roy Main.


Bonilla has supported himself as a session musician and a sideman performing with jazz artists such as McCoy Tyner, Dizzy Gillespie, Lester Bowie, Tom Harrell, Freddie Hubbard, Astrud Gilberto, Willie Colón and Toshiko Akiyoshi. He has demonstrated his versatility as a musician working with artists as varied as Tony Bennett, Diana Ross, Marc Anthony, La India and Mary J. Blige.[5] He has drawn inspiration from Lester Bowie, his mentor, with whom he toured. Bonilla calls Bowie his "father away from home", with whom he has learned a great deal.[6]

Luis Bonilla (in middle) as chief producer for the Mists: Charles Ives for Jazz Orchestra CD in April 2014

In 1985 he joined the Gerald Wilson orchestra, with whom he recorded. Pasos Gigantes (1998) reached JAZZIZ's Latin Jazz Recording top ten, and both this effort and Escucha! (2000), were critically praised.

Bonilla moved on to become a bandleader and has recorded albums of his own.

Recent work

Bonilla has evolved into a Professor of Music, having secured employment from the Manhattan School of Music, and is on the faculty at Temple University and New England Conservatory. He is a member of the Mingus Big Band, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra, and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra.[1] In February 2009, he received two Grammy Awards with the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra (Arturo O'Farrill Dir.)[7] In 2010 he was featured as a classical soloist on The Chamber Wind Music of Jack Cooper (Centaur Records)[8] and as a jazz soloist on the large ensemble recording Coming Through Slaughter - The Bolden Legend (GCR) further showing his diversity as a major trombone artist. He served as both the main producer and a trombone artist on the 2014 CD release Mists: Charles Ives for Jazz Orchestra on the Planet Arts Recording label.

Select Discography

As sideman

With Dave Douglas

With Gerald Wilson

DVD, movies, television


  1. 1 2 3 Bonilla, Luis (2009). "Luis Bonilla; Trombonist, Composer". Official Website. Retrieved 2009-09-18.
  2. Seton Hall Arts Council (October 20, 2009). "Luis Bonilla, Afro-Cuban and Latin Jazz". South orange South Orange Patch. Retrieved 2009-10-09.
  3. Contemporary use, section 2.5 of Trombone, Wikipedia - The Free Encyclopedia
  4. We're Back! LP from CSULA, 1986
  5. Wilkins, Mariah (2009). "Bio: Luis Bonilla". Mariah Wilkins Artist Management LLC. Retrieved 2009-10-09.
  6. Cirelli-Heurich, Julie (April 9, 2009). "Luis Bonilla is a trombonist with a lot on his mind". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2009-10-09.
  7. Yanow, Scott (2000). Afro-Cuban Jazz. Miller Freeman Books. p. 22. ISBN 0-87930-619-X.
  8. Sonata for Trombone, Mov. III - Afro Latin 12/8, composed by Jack Cooper, featuring Luis Bonilla - YouTube
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