Bob Karty

Short Bio

Pianist and composer Bob Karty has performed with top artists in the San Francisco Bay Area jazz and world music scenes, including Grammy-nominated Latin jazz masters Ray Obiedo and Pete Escovedo. He has collaborated with world-renowned percussionists Karl Perazzo (Santana) and Michael Spiro on numerous projects including the salsa band Conjunto Karabalí and, with Spiro, the world-jazz sextet Tanaóra. With Orquesta La Moderna Tradición, Bob recorded three critically-acclaimed CDs featuring the Cuban danzón, the island’s official national music and dance style, and performed at major festivals across the USA for nearly sixteen years.

Bob’s current project is his first as leader and composer and his first outside the worlds of Latin and Brazilian music. His wide-ranging contemporary jazz compositions will be featured on an upcoming CD featuring drummer Mark Walker of the seminal jazz group Oregon and long-time Pat Metheny Group bassist Steve Rodby.

Bob teaches at the California Jazz Conservatory in Berkeley and at his home studio in Oakland. His web site is

  • “ A pianist with big ears and supple style…” Alexa Weber Morales, Think Song, review of Tanaóra’s CD ‘Dia Real’.
  • “Karty anchors the group with a tasteful approach to harmonies, a lyrical improvisation approach, and a swinging montuno. His voice remains supportively present throughout the recording, consistently guiding the group through their diverse repertoire.” Chip Boaz, The Latin Jazz Corner, review of Tanaóra’s CD ‘Dia Real’.
  • “Karty’s piano playing was particularly spectacular…” Anne Herman, Alaska Daily News, review of a concert by Orquesta La Moderna Tradición.

Click here to request a resumé.

Longer-form Bio

Current Projects

My current focus is my first recording as leader and composer and my first outside the worlds of Latin and Brazilian music. My wide-ranging contemporary jazz compositions will be featured on an upcoming CD featuring drummer Mark Walker of the seminal jazz group Oregon and long-time Pat Metheny Group bassist Steve Rodby.

I perform in groups led by internationally-known guitarist and composer Ray Obiedo, including Mistura Fina (Brazilian and Latin jazz featuring singer Sandy Cressman) and Mambo Caribe (instrumental Latin and Caribbean jazz tinged with East Bay funk). Ray is a Billboard Top-Ten Contemporary Jazz recording artist who has worked with Herbie Hancock, Sheila E, Pete Escovedo, Julian Priester, Pee-Wee Ellis, and Bob Mintzer, among many others.

I also work with Latin jazz pioneer Pete Escovedo. Pete is a Grammy-nominated percussionist and bandleader, Concord Jazz recording artist, and legend of West Coast Latin Jazz (as well as father of celebrated percussionist and former Prince band member Sheila E).

I was a founding member of Conjunto Karabalí, a salsa band co-led by percussionist Karl Perazzo of the Carlos Santana Band and renowned percussionist Michael Spiro and performed with them for 15 years. Karabali is comprised of top musicians in the Bay Area jazz and Latin music scenes, including former Santana brass Bill Ortiz and Jeff Cressman.


I’ve been on the faculty of the California Jazz Conservatory (formerly The Jazzschool) since 2002. I currently teach classes in jazz piano at the Community Music School. Previously I’ve taught Beginning Music Theory, Salsa/Latin piano (beginning and advanced classes), Comping for Keyboardists, Latin Ensemble, and workshops in music transcription and a survey of Cuban piano.

I also have a private teaching practice in Oakland, CA.

Previous Projects

I was a founding member of Orquesta La Moderna Tradición, one of the few charanga orchestras outside of Cuba, co-founded by Cuban dance and percussion master Roberto Borrell and violinist Tregar Otton. (Charangas feature violins and flute instead of the brass instruments in typical Cuban dance bands.) I played piano, sang background, arranged, and recorded three CDs with this 11-piece group over nearly sixteen years (1996-2012).

Initially founded as a repertory orchestra specializing in classic instrumental Cuban danzón and cha-cha-cha, LMT recorded two CDs featuring these styles, ‘Danzonemos’ and ‘Goza Conmigo’. After Borrell left in 2004, the group added singers and expanded its repertoire, incorporating modern Cuban music styles such as timba. These changes were showcased in our third CD ‘En Canto’, which I co-produced, engineered, edited, and mixed.

From 2006-2011 I co-led the world-jazz group Tanaóra with singer-songwriter Cecilia Engelhart and internationally-known percussionist Michael Spiro. Our CD ‘Día Real’ (which I co-produced and also helped record, edit, and mix) featured Cecilia’s original songs, blending Latin, Caribbean, Brazilian, and American jazz and popular music forms. The band also included Bay Area stalwarts David Belove (bass), the late Ron Stallings (saxes), and the late Paul Van Wageningen (drums).

From 2000-2010, I performed and recorded with Candela, one of the top salsa bands in the Bay Area, led by singer, percussionist, and songwriter Edgardo Cambon.

From 2002-2003, I performed with Avance, another of the top salsa bands in the Bay Area, led by Santana percussionist Karl Perazzo and singer-songwriter Armando Cordoba. The CD ‘Seguimos’, on which I played piano, was nominated for a Bammy award.

From 1996-2002, I performed with Anthony Blea y Su Charanga (formerly ‘Charanson’), led by the virtuoso violinist, and played on the CD ‘Virgen de la Caridad’.

For additional recording credits, please see the Discography page.

Engineering and Production

In addition to projects in which I both performed and engineered, I’ve also done some engineering-only work. Most notably, in 2009 I traveled with the SFJazz Collective as recording engineer for their West Coast tour, which was released as ‘Live 2009’, a 2-CD set featuring the music of McCoy Tyner. This esteemed group included Joe Lovano (tenor sax), Dave Douglas (trumpet), Miguel Zenon (alto sax), Robin Eubanks (trombone), Renee Rosnes (piano), Eric Harland (drums), and Matt Penman (bass).

I’ve also been the mastering engineer for recordings by Ray Obiedo, Michael Spiro, Jorge Alabe, and Tom Graf. Visit the Discography page for my mastering credits.


I was born and raised in St. Louis MO, and began classical piano lessons at age five. I attended college at M.I.T. and Reed College, earned a BA in Biology from Reed, and worked in biology research for six years before taking the leap to pursue my dream of being a musician.

Highlights of my music education include private lessons with Art Lande, Mark Levine, Andrew Hill, and Marcos Silva; studies of Afro-Cuban folkloric percussion and song with Regino Jimenez at the Stanford Summer Dance Intensive (1991); and further studies in Afro-Cuban music at the ‘Afrocubanismo’ workshops at the Banff Centre for the Arts, Alberta, Canada (1994 & 1996). These ten-day residential workshops provided around-the-clock immersion in AfroCuban music, dance, and culture with top Cuban artists and lecturers. I attended classes in piano taught by Jesus ‘Chucho’ Valdes, percussion taught by members of Los Muñequitos de Matanzas, and charanga ensemble taught by legendary flautist, composer, arranger and Orquesta Aragón member Richard Egües, and performed with members of Irakere and Los Muñequitos. While a student, I was invited by the instructors to accompany classes taught by Carlos Del Puerto (bassist with seminal Cuban jazz band Irakere) at the 1994 workshop and by flautist Richard Egües at the 1996 workshop.