Hailed as a “virtuoso composer and guitarist”, Rafael has established himself as a premier guitarist and composer since his arrival in NYC in 2011. Rafael has performed at renowned venues such as the Blue Note Jazz Club, ShapeShifter Lab, DROM, Shrine World Music, The Bitter End, The Rainbow Room, The Metropolitan Room, 54 Below, Dizzy’s Coca Cola Club, The 55 Bar, The Edison Ballroom and Bowery Electric. He has received rave reviews on his playing as a sideman with Tony Award Winning Singer Luba Mason and her project Mixtura, The Prince Of Bollywood Jeffrey Iqbal & Unity Through Music, Cody Geil’s Bon Musique, amongst others.
Originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Rafael taught himself the guitar at age 14. During his time in Puerto Rico, Rafael performed and recorded with local greats such as Eric Figueroa(Batacumbele), Ramon Vazquez(Bakere), Edmar Colon, Jonathan Suazo, Raul Maldonado, Felipe Fournier and his band [menos es mas], who was nominated for Best Jazz Album from ACAM with their self titled album, performing in Festivals all throughout the island. Rafael went on to earn his Master’s degree in Jazz Performance from New York University where he also taught undergraduate students as part of faculty. During his time there, he studied and performed with some of New York City’s top musicians including Kenny Werner, Jean Michel Pilc, John Scofield, Stefon Harris, Alan Ferber, Wayne Krantz, Peter Bernstein, Brad Shepik, Bruce Arnold, Tony Moreno, Mike Rodriguez, Alan Ferber, Miguel Zenon amongst other teaching artists. He was also invited to perform with the Afro-Peruvian Group “Karachacha” and guest artist Dave Pietro as part of the 2013 Jazz Educators Network Annual Conference (JEN) in Atlanta, Georgia amongst other performances including playing with Kenny Werner’s Group At The Blue Note Jazz Club.
An accomplished composer, Rafael’s debut as a leader “Portrait” (2014) was co-produced by Multi-Grammy Award Winning Bassist/Composer John Benitez and was awarded 4 stars from both international and local publications. He is currently putting the finishing touches on his second album as a leader titled “Axiomatic: Music For The People” set to be released 2019, and gearing up to play Ecuador JazzFest 2019.
Rafael is passionate about teaching and believes in unifying the ears, heart and mind, for a super fun and healthy relationship with music. He has extensive experience working with students of all ages and skill levels and deeply believes in engaging his students in a conversation about music by working with them on things that excite them the most, while also providing his own vast knowledge of music and its creative potential.