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Music album sales in the U.S. have dropped by more than half since 2007. In 2016, the number of album sales, including CD's, digital-only releases, cassettes (yes, they're still a thing), and vinyl was approximately 200.5 million units, down from over 500 million units sold in 2007, according to . Of that number, 26% were physical product (vinyl, CD's, and cassettes), while the rest were streaming. So last year, close to 50 million physical CD's were sold in the U.S. Jazz hovers around the low end of the sales spectrum genre-wise, accounting for around 2% of total album sales. Facing these odds, any jazz artist today who is putting out an album is very brave. But if you're a musical artist, what else are you going to do with your creative output? An artist must create, statistics be damned.

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Latin Jazz pianist Oscar Hernandez, founder of Spanish Harlem Orchestra and former musical director for Rubén Blades, has released a new recording, The Art of Latin Jazz, released on the Origin label. A veteran performer who has appeared on hundreds of albums by others, this is the first album under Oscar Hernandez's own name. “I have always been busy doing other things,” Hernandez explains as to what took so long. Those “other things” include winning three Grammys. The Art of Latin Jazz is definitely Grammy-winning quality. The album features Hernandez's L.A.-based band: drummer Jimmy Branly, percussionist Christian Moraga, bassist Sawa Perez, saxophonist Justo Almario, and features a special guest appearance by trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos from San Diego. The album release party is Friday, March 24 at The Blue Whale. The band will also appear at the Thousand Oaks Civic Plaza PAC on Saturday, March 18.

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Vocalist Mari Nobre's new release is called Live and Alive on the Chrome Records label. The album, recorded live at her band's May 27, 2016 performance at the Jan Popper Theater at UCLA, features the omnipresent Justo Almario on sax and flute, Mari's husband, bassist Leo Nobre, fine piano work from Daniel Szabo, Angelo Metz on guitar, and Mari on vocal. The band stretches out on classic Latin and Jazz selections including “Chega De Saudade,” “Frenesi,” “Fascinating Rhythm,” “Corcovodo,” as well as on an original composition, “Linda.” “I think that this release is a very special one because it is a live album, and in an era of so much auto-tuning and second takes, I wanted to offer something real and raw,” says Ms. Nobre. “I am presenting this album exactly how the live concert happened.” The album release event is being planned for May, and will be announced on Mari's web site

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Vocalist Anita Robles is releasing a new album, The Good News, Even on Rainy Days on her own Anababe Music label. Consisting of six previously-released selections and four new ones, the album features classic songs including Body and Soul, In My Life, and Contigo Aprendi done Latin Jazz style, along with Anita's pop and inspirational originals. Backing musicians include jazz heavyweights Mitch Forman, Larry Williams, Dori Amarilio, Aaron Serfaty, John Belzaguy, Rico Belled, Richie Gajate-Garcia, Ramon Stagnaro, and the ever-present Justo Almario on flute. The CD release show takes place in Eagle Rock at Columbo's on Saturday, March 25.

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Other great new releases sure to delight your ears include guitarist Pat Kelley's Sing Me Back Home, bassist Kristin Korb's Beyond the Moon, pianist Bill Anschell's Rumbler, and Organic Trio's Saturn's Spell featuring guitarist Brian Seeger.

Thanks to all artists who continue to bring the world wonderful new sounds.

And the Ritmo Caliente goes on...

Listen to good music. It's out there. Seek and ye shall find.

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Mark Towns is a staff writer and columnist you can contact him at