An alumnus of San Jose City College and its City College Big Band, Cuenca moved to New York City when she was 21 at the encouragement of drummer and former teacher Victor Lewis. She saw and spoke with Joe Henderson at one of his Village Vanguard shows, and he remembered her from the time he was a guest with the City College Big Band. The tenor titan also recalled her prodigious playing and invited her to tour in his band.
Another of Cuenca’s bandleader bosses was legendary trumpeter/flugelhornist/vocalist Clark Terry, in whose big band and quintet she gigged in the ’90s and 2000s. She’s also shared the bandstand with other late greats including tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker and vocalists Etta Jones and Ernestine Anderson.
For 2018 Summer Fest, she’ll lead an inventive quartet with Paul Hanson from the bay area who will be playing bassoon (with effects) and soprano saxophone, from New York City pianist Peter Zak and bassist Essiet Okon Essiet. It promises to be a hard swinging affair at high noon!