Category Archives: Obituaries

Les Moncada Remembers Latin Trumpet Legend Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros Sr.

When it comes to the Latin music world, the living legend of trumpet players was Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros Sr., who passed on January 6, 2016 at the age of 87 years.

“Chocolate,” as we will refer to him. was born in in Santa Clara, Cuba on April 4, 1928 and resided in Brooklyn, New York. In his musical life Chocolate played with so many orchestras; too many to mention. Chocolate performed with Beny More, Arsenio Rodriguez, the Machito Orchestra, Israel “Cachao” Lopez, Generoso
Jimenez, Larry Harlow and so many more.

According to timbalero great, Mario Grillo son of the famed Latin Orchestra leader, Frank Grillo “Machito”: “These are all the countries Chocolate Armenteros toured with me when we were in my father’s Machito Latin Orchestra: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, England, France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, Puerto Rico. The USA from Coast to Coast. We covered 35 cities in Europe. We traveled by bus, train, plane, ferry; we covered 15,000 miles in weeks.”

Mario stated that he is going to be 60 years old on St. Patrick’s Day and that he had known Chocolate for almost 60 years. Mario spoke of Chocolate with the utmost regard and said that Chocolate was family to his father and himself; that his sister Paula Grillo (former vocalist with the Machito Orchestra) and Alfredo Armenteros Jr. were baptized at the same church same day.

Mario Grillo: “When Mario Bauza and Graciela left my father’s Machito orchestra in 1975, they wanted Chocolate to go play with them in Mario Bauza’s Orchestra. Chocolate turned them down and chose to play with my father’s (Machito) orchestra. He was a very important person in my life and in many other people’s life. His talent was quite unique.

There are 1 million trumpet players on this earth; the minute he put his lips on that trumpet you knew it was Chocolate, just with his approach and concept. Chocolate was the greatest and most pleasant person; he was my friend and mentor. Mario Bauza had taught him my father’s music book (charts) and he taught me the book. He knew it full and well, he knew how my father’s orchestra worked and its approach and concept.”

 

Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros Sr. with the "queen" of salsa Celia Cruz - Photo courtesy of Alfredo Armenteros Jr.
Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros Sr. with the “queen” of salsa Celia Cruz – Photo courtesy of Alfredo Armenteros Jr.

 

Mario Grillo: “When you have a sound like Chocolate, how could you go wrong? He knew the roots of that orchestra.

I had dinner with many musicians and people, and dinner at the craziest of places. I even had dinner with Tito Puente. Whenever I would go out to dinner with Chocolate, it was complete, because he was complete. We would have a cocktail, an appetizer, a salad, soup, entrée, dessert and a digestif (an after dinner drink).

Chocolate recorded 3 albums for my father’s orchestra (Machito) and 2 studio recordings and he was on the North Sea Jazz Festival album recorded in Holland.

Even when no one wanted him as a roommate, when we were touring in Venezuela with the Machito Orchestra, I said he could be my room mate; we were in Venezuela for 10 days. I did not sleep for 10 days, when my wife came to pick me up at the airport she asked what had happened to me. She said I looked like a raccoon, with black under my eyes (Mario laughs)”.

Another time, Mario had told me about an incident where the promoter had not paid the touring musicians and his father Machito called the promoter and told him they needed to get paid, that Machito told the promoter that he had enough cash to fly all the musicians home and that if the promoter did not show up at the next city with cash for all the musicians, they were flying home and canceling the tour. Mario said that the promoter did show up and Mario did pay all the musicians.

With their payday, Mario said that Chocolate told him, “Let’s go have dinner”. Mario said that he and Chocolate spent $500.00 on dinner.

Mario was getting emotional talking about Chocolate. Mario Grillo: “When my father passed, I had the vote of confidence emotionally and physically from Chocolate and he came to our house after the funeral.

If you had a chance to see Chocolate, you saw the greatest thing, and if you didn’t you lose out!”

 

 Chocolate y su sexteto - Rompiendo Hielo

Chocolate y su sexteto – Rompiendo Hielo

 

Miguel “Pacha” Pozo, leader of Charanga Pacha in New York City, Jose Fajardo Sr. Charanga Orchestra: “I never had the pleasure to perform with Chocolate but 2 years ago he was part of the Jose Fajardo Awards and still at 84 he sounded great. The sound that he got out of the trumpet was awesome, he will be missed.”

Patricia Thumas, pianist from San Francisco, California: “I did a gig long ago with Tito Garca’s Orchestra and Chocolate had flown in from Miami and did the gig with us, It was a blast!”

Cid Govanni Ramos, Latin percussionist from Puerto Rico, member of Facebook’s Timbales Congas Bongo Bata & Bells: “Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros was like the last Mohican of Cuban son-style trumpet player. He played with a lot of people back then in Cuba and in New York with the top salsa artists in the scene, he will be deeply missed.”

 

 Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros Sr. - Photo courtesy of Alfredo Armenteros Jr.
Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros Sr. – Photo courtesy of Alfredo Armenteros Jr.

 

Faustino Cruz, timbalero, bongosero, Latin music historian & musicologist, and Latin instrument historian, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania via New York City: “Chocolate a heartfelt moment. We worked together for quite some time in the Joe Cotto Orquesta. I remember him calling me Joe Cotto’s son because I was the youngest member of the band at the time. We had great times. “

Tito Rodriguez Jr., timbalero, orchestra leader, son of the great Tito Rodriguez Sr.: “Chocolate will be sorely missed not only as a great trumpet player but as a person. He did several recording sessions for my father’s label in the late 70s. He was always smiling when I would run into him at his favorite eating place in El Barrio, New York City. A true legend RIP!

John “Dandy” Rodriguez, legendary bongosero, formerly from Tito Puente Orchestra and currently with MLO The Mambo Legends Orchestra: “Chocolate was a super trumpet player, a super person, always smiling, always dressed sharp, he recorded in Cuba and the United States, he was a one of a kind person, great soloist on his instrument. Chocolate was not a lead trumpet player, but he had a tone, if you closed your eyes; you would know it was Chocolate!

 

 

 

 

Our deepest regards to Alfredo Armenteros Jr.and Family. Chocolate will be greatly missed, although we have his grand recordings to listen to in his memory.

Thanks you to all the great artist that contributed their time and memories to this article. A special thank you to Mario Grillo, you’re too much man, and you had me from tears to laughing the hardest I have laughed in years! (almost like a Hispanic telenovela!)

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Celebrated Flamenco Singer Manuel Agujetas Dies at 76

Manuel Agujetas
Manuel Agujetas – Photo by Morgan Smith

 

One of Spain’s best known flamenco vocalists, Manuel de los Santos Pastor, better known as ‘Agujetas’ or ‘Agujetas de Jerez’, passed away December 25 at the Hospital del Servicio Andaluz de Salud in Jerez de la Frontera. He was 76 years old.

Manuel Agujetas was an exceptional singer. He was born in Jerez de la Frontera (some biographies indicate Rota) in 1939. He grew up in the Spanish Gypsy tradition of singing blacksmiths. His father, known as ‘Agujetas Viejo’ introduced him to the singing style of masters such as Manuel Torre, Tío José de Paula and El Marruro.

Agujetas worked in his father’s forge until 1970, when he made his first recording. He achieved international recognition for his singing of the superbly intense form of flamenco called cante jondo (deep song) that includes flamenco’s purest, ancient styles such as martinetes and siguiriyas.

Manuel Agujetas was the father of singers Dolores Agujetas and Antonio Agujetas. He recorded over 13 albums, including his debut titled ‘Viejo cante jondo’ (1972) and his most recent, a 5-volume anthology titled ‘Agujetas: Historia, Pureza y Vanguardia del Flamenco’ (2012).

Agujetas also appeared in Carlos Saura’s influential movie “Flamenco” and was the subject of Dominique Abel’s documentary “Agujetas, Cantaor”.

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New Orleans Legend Allen Toussaint Dies in Madrid at 77

Allen Toussaint
Allen Toussaint

 

Pianist, singer-songwriter, composer and producer Allen Toussaint passed away this morning, November 10, 2015 in Madrid after a live performance. Shortly after his concert at the Teatro Lara in Madrid, the iconic New Orleans artist suffered a cardiac arrest when he was back at his hotel. The medical team managed to resuscitate him, but after being transferred to the Jimenez Diaz Foundation Hospital he died.

Allen Toussaint has a tremendous influence on American music, reaching deep into the genres of rhythm and blues, pop, country, musical theater, blues and jazz. Some of the best known hits written by Toussaint include: Ernie K-Doe’s “Mother-in-Law;” “Fortune Teller,” recorded by both Benny Spellman and The Rolling Stones; the Lee Dorsey hit “Working in the Coal Mine”, also recorded by Devo and The Judds; and “Southern Nights,” recorded by Glen Campbell.

Toussaint produced such artists as Etta James, Albert King, Chocolate Milk, The Meters, LaBelle, Ramsey Lewis, John Mayall and Dr. John, and has been covered by and/or performed with the Pointer Sisters, Bonnie Raitt, The Judds, Robert Palmer, Otis Redding, The O’Jays, Boz Scaggs, Johnny Winter, Ringo Starr, Paul Simon, Chet Atkins, Lenny Kravitz and Elvis Costello, among others.

In the past decade, Toussaint achieved additional notoriety thanks to the support of Elvis Costello, with whom he recorded the album The River in Reverse (2006). Toussaint also appeared in the popular HBO series Treme.

Video of Allen Toussaint’s last live performance:

 

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Top Percussionist Raul Rekow Dies in California

Raul Rekow
Raul Rekow – Photo courtesy of LP Percussion

 

American percussionist Raul Rekow passed away November 1st, 2015. Rekow was a member of the Carlos Santana band from 1976 through 2013 (with a two-year break).

Raul Rekow was born Junw 10, 1954 in San Francisco. At the age of 15, Rekow played Santana songs in a band called Soul Sacrifice. After that, he became a member of Malo, Jorge Santana’s band (Carlos Santana’s brother). Later, from 1972 to 1976 Rekow played in Sapo, another Chicano rock band.

Rekow learned Afro-Cuban percussion from Santana veterans Armando Peraza and Orestes Vilato.

In 1976, Santana invited Rekow to record in the album “Festival” as a substitute for the ailing Armando Peraza.

Raul Rekow also recorded and performed with Aretha Franklin, Patti Labelle, Whitney Houston, Tremaine Hawkins, Herbie Hancock and others.

Musical instrument maker Latin Percussion (LP) worked with Rekow to create the LP Raul Rekow Signature congas and bongos.

Carlos Santana released a statement on his Facebook page: “We mourn the loss of my brother, Raul Rekow. He was an integral member of Santana for 34 years and the heartbeat of the band. His presence on the stage was one of power, grace, collaboration and joy. He redefined what it means to be a conga player. My heart goes out to his family. Raul, may you soar in heaven in the company of your Mom and Dad.”

 

 

Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy issued this press release today: “An eight-time GRAMMY winner with the legendary band Santana, Raul Rekow was a top percussionist whose passion for his craft was unmatched. In addition to his remarkable work with Santana, Raul showcased his immense talents performing with artists including Aretha Franklin, Herbie Hancock, Whitney Houston, Patti LaBelle, and many more.

Our music community has lost a uniquely gifted talent, and our deepest condolences go out to his family, friends, and all those who had the privilege and honor of working with him.”

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Lindisfarne Guitarist Simon Cowe Dies in Canada

Simon Cowe
Simon Cowe

Lindisfarne announced the passing of Simon Cowe in their official web page: “It is with great sadness that we have to tell you that our dear friend and colleague Simon Cowe has died yesterday, 30th September. Simon had been ill for some time, and was being cared for in hospital in Toronto, a city he had made his home since the early nineties. At the moment we don’t have the words to express how we feel. Our thoughts are with his children Jessie, Dylan, and Bernadette.”

Lindisfarne is a British progressive folk rock band from Newcastle upon Tyne founded in 1968. The original line-up included Alan Hull on vocals, guitar, piano; Ray Jackson on vocals, mandolin, harmonica; Simon Cowe on guitar, mandolin, banjo, keyboards; Rod Clements on bass, violin; and Ray Laidlaw on drums.

Lindisfarne released several influential albums, including Nicely Out of Tune (1970), Fog on the Tyne (1971) which became the biggest selling UK album in 1972, Dingly Dell (1972) and Back and Fourth (1978).

 

 

Simon Cowe had been working for the last years in the brewery business in Ontario, Canada, and was recognized as a master brewer.

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Mariem Hassan’s Farewell

Mariem Hassan - Photo by Lucia Dominguez
Mariem Hassan – Photo by Lucia Dominguez

 

Aware that she had few weeks left to live, Mariem Hassan read a farewell to her family, friends and fans. Manuel Dominguez, Mariem’s producer and friend explains what happened in the last few months: “Some months ago, Mariem decided to stop chemotherapy; her liver was severely damaged, and she placed herself in the hands of Mulana “(God). In late February 2015, taking advantage of the end of the chemotherapy, she returned to the refugee camps to participate in a Congress of Culture. She presented her “Farewell” and was only able to read, because she did not feel well enough to sing. However, the next day, just before heading back to Spain, she sang it a capella for me in her tent and I recorded it. I uploaded that “Farewell” to YouTube with a montage of photos she had done in May 2014, also in her tent.

 

 

Mariem had great faith in the healing properties of camel milk and when she got back tests, they showed an improvement that encouraged her. Therefore, as soon as she could, she returned to Camp Smara (Tinduf, Algeria) and joined her family, including her 103 year-old mother, her sister Kaltum (who carries the weight of the organization of the tent and the family) and nieces and nephews. They prepared a tent and went to the Mjeriz area in the “liberated territories” of Western Sahara, outside of the wall built by Morocco and therefore beyond the control of the invader.

There, Javier Corcuera filmed a couple of songs for a film on Saharawi music. Javier told me that to get to that place, Hassan, Mariem’s nephew, had to travel to Smara Camp with a four-wheel drive to pickup the 4-man crew. They would only let them leave with an escort during the three days they were away. They were escorted by an Algerian military Land Rover. The journey through the desert roads lasted 14 hours. Without the help of Hassan they would have never found the location where the tent had been erected.

Staying in the pure wilderness, Mariem felt even better. Agaila, her youngest daughter, who is a nurse, kept me up to date on the situation. A month ago, Agaila informed me that Mariem had gotten worse and she wanted to leave to go to the camps to await death. It caught us by surprise while we were in Berlin. On August 5, Zazie [Manuel’s partner] and I went to Sabadell to say goodbye. We spent the day with her and found her completely lucid. I even played for her some of the songs that we recorded and have not yet been published. The next day, she traveled with her daughter Fatimetu to Tinduf, and three days later her daughter Agaila followed. This past Monday, Bachir, her husband, called me and said that he was going to travel to the camps because Mariem’s health was worsening. They had to take her twice to Rabuni hospital (located in the camps).

Mariem finally died yesterday in her tent, calm and surrounded by her family.”

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Saharawi Music Star Mariem Hassan Dies in Refugee Camps

Mariem Hassan Photo by Lucia Dominguez
Mariem Hassan – Photo by Lucia Dominguez

 

Mariem Hassan, one of the leading artists in the Saharawi music scene, passed away this morning, August 22, 2015, in the refugee camps near Tinduf (Algeria). “Mariem Hassan died this morning in the Saharawi refugee camps near Tinduf (Algeria), surrounded by her family,” said Manuel Dominguez, her longtime producer, manager and friend. Although she had been living in Spain for many years, she chose to spend her last days with her family in the refugee camps in the Sahara.

Mariem Hassan was born in 1958 in Ued Tazua in Smara in what was then the Spanish Sahara. She was the third of a total of 10 siblings of a nomadic camel and goat herding family.

Even though Mariem’s family was not an igawen (griot) family, music was an important part of their family life. Her father had a good voice but the artistic ability came from her mother’s side. Her aunt Zaina was a well-known singer and dancer, her uncle Bushad was a poet and her mother used to sing on birthday celebrations, weddings, and othe occasions. Among her brothers, Boika Hassan is a talented guitar player and Mohamed Salem, a poet.

In 1975, following Morocco’s Green March to occupy the Western Sahara and the Madrid Accords which ceded the territory to Morocco and Mauritania, Mariam traveled with her family, first to Mjeriz and later to the Saharawi refugee camps in Tinduf, Algeria, where she worked as nurse. She lived in the camps until 2002, when for work and health reasons she moved to Spain, first to Barcelona and eventually to Sabadell, where she lived with her husband and sons.

The Western Sahara’s “Frente Polisario” realized the necessity of having a permanent group of musicians with clear political ideas that could help with the international promotion of their affairs. That’s how the group “El Uali” came into life. Mariem immediately became part of the group and traveled with them to various countries to take part in cultural events of a high political influence.

“El Uali” recorded four or five albums in different countries, always with the help of the solidarity committee concerned. Among these albums “Polisario Vencerá” stands out, which was produced by Mohamed Tami, Saharawi Minister of Education from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s. Originally, it was released by Spanish label Guimbarda in 1982, then again in 1998 by Madrid-based world music label Nubenegra.

 

Mariem Hassan
Mariem Hassan

 

In 1998, Mariem’s voice appeared in some songs of the album A pesar de las heridas (Despite the Wounds). Among these, the “Canción de la Intifada” song stands out and became the most impressive song on the tours by the band Leyoad, who recorded for the Nubenegra label.

Mariem Hassan started her solo career with the album Mariem Hassan con Leyoad. Music critics unanimously recognized her as the best voice of the Western Sahara, a fact which Mariem Hassan proved once again with the release of the album Medej in May 2004.

In 2005, she was diagnosis with cancer and had surgery in Spain. After an absence of six months, Mariem Hassan released Deseos (Nubenegra), featuring Baba Salama and her brother Boika on guitars and percussionist Fatta, three of the finest musicians coming out of the refugee camps in Tinduf.

 

cover of Mariem Hassan's album Deseos
Mariem Hassan – Deseos

 

In 2007, Mariem was featured in the documentary film, Mariem Hassan, la voz del Sáhara. Her album Shouka (The Thorn) was released in 2010.

 

 

In late March 2012, she released El Aaiun Egdat (El Aaiun on fire), inspired by the Saharawi protests during and after the Gdeim Izik protest camp and the “Arab Spring.”

 

Cover of Mariem Hassan's Soy Saharaui graphic novel
Mariem Hassan Soy Saharaui graphic novel

 

In October 2014, Calamar Edicion y Diseño published Hassan’s official biography in the form of a graphic novel, Mariem Hassan – Soy Saharaui, written and illustrated by Italian authors Gianluca Diana, Andromalis, and Federica Marzioni.

Mariem Hassan’s most recent recording is Baila Sahara Baila (Nubenegra, 2015).

 

Read a rare interview with Mariem Hassan.

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Gnawa Musician Mahmoud Guinia Has Died

Mahmoud Guinia
Mahmoud Guinia
Gnawa sintir musician and pioneer Mahmoud Guinia passed away Sunday, August 2nd after a prolonged illness. Mr. Guinia was 64.

Considered the Godfather of Gnawan music, Mr. Guinia was born in 1951 in Essawira (Essaouira) and was a major force for Gnawa music tradition in Morocco. Mr. Guinia started playing the sintir (also known as sentir and guimbri), a plucked stringed lute, at the age of 12. His passion for music was passed down from his famed father musician Maallem Boubker Guinia who died in 2000. Earning the title of Maallem or master, his brothers Moktar Guinia and Abdella Guinia have also achieved the title of Maallem of the Essawira style of the Saouiri style.

Mr. Guinia would go on to travel worldwide and spread the riches Gnawa music at music festivals in France, Japan and the United States, often collaborating with the likes of Carlos Santana, Aly Keita, Adam Rudolph and Will Calhoun.

He started playing sintir at the age of 12, and is regarded as a master of fusion music by virtue of his participation in various worldwide festivals in France, Japan, Italy and the US along with Carlos Santana, Pharoah Sanders, Peter Brotzmann, Adam Rudolph, Will Calhoun, Issaka Sow and Aly Keita.

His recordings include a live concert of the Lila ceremonies along with some studio sessions on the Moroccan Fikriphone label, Tichkaphone on the Sonodisc label and Musique Tanawite.

Mr. Guinia is survived by his wife Malika and children Bouchra, Houssam and Hamza.

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Cuban Rumba Master Papo Angarica Dies in Havana

 Papo Angarica
Papo Angarica
Papo Angarica, an icon of Cuban rumba passed away July 20th in Havana of respiratory failure caused by chronic renal failure.

Mario Diaz Angarica was until his death the director of the Son Yoruba ensemble and worked as a consultant to several folk groups from Cuba and Latin America.

Born in Havana on July 18, 1942, Angarica learned much from his father, Nicolas Angarica Matanzas, who gave him his first drum at four years of age.

Papo Angarica had a long career that included teaching new generations about the foundations of the Yoruba religion, through its songs and ritual drumming.

As a percussionist, he is recognized as one of the leading artists who used African rhythms in Cuban popular music. His most significant achievements is the album Lozun Osun.

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Celebrated blues and soul singer Mighty Sam McClain Dies at 72

Mighty Sam McClain
Mighty Sam McClain

 

American blues and soul singer Mighty Sam McClain died on June 16, 2015. The 72 year-old Grammy nominated artist suffered a stroke and passed away according to family members.

Born in Monroe, Louisiana, Sam McClain started out his music career at the tender age of 5 singing gospel at church. He would leave home at 13 following what was known at the Chitlin’ Circuit and working first as an assistant to the R&B guitarist Little Melvin Underwood before taking the stage as a vocalist at 15.

In 1966 Mr. McClain would record a version of Patsy Cline’s “Sweet Dreams,” before recording singles for the Muscle Shoals recording studio like “Fannie-May” and “In the Same Old Way.” He would shuffle from the streets of Nashville, Tennessee and New Orleans, Louisiana, many times finding only low-wage and menial work before hooking a tour of Japan in 1989 that would result in the recording Live in Japan with Wayne Bennett.

 

 

Mr. McClain would eventually settle in New England where he collaborated on the “Hubert Sumlin Blues Party project. He later signed with Telarc Blues after a stint with AudioQuest Music and Sledgehammer Blues. Throughout his career he would record 17 albums that include Your Perfect Companion, Give It Up to Love, Soul Survivor: The Best of Mighty Sam McClain, Sweet Dreams, One More Bridge to Cross and the recordings Scent of Reunion: Love Duets across Civilizations and A Deeper Tone of Longing: Love Duets across Civilizations with the Iranian singer Mahsa Vahdat on the Kirkelig Kulturverksted label.

 

 

Having struggled with homelessness and substance abuse, Mr. McClain was a performer for the homeless project Give Us Your Poor, co-wrote “Show Me the Way” with musician Scott Shelter and performed for the project at Lincoln Center and The Kennedy Center, as well as performed on Songs from a Stolen Spring that paired western musicians with artists from the Arab Spring. Mr. McClain was paired with Egyptian musician Ramy Essam and the pair created a track melding “If I Can Dream” and Mr. Essam’s “Bread, Freedom.

His family has requested that condolences be sent to PO Box 322, Newmarket, NH 03857

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