Puerto-Rican American Latin jazz flutist Dave Valentin passed away today, March 8, 2017 in New York City.
Valentin was born in The Bronx neighborhood in New York City to Puerto-Rican parents. At 12 he started playing the flute and received music lessons from Hubert Laws.
Throughout the 1970s, Valentin played jazz and Latin jazz in various well-known bands. He also released numerous solo albums for the GRP and Highnote labels.
“Dave Valentin was a dedicated flutist and innovator of crossover jazz. Under the mentorship of Hubert Laws, the New York native developed a signature sound by combining the influences of R&B, pop, and Brazilian music to create a specialized form of Latin jazz,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. “After his recording debut with Ricardo Marrero’s group, he went on to collaborate and perform with Tito Puente, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, Bill O’Connell, and Dave Samuels, among others. In 2002 he teamed with Samuels for the Caribbean Jazz Project album The Gathering, which won a GRAMMY® for Best Latin Jazz Album. His 2005 album World On A String and 2011 album Pure Imagination each received Latin GRAMMY nominations for Best Latin Jazz Album. Our thoughts go out to Dave’s family, friends, and fellow colleagues.”
In March of 2012 Valentin suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and unable to perform.
The Krakow appearance of the Arturo Sandoval Sextet at Centrum Kijów kicked off spring, which, thanks to Letni Festiwal Jazzowy Piwnicy pod Baranami (http://www.cracjazz.com/pl/) [Cellar under the Rams Summer Jazz Festival], arrived unusually early this year. Cuban and afro rhythms warmed us and infected us with dance fever throughout the two-hour performance.
Arturo Sandoval had such a great time onstage with music and rhythm that it would have been a shame for us to enjoy ourselves any less.
The performance also featured several jazz ballads, performed solo by Sandoval, on the piano; reminiscences of Dizzy Gillespie, a great friend and mentor of Sandoval’s who died in 1993.; a short but comical and substantial lecture, “What is bebop?”; and Sandoval’s excellent sense of humor. Thus no element of jazz was lacking.
Sandoval also returned to his classic repertoire, from which he had departed on Eternamente Manzanero, his latest album, recorded with Jorge Calandrelli, which was dominated by romantic ballads and even pop sounds.
Anyone wishing to be reminded of the mood of the Krakow concert would be well advised to dig To a Finland Station (1982) out of his or her vinyl collection.
In Krakow starring:
John Belzaguy – bass
Tiki Pasillas – percussion
Dave Siegel – keyboard
Johny Friday – drums
Kemuel Roig – piano
Entre Colegas – Andy González (Truth Revolution Records)
Madera Latino: A Latin Jazz Perspective On The Music Of Woody Shaw – Brian Lynch & Various Artists (Hollistic Musicworks)
Canto América – Michael Spiro/Wayne Wallace La Orquesta Sinfonietta (Patois Records)
30 – Trio Da Paz (Zoho)
Recognized as a young genius, Ignacio “Nachito” Herrera stunned Cuban audiences at the age of 12, performing Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 2 with the Havana Symphony Orchestra. Famed Cuban pianist and Buena Vista Social Club member, Ruben Gonzalez invited the 16-year-old Nachito to join him on stage and inspired the teenager to study the traditional rhythms of Cuba. Herrera’s classical grounding, natural abilities, and enthusiasm for his subject paid off. In addition, Herrera has studied with Cuban masters; Chucho Valdes, Ruben Gonzalez & Frank Fernandez.
Following his 1990 Masters Degree in Music from Superior Institute of Art, Havana, Cuba, Nachito Herrera began performing, directing and touring with state-sponsored orchestras and the renowned Tropicana Orchestra. In 1997, he joined Cubanismo, with whom he recorded two albums, eventually becoming the musical director.
Nachito toured Europe, the United States and the Far East with the group and while recording Mardi Gras Mambo in New Orleans, Herrera amazed the Crescent City with his local performances and was named an Honorary Citizen of New Orleans. In 1996, Herrera recorded Ula-Ula, with the renowned Cuban group, Bakuleye, of which he was musical director, producer and composer in addition to winning the Cuban Nobel Prize of the Year for Best Orchestra.
Upon leaving Cubanismo in 2001, Nachito settled in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) of Minnesota, where he gained a following amongst fans of both jazz and Latin music. Now, Herrera’s own band, Puro Cubano includes saxophonist Rodolfo Gomez, bassist Jorge Bringas, veteran percussionist Shai Hayo and master drummer, Gordy Knudtson. Collectively, their credits include working, touring and recording with; Salsa Blanca and the Latin Sounds Orchestra, Celia Cruz, Albita, the Steve Miller Band, Ben Sidran and the renowned Puerto Rican Folklorico group, Proyecto La Plena.
Nachito Herrera’s affection for all types of music is apparent and he often cites the correlations between African rhythms, Cuban guajiras, American jazz, and classical composers. “I love all kinds of music, especially American music, but I love Cuban music the most….I like to combine the older Cuban styles, especially the rhythmic approaches of montunos and tumbaos, with jazz and classical themes. It’s how I see the evolution of Cuban piano,” says Herrera.
Jungle Fire – Jambú (Jungle Fire Music/Nacional Records, 2016)
Los Angeles-based Afro-Latin funk band Jungle Fire is an outstanding collective of musicians from various backgrounds who have played with many well-known artists and musical styles. On their album Jambú, Jungle Fire delivers a sizzling genre-defying combination of Afrobeat, funk, cumbia, Latin jazz, West Coast Latin rock, makossa, and more, featuring an irresistible rhythm section and potent brass section.
The line-up includes Joseph “Joey” Reina on bass; Jud McDaniel on guitar and bass; Patrick Bailey on guitars; bass and Korg MS-20; Sam Halterman on drums; Sam Robles on baritone saxophone; Otto Granillo on trombone; Sean Billings on trumpet; Alberto López on congas, timbales, batá drums, cajón, güiro, flor tom, guacho, guagua, llamador, Moroccan bongo, guijada, qraqeb (karkabas); claps and vocals; Michael Duffy on timbales, bongos, bongó cowbell and claps; Steve Haney on congas, bongó, batá, shekere, güiro, trash lid and tambourine. Special guests: Sandino González-Flores on vocals and Natalia González on vocals.
Widely acknowledged among the greatest congueros of his generation, Giovanni Hidalgo was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1963, first taking up the drums five years later
The son of the noted percussionist Jose “Manengue” Hidalgo, he was educated in Latin rhythms from childhood onward, and as a teen regularly walked to local gigs with his congas strapped to his back. He soon caught the attention of the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, touring in his United Nations All-Star Orchestra for four years.
Hidalgo also became a noted session player, recording with Freddie Hubbard, Paul Simon and Mickey Hart’s Planet Drum project. In 1992, he recorded his debut solo LP, Villa Hidalgo; Worldwide followed a year later.
1997’s Hands of Rhythm collaboration with pianist Michel Camilo, earned Hidalgo a Grammy nomination in the Best Latin Jazz Album category.
His Greatest Hits collection followed the next year.
Berklee College of Music presented an honorary doctor of music degree to Giovanni Hidalgo in 2010. Hidalgo taught in Berklee’s percussion department from 1992-1996.
Bobby Sanabria is a drummer, percussionist, composer, arranger, recording artist, and educator who has performed with many of the leading figures in the world of Jazz and Latin music. Sanabria has performed and recorded with such legends as Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaría, Paquito D’Rivera, Ray Barretto, Candido, Arturo Sandoval, Henry Threadgill, Larry Harlow, and the Godfather of Afro-Cuban jazz, Mario Bauzá, as well as with his own critically acclaimed ensemble, Ascension.
Sanabria, the son of Puerto Rican parents, was born and raised in New York City’s South Bronx. Inspired and encouraged by maestro Tito Puente, another fellow New York-born Puerto Rican, Bobby “got serious” and attended Boston’s Berklee College of Music from 1975 to 1979, obtaining a bachelor of music degree. He received their prestigious Faculty Association Award for his work as an instrumentalist. Since his graduation, Bobby has become a leader in the Afro-Cuban and Jazz fields as both drummer and percussionist and is recognized as one of the most articulate scholars of ‘la tradicion’. His most critically praised work has been with the famed Mario Bauzá and his Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, with whom he has recorded three CDs, considered to be the definitive works of the Afro-Cuban big-band Jazz tradition.
Sanabria has been the recipient of many awards, including an NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) grant as a jazz performer, various Meet the Composer awards, and the INTAR off-Broadway composer award.
Sanabria’s first big band recording, Live & in Clave!!! was nominated for a mainstream Grammy in 2001. In 2003 he was nominated for a Latin Grammy for, “50 Years of Mambo”, A Tribute to Damaso Perez Prado. Drum! Magazine named him Percussionist of the Year in 2005.
His 2008 recording is “El Espiritu Jibaro – The Jibaro Spirit” with trombonist Roswell Rudd and cuatro virtuoso Yomo Toro, which features Bobby with his nonet, Ascensión.
Sanabria is the associate producer of the TV documentaries “The Palladium: Where Mambo Was King” shown on Bravo which was winner of the IMAGINE award for best documentary of 2003 and “From Mambo to Hip Hop”, another award winning documentary (ALMA award, best documentary for TV) shown on PBS in 2007. He is the author of the acclaimed video series, Getting Started on Congas and he is a featured performer on the DVD, Modern Drummer Festival 2006, from Hudson Music. Bobby continues his important work in spreading the Gospel of Latin jazz by being a consultant and featured on screen interviewee for PBS’s landmark 4-hour documentary, LATIN MUSIC U.S.A. premiering nationwide on PBS October 12, 2009.
In August of 2012, Sanabria released Multiverse, inspired by the writings of Mexican author Octavio Paz and the current scientific theories of multiple universes.
¡NYC Aché!, with Ascensión (Flying Fish Records/Rounder, 1993)
There are timbaleros (timbales players) in Latin music and then there are timbaleros. Nicky Marrero is the master at his work! Nicky Marrero has performed on hundreds of recordings, especially for Fania Records in New York City. Nicky Marrero is “El Monstruo del Timbal”, the Monster of the Timbales.
Nicky, has the ability of getting many tones out his drumheads, playing with preciseness and action. Nicky Marrero is always exciting on stage and bringing light to the show. You know that when he plays, it is Nicky Marrero up there on stage soloing, A-1 plus, like a Monster Timbalero should.
With years of playing, practice and patience with the drums, whether it is timbales or congas, Nicky Marrero brings a solo swing to the orchestra, to compliment the musicians and the coro (chorus) in the orchestra. This is what Nicky Marrero does on stage if you observe him.
Nicky is always getting better, as he ages, like a fine wine!
Nicky has performed with all the legends; too many to name, also a member of the legendary Fania All Stars and is a very humble musician.
Let’s hear what Nicky has to say about himself, and his love for the timbales, and what he has to say to the new young and upcoming timbaleros!
Nicky where were you born, your birth name and where were you raised?
I was born in St. Francis Hospital in the Bronx on June 17th 1950 and raised in the Bronx. My Name is Nicholas Marrero Jr.
Was your family musical in any way?
My uncle Chuito Velez played guitar, piano and the accordion. He had his own Orchestra and would sometimes join the family on weekend parties. Like in most Puerto Rican families there was always something to celebrate or just get together to dance and party. My Brother Luis Sánchez played guitar and bass for many years with my uncle as well as with Belisario López y su charanga, the Plata Sextet, and Orlando Marin and his Orchestra.
When was the first time you heard a cowbell and when was the first time you listened to a mambo-ish or salsa type music or Latin music?
Quiet simply, at home! Plus, by parental composition, Puerto Ricans love their Spanish radio stations to keep up the latest cleaning products, soap operas, what movies are showing, what theaters are having live vaudeville acts, then If there is time left in the day—–The News!! There was Spanish music in all of them, from different Latin countries. Diversity!
What was the first band you were a member of professionally?
Orchestra Caribe, meaning I got paid. The going rate at that time for a 14 year old, was 10 to fifteen dollars, if the promoter didn’t high settled it out of town. And there were 12 of us plus the band boy, who just wanted to be part of the group, the guys just looked the other way, except maybe sometimes?
Who are past or present your favorite timbal players, conga players and bongo players?
Me, Me, and Me! Seriously, on timbales, Orestes Vilató and Orlando Marin. On conga, Orlando Vega and Johnny Rodriguez. On bongo, Johnny Rodriguez, Bobby Allende, and Orlando Vega.
Nicky, what was you favorite band to play with, or you can mention a few?
Eddie Palmieri, Machito, Tito Puente, Fajardo, Tipica 73, Dizzie Gillespie, Jorge Dalto, but then I was part of at least forty other bands, and for different extended times. There’s not enough paper to explain it all but in a book.
Who would be your all-time favorite Latin orchestra leader?
What is some advice that you would tell young timbaleros or percussionist who study the art of drumming?
To listen to the past records, and learn about each orchestra and its members and their backgrounds and where they came from and to follow their carriers. Learn to listen, and listen to learn!!! Practice the art of imitation to the exact with discipline. Learn that you are your greatest competition!! Broaden the many options of how to practice, they become limitless, as are your abilities.
The Big 3, Machito, Tito Puente Sr. and Tito Rodriguez Sr., what is your opinion of them?
They were my heroes, and still are. I wouldn’t know whether to dance or play! There were many excellent dancers in my family, and I picked up on it very quickly, and became a very good dancer myself. It sometimes boggles me how some percussion players play and don’t know how to dance—really! That’s like a dentist pulling out teeth without first taking x-rays! Huh!
What is your all time favorite record or records?
Tito Rodriguez, Tito Puente, Machito, Cal Tjader, Cortijo y su Combo, the charangas of Aragon, Fajardo, Arcano, Estrellas Cubanas, La Sensacion,Johnny Pacheco, Ray Barreto, Charlie Palmieri, extra, many more. Conjuntos—Arsenio, Chapottin, Modelo, Roberto Fas, Rumbavana, Kuvavana, Estrellas de Chocolate, etc.
What is one or two of the favorite recording you performed on?
Well, Nicky do you remember when you went to get your cha cha bell repaired by craftsman Pete Lugo. Let me ask why did you insist in getting that particular bell fixed and not just buy another new bell?
This bell was made with a special gage of a certain type of metal, and it had to be treated just the right way or it would ruin the bell forever. The sound of the bell became part of who I am, the study I put into investigating and analyzing their sounds and the types of material they are made of.
So tell us about your great current projects that you’re on.
Well, what are the future plans for Nicky Marrero musically and otherwise?
I am working on to fulfil my dream of starting my own project (orchestra) and record.
Have you seen the music scene changing somewhat and what do you think of that?
To bring it back to the dancers, with quality entertainment. We need more clubs of quality!!
Who are or were your favorite musicians to play with. Give us some names?
Nelson Gonzalez, Jimmy Bosch, Eddie Palmieri, Johnny Rodriguez, Willie Rodriguez and many more.
Now you tell us something Nicky
We need more in depth professional interviews such as yours. Also more radio stations with quality Latin cultural music past and present, with knowledgeable radio personalities!!
I would like to thank Nicky Marrero for his precious time, when I approached Nicky to this interview he was flying out to Lima, Peru with the Eddie Palmieri Orchestra! Thanks Nicky! El Monstruo del Timbal!
Award-winning Cuban jazz master is set to perform on Friday, September 16 at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. This concert is part of the Global Fridays series.
Prieto’s innovative drumming techniques and compositions have had powerful effect on the global Latin and jazz scene. Also a gifted educator, Prieto has worked with bands led by Henry Threadgill, Steve Coleman and Eddie Palmieri, among others.
I met Chucky Lopez in 1973. Eddie Palmieri had moved to the City by the Bay San Francisco, California. Eddie has family there and felt the move would be great since he loves San Francisco. One night, after hanging in San Francisco during the day, myself and 3 other friends decided to stop by Cesar’s Latin Palace on Green St, the old location to see who was performing. It was dark about 8:00 or 9:00 p.m.
The doorman at Cesar’s in San Francisco said Eddie Palmieri was playing and we all went in to see the show. Chucky Lopez was on bongo and mostly on timbales that night, doing what a great musician does best, play! I do not remember who all the members of the band were at that time; although that night I met Eddie and also very young outstanding vocalist (Ubaldo) Lalo Rodriguez from Puerto Rico. Lalo did stay, residing in San Francisco for quite a few years, and I never imagined that decades later my orchestra would open for Lalo.
Chucky is a great person, musician, bongo legend of legends and an all around great Latin percussionist.
Mind me saying this, when Chucky plays, the people in the audience just turn their heads to look who’s up there on stage playing. All bongoseros have a style, but Chucky has select style of his own.
Chucky’s father is the great conguero Tommy Lopez, who passed away, great friend of Francisco Aguabella. Francisco used to tell me that when he traveled to New York, Tommy Lopez would keep him up all night long playing rumba! Francisco always spoke well of his friend Tommy Lopez and would laugh and chuckle about his times with Tommy Lopez.
Let’s see what Chucky has to say…
Chucky tell me when you were born?
I was born on August 1st 1954 and my birth name is Thomas “Chucky” Lopez.
Tell me a little bit about your upbringing in music?
I was raised in Hell’s Kitchen during the 60’s. That was a wonderful time in my life as it was the first time that I went to see musicians perform live at the Apollo.
It was also the last time they closed before renovation and I was fortunate enough to have played on the stage at the Apollo, I was only 8 years old. My father is Tomas Lopez, he was also quite know in the Latin music field.
Chucky can you tell me a little about how you got musical lessons as a kid interested in music?
Ever since I can remember. I remember my dad giving me lessons, even on occasions when I just wanted to be a kid. My father would always say to me “niche” do it like this, do it like that! He never let up. For that I am grateful as it opened doors for me in the music field.
Who did you dad hang with musically?
Some of my dad’s friends were Patato (Carlos Patato Valdez), Totico (Eugenio Arango), Julito Collazo, Francisco Aguabella, Chino Pozo and Armando Peraza, just to mention a few.
So how did this work for you musically?
I grew up with these guys on a daily basis as my dad and they would have jam sessions and just hang out.
Chucky how did it work out that you started to play the bongos?
I started picking up the bongo more seriously around the age of 13. Although my dad had trained me more on conga drum, my preference was the bongo.
So where did you go to play the bongos or observe musicians performing?
I started hanging out at Hunt’s Point Palace every Sunday. That was the place to see and be seen. About 10-15 bands would perform and one could see them for only a $2.00 admission. On one weekend Johnny Colon was performing and he invited me on stage, the rest is history.
Whom have you performed with?
I played for Willie Colon and Eddie Palmieri offered me a job. Most of the guys I hung out with were older and I learned a lot from them. I was still in Junior High School, 123 to be exact in the Bronx, New York.
Where did your career take you?
As I moved on with my career I was fortunate to play with Machito, Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Orquesta Broadway, Mongo Santamaria Jr., Conjunto Clásico, Larry Harlow, Ray Barretto, Tito Rodriguez, Jr., Conjunto Candela, Cortijo El Combo just to mention a few more. I have traveled to many countries, states and cities. I have met people from all walks of the earth.
What do you say about the roots of your learning bongo?
It was quite a privilege as I had my father on hand to assist me with clave and various rhythms and tuning my instrument etc. When I think back of my childhood teen years I can’t say I regret anything, as I was quite fortunate. I am still very fortunate 30 years later to be talking about it.
Some words from a few friends of Chucky Lopez:
Pablo “El Indio” Rosario: percussion legend, Puerto Rico:
Chucky and I grew up together, although I am a little older. For his very young age he was always a step or two ahead of the rest in part due to his dad Tommy Sr. In my opinion, Chucky is one of the top bongo players that the music business has to offer for the last 50 years.
His bongo solos should be studied by all aspiring bongo players as a true focus of advanced drum conversation. He is a musician that happens to play bongo among other percussion instruments. Yet at the same time, he is the most underrated bongo player today. He is very humble, not criticizing or embarrassing anyone. We come from the same school of show me what you’ve got to say. Toca y no hables tanta baba (play and don’t talk so much).
To this day, I am still learning from one of the most powerful bongoseros of our modern time. Mr. Thomas Lopez Jr. (Chucky Lopez) El Verdadero Caballero.
Pete Lugo, artisan, bongo & bell maker, Bronx, New York:
I have always had much respect and admiration for you Chucky, for you as a person as well as a master drummer. Who knows, maybe one day I can build a nice bongo for you. I hope when I open my new shop in the Bronx, you can visit me, so I can begin to post some pictures on my wall of my favorite percussionists or percussionists that I build drums and make bells for. I would also like to meet Pablito El Indio Rosario one day, another of my favorites!
Mario Grillo, leader of Machito Orchestra, percussionist, performed with Chucky Lopez in the Machito Orchestra:
All I can say about Chucky Lopez is 2 words: The Best. My father (Machito) loved his playing; he has extreme knowledge of what the instrument is about. His concept is complete, great. He is from the old school, he is a master at bongo, conga and timbales, you’re not gonna get better than Chucky Lopez.
I have known him all my life; I have known his father Tommy Lopez all my life. He has extreme knowledge on the tradition. Chucky is a team player, when Chucky is in a rhythm section, he makes the section better, he makes you better, ‘cause you got to play better, he also has a great memory, a photographic memory, he can play a tune and 10 years later he will play it just as he originally did. He is a great player in the studio as well as live.
His father Tommy Lopez was know as “Mano de Hierro” (Hands of Iron), Chucky is the same, he has hands made out of cement. I have played with other players, the best players [Mario mentions the names of a few greats] but hands down, hands down, Chucky is the one you want to play for your Orchestra.
“Thank you Chucky Lopez for making this interview possible and to the great ones, Mario Grillo, Pete Lugo and Pablo “El Indio” Rosario for your great time, memories of Chucky, and assistance to make this project possible. You guys are the greatest! Thanks again!” – Les Moncada
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