Latin Jazz Drummer Steve Berrios Dies at 68

Steve_BerriosSteve Berrios, a well-known jazz and Latin music percussionist from New York died July 24th, 2013 in Manhattan. He was 68.

Steve Berrios was born in uptown Manhattan in 1945 to parents who had just arrived from the island of Puerto Rico. His father, Steve Sr., was a drummer with some of the major Latin bands of the era, including Noro Morales, Miguelito Valdez and Pupi Campo.

Young Steve took trumpet classes in public school although his real musical education came from his father’s records and musician friends. On the percussion side, his two greatest early influences were Willie Bobo and Julio Collazo, the legendary master of the batá drum. Steve became a percussion apprentice under Julio.

At 16, Steve started winning competitions with his trumpet, including five Apollo Theater first places. In high school, he became friends with his Harlem neighbor, budding pianist Larry Willis. This was the beginning of a lifelong friendship and jazz collaboration.

At age 19, he got his first steady job as house drummer with a hotel band in Manhattan thanks to his father’s recommendation. He joined Mongo Santamaria’s band a few years later, playing both drum set and timbales.

In 1981, he became a founding member of the renowned Latin jazz group, the Fort Apache Band. He was a crucial ingredient in Fort Apache ever since. Great drummers like Max Roach and Billy Higgins regarded Steve as a master of bridging the Latin and jazz traditions.

Steve Berrios participated in more than 300 recordings with some of the finest musicians in the jazz, Latin and world music fields: Tito Puente, Paquito D’Rivera, Art Blakey, Max Roach, Michael Brecker, Grover Washington, Hilton Ruiz, and Miriam Makeba.

Steve appeared and participated in film soundtracks such as “Crimes and Misdemeanors”, “Mo Better Blues” “Jungle Fever” “Latin Rhythms Applied to The Drum Set”, “Calle 54” and “El Cantante.” He also led his own group called Son Bacheche.

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites and Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.


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