American drummer and Latin Jazz timbalero Ramon Banda died May 30, 2019.
Ramon Banda was born and grew up in Norwalk, a suburb of Los Angeles, California. He was a well-known timbales master and jazz drummer. He and his brother, bassist Tony Banda, started out playing as teens with conga maestro Poncho Sanchez.
Ramon performed, recorded and toured with Poncho Sanchez for many years. He later joined Jose Rizo’s Band Mongorama, a tribute to Mongo Santamaria. He also performed with Joey DeFranceso and Bill Cunliffe. Ramon participated in over 250 recordings, including several Grammy winning albums.
Ramon was also a chekere maker.
“Ramon Banda was a legendary timbalero,” says percussionist and band leader Les Moncada. “I was performing with my Latin Jazz Orchestra and as guests, Ramon on my right, Poncho on timbales in front of us and myself, Les Moncada on timbales. All of us performing and soloing Tito Puente‘s composition ‘Ran Kan Kan’. I can only say competition-wise, Ramon went on timbales from 0 to 100 mph in a second, I was more than amazed.”
Les continues: “He visited me at my home, with the guys, Tony, Poncho, Sal, Papo Rodriguez. My orchestra opened for Poncho on several occasions and Ramon, Poncho, Tony and Sal Carrachiolo, we would perform together.
Ramon and the guys would come as guests with my orchestra. I did a clinic with Ramon, Poncho and Tony in San Diego, California many moons ago. He and Poncho and the guys, including David Romero, would frequent my late conguero friend Raul Garcia’s house and stay up all night talking about Latin music.
My son Marco and I would speak to Ramon about gourds and chekeres and I believe Ramon has some chekeres submitted to the Smithsonian Institute.
He used to tune my timbales for me, when he was around and we would talk about how we both idolized timbalero Manny Oquendo.
Ramon told me that the first time he met Manny Oquendo, he kissed his hands out of respect for Manny Oquendo and his timbales playing style.
Ramon Banda will be missed dearly, a maestro for timbales students worldwide for generations to come. He was a young guy in Norwalk, California that had the drive to play drum set and timbales, went on to assist in winning Grammys and performed and recorded with the late Cal Tjader.”
Louie Romero has performed and recorded with the greats, as a youth living in New York City as timbales player for trombonist Willie Colon and with the late vocal legend Hector Lavoe.
Louie Romero’s brother percussionists in the Willie Colon Orchestra were José Mangual Jr. on bongo and the late Milton Cardona on congas, the most feared percussion section in New York City and the world, besides the earlier Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria and Willie Bobo.
Louie Romero, now living in San Francisco, California, is still making his timbales smoke. He is a true timbales music lesson for the young players and for those fortunate enough to meet him.
Let’s see what Louie Romero has to say about his legendary timbales career.
Louie, tell us a little about your background, where you were born and raised, your parents’ ancestry.
I was born in Brooklyn, New York of Puerto Rican descent.
When did you first hear Latin music?
In my mom’s womb.
How old were you when you started playing timbales? Could tell us what led up to you choosing timbales as your main instrument. Did you play any other instruments?
Watching my Pop playing drum set and timbales. No other instruments except percussion.
Louie, how did you start to play with Willie Colon? Can you tell us a little about your association with Willie, Hector and Jose Mangual Jr and Milton Cardona?
I was at the Broadway Casino in Manhattan when Willie approached me and asked me to join. With Willie Colon and Héctor Lavoe, it was mostly business. With Jose Mangual Jr. and Milton Cardona, that was really good connect.
Louie, what are you presently doing music wise in San Francisco, California?
Pianist, composer and bandleader Michel Camilo revisits some of his essential music on Essence, featuring new arrangements. Camilo is an award-winning pianist who has a passion for jazz, Latin American music and flamenco.
Essence, scheduled for release June 7, 2019 features an impressive lineup of musicians, including many longtime collaborators.
“I tried to choose music from every stage of development as a creative artist and as a composer,” Camilo says about Esence. “I picked songs that represent shifts in my career and my point of view; that showcase how I developed my sound. I’ve always thought of the trio as a mini-orchestra, so the big band is a way to celebrate my career and my journey with a group of friends creating together in the studio.”
Mexican percussionist Guillermo Barrón Ríos has developed his style with different ensembles that cover a wide range of musical genres such as classical music, rock, pop, flamenco, Mexican music, salsa and Latin jazz, among others. He has performed with many international artists: José Feliciano, Luisito Quintero, Charlie Sepúlveda, among others.
Barrón has one Latin jazz musical production under his belt, “¿Cuál es la prisa?” (What’s the rush?), that includes original compositions and arrangements, featuring his main musical influences: Latin-American music, jazz and flamenco. Additionally, he has participated in a great selection of musical recordings, sharing credits with Gilberto Santa Rosa, among many others.
He currently lives in New York City, where he collaborates with different musical projects.
Multi-instrumentalist and composer Roberto Fonseca was born on March 29, 1975 in Havana, Cuba. He made his debut at the Havana International Jazz Festival in 1990 when he was 15.
Fonseca also played with Buena Vista Social Club, joining great the cast of stars such as Ibrahim Ferrer, Orlando ‘Cachaíto’ López, Rubén González, Guajiro Mirabal and Manuel Galbán and also recorded and toured with another of its stars, Omara Portuondo.
Throughout his career, Roberto Fonseca has collaborated with Mayra Andrade, Regina Carter, Anat Cohen, Carlinhos Brown, Vicente Amigo, Kepa Junkera, Snarky Puppy, Michael Brecker, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Nils Petter Molvær; performing in Palais des Congrès (París), Royal Albert Hall (London), Beacon Theatre (New York), Sydney Opera House (Australia), Frankfurt Alter Oper (Frankfurt), Jazz in Marciac, Festival de Jazz de Montreaux, the New York City Center Hall, Festival Jazz de Tokyo. He was also co-producer along with British Dj Gilles Peterson of Havana Cultura New Cuban Sound Vol I and II.
Explicaciones (Explanations) is the new solo album from Cuban composer and skilled flute player Magela Herrera. Currently based in Miami, Magela Herrera performs music rooted in American jazz and Cuban rhythms and melodies. She has a charming, highly expressive style as a flutist.
The musicians on Explicaciones are some of Miami’s finest jazz players: Tal Cohen on piano; Nestor del Prado on bass; Dion Keith Kerr on bass; Hilario Bell on drums; David Chiverton on drums; Greg Diamond on guitar; Jean Caze on trumpet; and Philbert Armenteros on batá drums.
Although most of the tracks are instrumentals highlighting the flute, Magela also sings on a couple of tracks. She includes the Spanish language romantic classic “Bésame Mucho” (“Kiss me a lot”), written in 1940 by Mexican songwriter Consuelo Velázquez and popularized by Los Panchos.
Explicaciones is a delightfully-crafted album showcasing the talent of a young composer and superb instrumentalist.
Fernando Luis Rosario Marin was born in Coamo, Puerto Rico, on May 6th, 1930. He studied guitar bass, and saxophone encouraged by his mother. His family moved to New York when he was 16 years old. Willie Rosario studied journalism and public relations, but music soon became his profession.
Willie Rosario started his band in an era where there was fierce competition amongst the revered bands of the late 1950’s such as Pérez Prado, Tito Puente, Tito Rodríguez, Jose Curbelo, Orlando Marín, Joe Cuba, Alfredito, Cesar Concepción, Moncho Lena, Cortijo y su Combo, Vicentico Valdez, and last but not least, the venerable and worshipful, Machito and his Afrocubans.
The environment in which Willie Rosario developed as a bandleader instilled in him a sense of discipline and professionalism which he has maintained to this day, but the characteristic most associated with Willie Rosario is the Swing or solid rhythm section which is geared to the dancer, the rhythm section is complemented by a unique brass section comprised of four trumpets and a baritone sax, the only salsa band with this type of brass section.
The list of hits by the Willie Rosario is as impressive as the names of his well-known singers: De barrio obrero a la quince”, Chango Ta veni”, Lluvia”, Busca el Ritmo”, Amor Clasificado”, “Botaron la pelota”, “Atizame el fogon”, “El Apartamento” and many others. Puerto Rico Caribbean
El Bravo Soy Yo! (1963) Fabuloso y Fantástico (1966) Latin Jazz a Go-Go-Go (1967) Two Too Much (1967) Haida Huo (1968) Boogaloo y Guaguancó (1968) El Bravo de Siempre (1969) De Donde Nace el Ritmo (Inca Records, 1971) Más Ritmo (Inca Records, 1972) Infinito (Inca Records, 1973) Otra Vez (Inca Records, 1975) Gracias Mundo (Inca Records, 1977) From the Depth of My Brain (Top Hits, 1978) El Rey del Ritmo! (Top Hits, 1979) El de a 20 de Willie (Top Hits, 1980) The Portrait of a Salsa Man (Top Hits, 1981) Atízame el Fogón (Top Hits, 1982) The Salsa Machine (Top Hits, 1983) Nuevos Horizontes ( Bronco, 1984) Afincando ( Bronco, 1985) Nueva Cosecha ( Bronco, 1986) A Man of Music ( Bronco, 1987) The Salsa Legend ( Bronco, 1988) Unique ( Bronco, 1989) Viva Rosario! ( Bronco, 1990) The Roaring Fifties ( Bronco, 1991) Tradición Clásica (NRT, 1993) ¡Sorpresas! (Tiffany Records, 1995) Back to the Future (HMS Records, 1999) La Banda Que Deleita (Gennara Records, 2006) Evidencia (Gennara Records, 2016)
William Cepeda was born in Loiza, a small coastal town in Puerto Rico renowned for its adherence to West African-derived customs and culture. Cepeda grew up immersed in the dynamic traditions of bomba and plena, the island’s two most distinctive folkloric styles.
In his evolution as a musician, Cepeda has thoroughly explored both contemporary Latin and jazz styles, working with and gaining the respect of such famed leaders as Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Paquito D’Rivera, David Murray, Donald Byrd, Slide Hampton and Lester and Joseph Bowie.
His work with the D’Rivera-led United Nation Orchestra further exposed jazz fans around the world to a brawny, technically brilliant trombone style that places him in the vanguard of contemporary stylists on this most demanding of instruments.
My Roots & Beyond features Cepeda in the company of such celebrated fellow Puerto Ricans as percussionist Bobby Sanabria, bassist John Benítez, both noted for their Latin jazz abilities and cuatro player extraordinaire Yomo Toro, an early exponent of the island’s jíbaro (countryside) music and a legendary figure from the heyday of salsa in the seventies. .
“Traditional Puerto Rican music isn’t heard that much outside of the island and it’s a shame. We have a very strong music. By using a variety of instruments and the wealth of jazz resources, I have brought this rich tradition to another level, to a wider audience but also to a new level of feeling, more in line with the experience of today. I’m putting a little fire into it, with the result, I hope, of offering a dynamic and beautiful music for many, many people to enjoy.”
Rebeca Mauleón was born April 16, 1962 in Santa Monica, California. Rebeca Mauleón has been at the forefront of Latin and American world music for over 25 years. A prolific pianist, composer, arranger as well as author and educator, Mauleón has performed with luminaries in the Latin, Pop and World music scenes, including Carlos Santana, Mickey Hart, Tito Puente, Steve Winwood, Israel “Cachao” Lopez, Giovanni Hidalgo, Carlos Patato Valdez, Joe Henderson and others.
Her performing and arranging credits include Tito Puente (Goza Mi Timbal), Steve Winwood (Junction 7) and Carlos Patato Valdez (Ritmo y Candela). In the 90s she recorded and toured with Mickey Hart’s Planet Drum as its Musical Director; highlights include Woodstock ’99, the Conan O’Brien show, and the Regis and Kathy Lee Show.
As a producer, Mauleón’s first solo release, Round Trip, garnered international critical acclaim, earning Top 10 status on the Latin Beat Hit Parade for seven consecutive months, including number one.
As the leader of her own ensemble, Rebeca has appeared at numerous renowned music festivals, including the Kennedy Center’s “Women in Jazz” festival in 1999, the Monterey Jazz Festival, and San Francisco and San Jose Jazz Festivals.
In 2001, she was the recipient of the prestigious Meet The Composer New Residencies Award, for a three-year residency at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
Rebeca is also much in-demand as a teacher and clinician throughout the U.S. and Europe, specializing in Latin music performance and history, combining hands-on master classes with high-energy performances by her ensemble. She is the author of several texts on Latin music technique (all published through Sher Music). She has also published articles for top industry magazines including Keyboard. Grammy Gateway, Modern Drummer, Mix en Español. and Bass Player.
Rebeca is a tenured professor of Latin American Music at City College of San Francisco, a guest lecturer at U.C. Berkeley, and sits on the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Jazz Festival.
Nestor Torres was born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, in 1957. He took flute lessons at age 12 and began formal studies at the Escuela Libre de Música, eventually attending Puerto Rico’s Inter-American University. At 18, he moved to New York with his family. “That’s where I first developed my improvisational skills as a charanga (Cuban dance music) flutist,” he says. “In charanga, the flutist improvises a great deal – the focus of his solos are to make people dance. Even when I play today, my approach is still very rhythmic and melodic.”
Torres went on to study both jazz and classical music at the Mannes School of Music in New York and the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, among other places.
He moved to Miami in 1981, and signed with PolyGram, where he released Morning Ride in 1989. His major label debut climbed quickly to the top of the Billboard Contemporary Jazz charts and soon brought him widespread acclaim. Tragedy struck a year later when an accident in a boat race left him with eighteen fractured ribs, two broken clavicles and a collapsed lung. His record company dropped him, he and his wife divorced, and his home was nearly repossessed.
A longtime practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism – a branch of Buddhism with roots in 13th-century Japan – Torres says the ordeal “taught me that no matter how difficult and hopeless my situation seemed, my life was fine. It was not about ‘Why me?’ but rather ‘Okay, this is what I must deal with and overcome now…so let’s go!'”
An outpouring of sympathy followed from the South Florida community, including a benefit concert staged by a local radio station and individuals who stepped forward with money to save Torres’ home. “An appreciation for life and a realization that we are all interconnected is the greatest legacy of that experience,” he says. “I also learned firsthand about the value of the people behind the scenes – the nurses, my family and friends, and especially my fans. Were it not for them, I would not have been able to overcome this difficult situation.”
Torres began the long recovery process and released Dance of the Phoenix in 1990. In 1994, he recorded Burning Whispers for Sony. His Latin-jazz composition ” Luna Latina” was nominated in 2000 for a Latin Grammy. A year later, he won a Latin Grammy for This Side of Paradise. “Of course it was a great honor and privilege to win the Grammy,” Torres reflects. “That being said, the fact that I was to receive it on 9/11 gave my work and my music a stronger sense of mission and purpose. Terrorism and violence come from ignorance, anger, arrogance and hopelessness. Music and culture inspire and empower; they soothe the human heart and enlighten the spirit. I have made it my prime point to create music and live my life as an artist and a human being in a way that does just that.”
Mi Alma Latina: My Latin Soul, a compilation of Latin standards was released in 2002. Torres’ Heads Up debut, Sin Palabras (Without Words), released in March 2004, features a re-working of the Latin classic “Contigo Aprendo,” the Alejandro Sanz hit “Regálame La Silla Donde Te Esperé,” and nine original tunes. In addition to Torres’ fine musicianship, the album features a number of talented producers, including James Lloyd (from Pieces of a Dream) on seven tracks, Carlo Pennisi from Miami and Jimmy Haslip (of Yellowjackets).
“Carlo has a very fresh sound and a European sensitivity that appeals to me a great deal,” Torres says. “Jimmy, Danny and Baby Boy are a unique writing team with an impressive and impeccable pop music approach. James Lloyd is a master. His work with Pieces of a Dream has consistently been on top of the charts. Plus, he’s a great producer and a lot fun to be around.”
Torres has worked with everyone from Tito Puente to Gloria Estefan and many contemporary jazz greats. He still performs at benefit concerts all over the world, but especially in his adopted hometown of Miami. Recently, he returned to the Escuela Libre de Música in Puerto Rico as a judge at their first juried music competition. And he still gives master classes to students.
“These types of activities are wonderfully rewarding and fulfilling,” Torres says. “I enjoy people, I enjoy serving and consider it a blessing to be able to make a difference.”