Musician and composer Ray Santos died October
Ray Santos was born December 28, 1928 in New York City to
Puerto Rican parents. Known as “El Maestro” by his fans and fellow
musicians, was a leading expert on Afro-Caribbean music. His Juilliard School
training allowed him to cross borders with success, honesty and class. Over his
90 years, Santos became a legend in the world of Latin music and left a deep-rooted
mark with his artistry. The Latin Recording Academy honored him with 2011 Board
of Trustees’ Award.
Known for the layered complexity of his arrangements, for
more than 50 years, Santos performed, composed, and arranged for leading Latin
music orchestras, including the legendary ensembles of Tito Puente, Tito
Rodríguez, Mario Bauzá, and Machito. He
was also essential in albums recorded by Linda Ronstadt, Eddie Palmieri and
Paquito D’Rivera, to name a few. In addition, he was a respected professor of
music at the City College of New York, where he taught for nearly 30 years and
directed the college’s Latin band.
“We are forever thankful to the amazing gentleman Mr. Ray Santos, who was also committed to music education, fostering the next generation of music makers,” said Gabriel Abaroa Jr., President/CEO of The Latin Recording Academy. “His legacy lives on in his music and the hearts of our music community, forever inspired by his commitment and remarkable craft. Our hearts go to his family during this difficult time.”
Ray Santos received
an honorary doctorate of music on March 20, 2016.
Frontera Bugalú is a musical project developed by accordionist, guitarist, vocalist and composer Kiko Rodriguez and pianist Joel Osvaldo in El Paso, Texas in 2011. The group has become well-known for its lively música fronteriza, a combination of borderland folk, mambo and cumbia music.
The band includes members from both sides of the border, including vocalist Anabel Gutierrez and bassist Alex Ravana from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
Born in La Habana, Augusto Enriquez, the leader of the band, is one of the best known modern singers in Cuba. His career started with the Grupo Moncada. Later, he pursued a career as a solo singer with a record produced by Gianni Miná with the collaboration of Phil Manzanera and Vince Tempera as artistic producers.
His second solo CD, produced by Cuban label EGREM, received the Cubadisco award in 1999. On Carambola, Augusto entered the fascinating world of the big band orchestra, with the musical support of Demetrio Muñiz’s experience as music director for the Tropicana Orchestra and the Ibrahim Ferrer Orquesta.
“Carambola” deepened into the Cuban music of the 1940s and 1950s, intensely influenced by Jazz Big Bands of the time. The first times that he heard Augusto Enriquez y su Mambo Orquesta, Giorgio Armani had the idea to design stage outfits for the musicians, sponsoring the look of the Mambo Orquesta.
I feel that each musician has their own personality that goes hand in hand with the instrument they play; I also feel each musician has a friend that they are attracted to, based on personality, charisma and charm.
With a charismatic personality, Tito Puente, the legend of the timbales drums, composer and Latin orchestra leader, had his best friend: Joe Conzo Sr. from New York.
Joe Conzo is an encyclopedia, with his friendship and grand knowledge of Tito Puente: events, recordings and so much more. He is the author of a book about Tito Puente entitled Mambo Diablo.
Joe Conzo is also giving lectures at Hostos College in the Bronx, New York. The lectures and studies on Tito Puente and Latin musician legends of the past intend to make the students and public aware of these musical legacies.
…and let’s see what Joe Conzo Sr. has to say.
Well, Joe, talk to me a little bit about your background.
Joe: I am of Puerto Rican mother and Italian father. I was born and raised in Spanish Harlem. I had 1 brother, who recently passed and I have 2 sisters.
Joe how was it that you got involved in Latin music?
Joe: Latin music was in my family, in going to candy stores as a kid, walking down the street. Home was always where Latin music was played. There were two types of Latin music, there was the Le lo lai, or country Puerto Rican and Cuban music, and there was the swinging stuff that they would play at the Palladium and at Park Palace.
There was Park Plaza and there was Park Place, both at the same location, one upstairs and one downstairs that was the place to be! It was located on 110th Street, off 5th Avenue. It is a church today.
(Joe was naming all the bands that used to play there, Noro Morales, Tito Puente etc and he said all the musician would congregate and talk on the corner, you would see them all out there, talking on the corner).
Joe how was it that you met Tito Puente?
Joe: I met Tito Puente in the Palladium in 1959. I ran into him, and I also went to see him. I was a frustrated conga player. Tito Puente’s music was unbelievable. I bought one of his albums for 75 cents; it was Cuban Carnival.
I really resent the word “salsa” like Tito Puente did, (it was a catch promotional word to promote the new movement of salsa music, evolving from the mambo era.)
(Joe Conzo told me that Jerry Masucci coined the word for his Fania label. I told Joe that the first time I heard the term “Salsa” was in 1973 when I was a young 15 year old FM radio DJ at the University. One of the secretaries at Tico Records, Diana Monge, used to send newsletters from Tico Records, which later became Fania Records. “In the same building,” Joe says and I agree. The newsletter sent out to the disc jockeys was called “Salsa Dice”.)
Joe, if Tito came over to your house to visit you on an evening or such, what would Tito talk about, or what would you and Tito discuss? First of all what was Tito’s favorite drink?
Joe: Tito’s favorite drink was vodka and cranberry. If Tito came over, we would talk about anything, no set topic, just everyday things. Tito did not talk about politics, he played for 4 presidents, 2 Republicans and 2 Democrats. (Joe goes on naming the presidents, but Tito despised politicians).
What did Tito think of his band members?
Joe: Well, we would have band talk, discuss expenses, maybe cutting down the band. You know Tito had 14 mouths to feed, (laughs out loud, discussing band members), sometimes he had to cut down the band. it is hard to travel with a big band, maybe they would call some horn players and musicians on the west coast etc, to cut down band expenses.
Tito would not convert to one thing (or type of band). Tito was not afraid of competition; he was not afraid to branch out and not afraid to challenge things.
Tito did what he had to do to stay on the top, and they could not pay him to play every week in one place, although he did one time.
Tito had a mindset to improve his band, he was always writing (arranging) things and trying new things.
Joe, are you working on a new book? I heard it was about, “The Big 3”, Machito, Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez.
Joe: I started the book. You know that the Puente book I wrote took me 2 to 3 years to write.
Well what does the future of Joe Conzo bring?
Joe: I have been lecturing at Hostos College and I will continue that. (Joe went on to tell me that Tito Puente wrote over 700 tunes and about the thousands of recording he has of Tito Puente and some live recordings of Tito Puente and also about some albums that he produced. Joe mentioned that he knew Morris Levy, the owner of Tico Records, and he stated that when folks in the studio hear that they are really impressed, due to Levy being a recording legend and owner of Birdland).
I will continue to doing the lecture series and see what life brings.
Thank you, Joe Conzo Sr., for your time and vast knowledge on the subject of Tito Puente and Latin Music. I appreciate your support for Latin Music and your support of my Facebook Percussion Site Timbales and Congas Bongo Bata and Bells, along with my son Marco Moncada.
Joe Conzo asked me why I was posting vintage pictures on my Timbales and Congas site, telling me that only he and bongosero John Rodriguez could identify the musicians in the pics, laughing that I was making him think.
American band Orkesta Mendoza will be touring the UK in the next weeks. The band is led by multi-faceted artist Sergio Mendoza, who is also a member and co-producer of acclaimed Southwestern music band Calexico, and an arranger and founding member of Mexrrissey.
Orkesta Mendoza plays borderless music that includes the entire Americas (North, Central, South), embracing mambo and cumbia with same interest as psychedelic pop, twang rock and analog electronics.
The band will present its new album ‘¡Vamos A Guarachar!’ (Glitterbeat Records), released at the end of 2016.
UK Tour (La Linea):
Friday, 21 April – Rich Mix, London
Saturday, 22 April – Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds
Sunday, 23 April – Band On The Wall, Manchester
Monday, 24 April – Sage Two, Gateshead
Tuesday, 25 April – Komedia, Brighton
Wednesday, 26 April – Cambridge Corn Exchange, Cambridge
UK Festival Performances:
Friday, 28 July – WOMAD Charlton Park, Wiltshire
Saturday, 29 July – Camp Bestival, Lulworth Castle, Dorset
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)