Tag Archives: tres guitar

Artist Profiles: Nelson González

Nelson González

Born in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico on May 30, 1948, Nelson González is distinguished for his mastery of the Cuban tres guitar. This traditional instrument is indispensable to the interpretation of ‘Son’, the most popular form of Cuban dance music.

His love of Puerto Rican and Cuban music developed at an early age and was nurtured in New York City, where he arrived at the age of 12. During the 1960s, many of today’s acclaimed and virtuoso Latin musicians convened regularly at the home of Andy and Jerry González to participate in weekly ‘jam sessions’. Nelson joined these young and notable musicians that included talents such as Dave Valentin, Hilton Ruiz, Oscar Hernández, Milton Cardona, Nicki Marrero, Tommy López, Jr., Eladio Pérez, Charlie Santiago, Papo Vásquez, Orestes Vilato, and the powerful voices of Adalberto Santiago, Willie Garcia, Justo Betancourt and Virgilio Martí. It was during this period that Nelson explored his interest in the tres.

Nelson’s attraction to the Cuban tres was initially driven by its reputation as a formidable challenge to achieve technical mastery. The tres guitar is comprised of three sets of double strings and is known for the degree of technical difficulty it imposes in order to generate a full chord from a limited number of strings. His first tres was borrowed from Andy González and it marked the beginning of his journey with an instrument that represents the richness and tradition of Cuban folklore.

Essential to his development was René López, musicologist and leading authority on Cuban music. Through him, Nelson learned the fundamentals and history of Cuban music. He used the recordings of Arsenio Rodriguez and ‘El Niño’ Rivera, two masters of the tres guitar and pioneers of the Cuban ‘son’, to guide his training. Their genius and the ‘descarga’ of Israel López Cachao strongly influenced Nelson’s music style and skill in incorporating the Tres to the rhythm of the drums. Inspired by the paucity of tres players in Latin America and the Caribbean, Nelson vowed to preserve tradition through his dedication to this instrument and is regarded by Cachao as the ambassador of the tres.

His first opportunity as a performer in the Latin music scene was in 1971 as a member of the Justo Betancourt Band. He later played with Orq. Harlow during which time he developed a close friendship with Ismael Miranda that later served to create Orq. Revelacion and soloist for the band. During the 1970’s, Nelson recorded with all of the top Latin bands including Charanga Típica Ideal and two international recordings with African Charanga groups. He was invited to join Grupo Folklórico Experimental Nuevayorquino and in 1972 joined Típica ’73 for four years. After its dissolution he served as a founding member of Los Kimbos with Adalberto Santiago. He formed his own band in 1976, Nelson González and his Band and recorded two albums, with one produced by the TR (Tito Rodriguez) Record label.

Nelson has won five Grammy Awards for participation on the following albums: Cachao Master Sessions I ,Cachao Master Sessions II, Gloria Estefan’s Mi Tierra, Gloria Estefan’s Alma Caribena, and Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri’s Masterpiece.

His other accomplishments include: winner of the ‘Best Salsa Band In Latin America’ Award for Tipica ’73 at the Primer Festival Mundial de Salsa in 1976; winner of the 1977, 1978 and 1979 ‘Best Tres Player of the Year’ Award from Latin NY Magazine.

He has made numerous television appearances and his performances throughout Latin America, Europe and the United States span 25 years. Nelson formed part of Danny Rivera’s band, who is regarded as the National Voice of Puerto Rico. He also collaborated with and co-directed three of his albums, one of which won the “Tu Musica” Award in 1997 (Hágase La Luz.) His indispensable contribution to the Broadway Musical production, The Capeman. and member of the guitar and string ensemble, led to friendship with composer and musical director Paul Simon that will inevitably lead to future collaboration. He has served as a guest artist with the singer, La India. He toured with Grammy Award winner Marc Anthony, and he and his band Son Mundano headlined as the opening act for Marc Anthony’s October 4th 2000 Oscar De La Hoya Foundation benefit concert in Los Angeles.

His album Son Mundano, honors Cuban roots, integrating a particular Puerto Rican style that strengthens their musical-spiritual bond.

Nelson González played in 5 Grammy Award-winning albums: Mi tierra by Gloria Estefan (1993); Master Sessions Vol I by Cachao (1994); Master Sessions Vol II by Cachao (1995); Alma Caribeña by Gloria Estefan (2000); and Masterpiece by Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri (2000).

In 2005 he published the book Tres Guitar Method (Mel Bay).

Solo Discography:

Son mundano (Discos Orbe, 1977)
Pa’ los Treseros (Agogo, 2001)


Artist Profiles: Papi Oviedo

Papi Oviedo

Gilberto “Papi” Oviedo la Portilla was born February 9, 1938. He was a Cuban tres player. Papi was the son of Isaac Oviedo, the world famous tres player and songwriter. Like his father before him, Papi was one of the most important tres players of the 20th century. The tres is a type of Cuban guitar, and as its Spanish name implies, it has six strings grouped together in three pairs.

Papi’s extraordinary style and energy, like his father’s, was rooted in the Afro/European traditions of Cuba. He lived through many different styles and evolutions of rhythms in Cuba: Son, the changüí, son oriental, classic son from Havana, son montuno (son from the countryside) and guaracha son (the current son). While his style of Afroson and the way he played was very similar to the blues, some of his work was also very similar to the Spanish gypsies’ Cante Jondo (deep singing in Flamenco).

Papi played and traveled the world with some of Cuba’s world famous groups including Típica Habanera, Enrique René, Estrella de Chocolate and Elio Revé.

In 1995 he formed Papi Oviedo y sus Soneros, getting together some of Cuba’s most outstanding musicians. All the instruments were acoustic: tres, guitar, contrabajo (acoustic bass), tumbadoras, bongos, maracas, güiro and trumpets. Both his vocalists, Maria Cristina Azcuy and Miguel Martínez Rojas, sang previously with 5U4, Changuey and Folklórico,

I was born here in Havana, but my father came from Matanzas in 1926,” said Papi. “From an early age I followed my father from here to there, from one fiesta to the next.

“My father played the tres and I used to play a bit with the tumbadores, raising a peso or so to give to my father. One day I picked up my father’s tres and started playing it. I liked it but we couldn’t make a living that way. So I sold sweets, cleaned shoes and even cleaned up the rubbish in the streets. My father also had to work in a hospital at nights and play in his spare time.

One day when I was about 15 my mother walked in with a tres and that was it for me. Then I started in my first group, a trio, playing in the streets and asking for money. Later on, I officially joined Enrique Pérez’s group. I was 21.

A few years later, I started playing with Conjunto Chocolate and later on with Chapotín. Life wasn’t easy so with Chapotín. I started playing in the bars and restaurants, and as we say ‘making soup or making a kilo’.

In 1981, I joined Elio Revé with whom I spent fifteen years. We traveled and recorded all over the world, Europe, Africa and Asia. In Japan, where I spent some time, I used to play with a band and give classes.

“Finally in 1995, I left Elio’s group… and recorded my first solo album.”

In November 1996 there was a gathering of artists in Havana in which about 120 musicians participated. The youngest guest was 13 and the oldest 92! It continued well through the night with the familiar smell of Cuban rum and tobacco filling the air. All the soneros came together forming one enormous group – Tiburón, Balloy, Caridad Cuervo and many more. In the middle of everyone was Papi with his tres. An album was recorded titled Encuentro entre Soneros (Gathering of Soneros), released in 1997, it assured him of a place on the international circuit.

El Mayombero, Papi Oviedo’s most recent album, recorded for Tumi Music, is a powerful example of Papi Oviedo y sus Soneros’ talent to offer truly magnificent son. Papi Oviedo’s three vocalists excel in different areas: Christina Azcuy in bolero-son, Miguelito Martínez in son and Osvaldo Montalvo in guaracha.

Papi Oviedo died on October 31, 2017.

Selected discography

Encuentro Entre Soneros (Candela, 1997)
El Mayombero (Tumi Music, 2000)
Chanchullo, with Rubén González (2000)
Bana Congo, with Papa Noel (Tumi, 2002)


Stirring Afro-Flamenco Explorations

Raúl Rodríguez – La Raíz Eléctrica (Fol, 2017)

Spanish multi-instrumentalist, composer, researcher and inventor Raúl Rodríguez has released another impressive recording titled La Raíz Eléctrica.

The new album continues Raúl Rodríguez’s explorations of flamenco, Caribbean and African music connections. On La Raíz Eléctrica you’ll find a delectable mix of flamenco, Afrobeat, Cuban son, Haitian vodoo rhythms and Andalusian rock.

La Raíz Eléctrica features a remarkable cast of guests, including Haitian musicians from Lakou Mizik, Boukman Eksperyans as well as Paul Beaubrun; American singer Jackson Browne; and other extraordinary musicians.

Raúl Rodríguez showcases his talent playing a wide range of musical instruments including two variations of the Cuban tres he came up with: the flamenco tres and the electric tres, which appears in this album for the first time.

La Raíz Eléctrica has it all: fiery percussive pieces, notable solo guitar performances and inspiring songs.



You don’t want to miss the physicals version. La Raíz Eléctrica comes with a 100+ page hard cover book with essays, photos , credits, English-language translations and a cover by one of Spain’s most talented graphic designers, Mariscal.

The lineup includes Raúl Rodríguez on vocals, tres flamenco, electric tres, electric guitar, flamenco guitar, lap steel guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals, keyboards, palmas (flamenco handclap percussion), bombo, caja, shekere, karkabas, kazoo; Aleix Tobias on drums, cajon, calabash, darbuka, bells, bendir, congas, tambourine and effects; Pablo Martin Jones on cajon, palmas, bell, kalimbas, bongos, congas, bells; Guillem Aguilar on bass; Mario Mas on electric and flamenco guitar; Domi Jr. on jembe; Peterson “Tipiti” Joseph and James Acarrier on kone (Haitian metal horns); Jackson Browne on vocals; Javier Mas on archlute; Paul Beaubrun on electric guitar; Theodore “Lòlò” Beaubrun on lead and backing vocals; Mimerose P. “Manzé” Beaubrun, Natacha Massillon, Caroline Dejean Andrus, Donier Mondesir, and Emilio Cuervo on backing vocals; Domi Serralbo and Paco Pavia on palmas; and dancer Juan de Juan.



La Raíz Eléctrica is a masterfully-crafted cross-pollination of musical styles by one of Spain’s most gifted musicians.

Buy La Raíz Eléctrica in Europe

Buy La Raíz Eléctrica in the rest of the world


Artist Profiles: Raul Rodriguez

Raúl Rodríguez – Photo by Oscar Romero V.


Flamenco guitar and Cuban tres player Raúl Rodríguez Quiñones was born in Sevilla (Spain) in 1974. He started out playing electric guitar and drums, taking a particularly interest in blues and rock music, but by age 17 shifted his attention to playing flamenco guitar.

Raúl later attended the University of Sevilla, where he majored in the History of Cultural Anthropology. He began playing professionally in the group Caraoscura, a duo including himself and Jose Loreto “Charmusco,” the son of the famous guitarist Parrilla de Jerez. In 1995, they released an album titled Qué es lo que quieres de mí? on RCA Records that was produced by Kiko Veneno and Joe Dworniak.


Raúl Rodríguez


In 1996, Raúl joined Kiko Veneno as his flamenco guitarist, touring and recording Punta Paloma (BMG 1997), Puro Veneno (BMG 1998), and La Familia Polio (BMG 2000). Raúl Rodriguez also performed with his mother, the renowned Spanish singer Martirio, playing guitar and percussion.

In 1999, Raúl co-produced Martirio’s Flor de Piel (52 P.M.), an ambitious flamenco-jazz interpretation of South American music. In 2001, Raúl produced and arranged Martirio’s Mucho Corazon (52 P.M.) that was nominated as “Best Flamenco Album” at the 2002 Latin Grammys. His collaborations with Martirio continued with the albums “25 años” (Nuevos Medios, 2009), “El aire que te rodea” (Sony, 2010), “De un mundo raro. Cantes por Chavela” (Universal, 2013), and “Martirio – 30 años” (Universal, 2015).


Raúl Rodríguez – Photo by Oscar Romero V.


In 2003 Raúl formed the acclaimed flamenco fusion group Son de la Frontera. Raúl Rodriguez played the flamenco tres he developed, based on the Cuban tres.

A seasoned session musician, Raúl Rodriguez has also recorded with Compay Segundo, Jackson Browne, Chavela Vargas, Soledad Bravo, Jerry Gonzalez, and many others.

His first solo album Razón de Son came out in 2014. The CD version came in a beautifully-packaged hard cover book.



* ¿Qué es lo que quieres de mí?”, with Caraoscura (BMG, 1995)
* Son de la Frontera (Nuevos Medios/World Village, 2005)
* Cal (Nuevos Medios/World Village, 2007)
* Razón de Son (Fol, 2014)
* La Raíz Eléctrica (2017)


Cuban Musician Reinaldo Hierrezuelo, Rey Caney, Dies at 89

Cuban vocalist, songwriter and tres player Reinaldo Hierrezuelo, better known as Rey Caney, died on Tuesday, February 23rd in Havana. Rey Caney was a highly influential figure in Cuban music.

Reinaldo Hierrezuelo, was born December 30, 1926 in Santiago de Cuba. In 1930 Rey Caney founded the seminal Cuban band Cuarteto Patria along with his cousin Francisco (Pancho) Cobas, Emilia Gracia and Rigoberto “Maduro” Echevarría. They performed traditional trova, boleros and música guajira (Cuban country music).

In 1952, Rey Caney formed the popular duo Los Compadres together with his brother Lorenzo. They accompanied celebrated singer-songwriter María Teresa Vera and Compay Segundo throughout the world.

He later joined Conjunto Caney, led by Benitico Yánes. Rey later joined other groups like Brisas de Nipe, Melodías del Sur and Orquesta de Lino Borbolla. In 1960 he traveled to New York with Miguelito Cuni and debuted with Arsenio Rodriguez.

During the 1960s, Rey Caney recorded with Sonora Matancera, sharing lead vocals with Celia Cruz and Celio González. He later joined the Sonora as a permanent member.

In 1994, Rey Caney co-founded the Vieja Trova Santiaguera with the intention of recording just one album. But the success of the ensemble was such, thanks to the support of Spanish record label Nubenegra, that they ended up recording more albums. This international success led to a renewed interest in traditional Cuban music and preceded the Buena Vista Social Club phenomenon.




In 1999, Rey Caney recorded a solo album for Virgin Records titled “Enamorado de la vida” (Love of Life).

In 2003, Rey Caney retired after releasing “El balcón del adiós” with Vieja Trova Santiaguera.