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Latin slala icon Willie Colon to perform at Bronx's Lehman Center

DEARDRA SHULER Special to the AmNews | 6/6/2013, 2:05 p.m.
Latin slala icon Willie Colon to perform at Bronx's Lehman Center

Latin salsa icon Willie Colon is well-known throughout the world. A renowned singer, composer, humanitarian, political activist, trombonist and liaison for the Latin American community to the mayor's office, Colon will be appearing at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in the Bronx on Saturday, June 8 at 8 p.m.

The concert is being produced by Lehman Center and Jose Raposo as part of the 2013 Blue Note Jazz Festival, and the theme of the show will be in dedication to the Nuyorican community, a term referring to the Puerto Rican diaspora located in New York City and state.

Born in the Bronx, Colon has been playing music since age 14. "I've been making music since [I was] a kid. I grew up in the South Bronx on 139th Street. I listened to all the musicians on the streets. My grandmother bought me a trumpet when I was 11 years old and I learned to play it, eventually switching to the trombone. This is why I want to dedicate my concert at Lehman to a Nuyorican theme. There have been Puerto Ricans in New York since the 1900s. The migration started right after the Jones Act, when the U.S. made Puerto Rico U.S. territory. There was a mass migration in the early 1900s, when my family came over."

Once the Nuyoricans came to America, they also faced the Jim Crow era along with the Blacks. In fact, many of us learned to speak English from our Black brothers. There is a link between the Latinos and our African-American brothers. Much of our music is from Africa. Bomba is African, and meringue is African. As a matter of fact, back in the 1960s, about 50 percent of the crowd listening to our music was African-American. We were playing boogaloo in English and a lot of instrumental stuff back then," said Colon.

Colon has recorded more than 40 albums and sold 30 million records worldwide. He has been nominated for 11 Grammys and received a Lifetime Achievement Latin Grammy Award. An accomplished artist, he has worked with the best--folks likes Ruben Blades, David Byrne, Hector LaVoe and Celia Cruz--and even appeared with the Fania All-Stars. In 2010, he produced "Estar lejos," a duet recording with Colombian musical star Fonseca.

"Fonseca is kind of a balladeer. He sent me an email asking me to listen to the song that eventually became 'Estar lejos.' I did an arrangement and sent it back to him. It was then he asked that we record the song together. Fonseca came to New York and brought some folks who used these little cameras which we used to record in the studio and then in the streets. The video came out excellent. Before we knew it, the song took off and was nominated for a Grammy. I never expected it to turn out so well."

"Currently, I have a few projects in mind. I would really like to put together a group of guys with a sketch and just play. As soon as the opportunity presents itself, that is what I plan to do," remarked the trombonist.