The influential Cuban musicians who introduced Latin sounds and Afro-Cuban rhythms to New York City began in the late 1930s, with the trumpeter and bandleader Mario Bauza, Machito’s foster sister and vocalist Graciela in the 1940s and Chano Pozo.
In the late 1940s, another young Cuban, Cándido de Guerra Camero, simply known as Candido, arrived in Manhattan and added his congas to the mix. The young man, who has become the most recorded conga drummer in jazz history, had his first set of bongos made by his father. He said, “They were just two cans my father cut open, covered and taped them together.”
The NEA Jazz Master, who has influenced every aspect of popular music from rock to pop, R&B, disco and Afro-Cuban dance music for more than seven decades, has decided to retire.
On Nov. 18, luminaries from his Latin jazz family will converge in Harlem at Aaron Davis Hall to celebrate his retirement, which will mark his final performance, at 7:30 p.m.
“Candido: The last Legendary Music Journey” will feature Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band, the Cuban guitarist David Oquendo, the renowned Cuban vocalist who has made quite a reputation here in the states Xiomara Laugart and the drummer Amaury Acosta & (U)nity, a group on the exploratory edge (co-founded with Axel Tosca).
Other performing artists will include the guitarist Benjamin Lapidus with a special salute from the jazz community by AUDELCO award-winning actor and vocalist Rome Neal with pianist/composer Richard Clements.
Known as the “Father of modern drumming,” Candido was the first to play multiple congas simultaneously. He said, “I got the idea in Cuba watching classical bands playing those big timpani drums. I thought it would be a good idea if I did that with my congas, plus it gives me more room to spread sounds.” This technique led to his polyrhythmic style of playing, which is now basic for most conga players.
Candido learned to play the tres (Cuban mandolin) and acoustic bass. While in Cuba he performed with the musician elite. He was a member of the Havana Tropicana nightclub house band for eight years.
In 1948 he made his first United States recording with Machito and His Afro-Cubans, followed with Dizzy Gillespie and a stint (1953-1954) with the Billy Taylor Trio. One of the most beautiful jazz albums recorded with the pianist was “The Billy Taylor Trio with Candido” (Prestige 1954).
He went on to record and play with Babatunde Olatunji, Grant Green, Tito Puente, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, La Lupe, John Coltrane, Gloria Estefan and Sonny Rollins and on Randy Weston’s now legendary recording of “Uhuru Afrika” (Roulette 1960).
He recorded 20 albums as a leader, including “The Conga Kings” (Chesky, 2000), featuring Giovanni Hidalgo, Candido and Patato Valdes, and “Candido & Graciela: Inolvidable” (Chesky, 2004). He appears in Ivan Acosta’s documentary about his life, “Cándido: Hands of Fire.”
“Cándido is truly a living legend,” said CCCA Managing Director Gregory Shanck. “Retirement is a big deal, especially if you are a pioneer of a musical revolution. Cándido’s selection of City College Center for the Arts and Latin Jazz USA as the organizers of this celebration is a tremendous honor for us.”
Tickets are $25 and $10 for students. Visit the website http://www.citycollegecenterforthearts.org/ or call 212-650-6900. Aaron Davis Hall is located on the campus of the City College at West 135th Street and Convent Avenue (129 Convent Ave.).
James Brown, aka “The Godfather of Soul” aka “the hardest working man in show business,” left a global imprint that influenced musicians from a cross section of genres. As a jazz fan he once stated, “Those cats like Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis knew what to do.”
The consummate bassist and composer Christian McBride spent hours listening to Brown and practicing those bass licks as a youngster in his hometown of Philadelphia. “James Brown was a bad dude, who played great music,” said McBride.
In honor of his “number 1 musical hero,” McBride will lead an all-star tribute, Get On Up: A James Brown Celebration, Nov. 18, at New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, N.J., at 8 p.m.
McBride’s all-star soul brigade will feature the vocalists Sharon Jones, “called the female James Brown,” blues/soul singer songwriter Bettye LaVette, Lee Fields, gospel/soul singer Ryan Shaw, along with the multi-instrumentalist and producer Terrance Martin. Most crucial are the James Brown Band alumni, featuring the saxophonist/composer Pee Wee Ellis (co-wrote “Cold Sweat” and “Say It Loud, I’m Black and Proud”), master of ceremonies “The Cape man” Danny Ray, the drummer Robert “Mousey” Thompson and the dynamite trombonist Fred Wesley.
With McBride and these funk masters it’s going to be “Out of Sight,” just “Let Yourself Go” and admit “Money Won’t Change You.”
The following evening, the fifth annual James Moody Jazz Festival continues Nov. 19, as NJPAC hosts the Sarah Vaughan Celebration with the Christian McBride Trio.
Special guest vocalists paying tribute to the legacy of Newark’s own “Sassy” Sarah will include Dianne Reeves, Lisa Fischer and the elder songstress Sheila Jordan. Rare film clips of Vaughan, aka “the Divine One,” will complement the concert. The NEA Jazz Master became a world renowned jazz vocalist mentioned in the same sentence with Ella Fitzgerald and Billy Holiday.
A free Pre-show event at 6 p.m. with film clips and a discussion will be hosted by Todd Barkan. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m.
For ticket information, visit the website njpac.org. NJAC is located at 1 Center St. in Newark, N. J.
Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros, who died on Jan. 6, 2016, at the age of 87 had ascended to legendary status during his years in the United States after leaving Cuba in 1958.
The trumpeter and composer earned the name as “the Louis Armstrong of Afro-Cuban trumpet.” The elder musician gave trumpeter Wynton Marsalis some notes on the art of Afro-Cuban improvisation.
Last month, East 122nd Street and Third Avenue was named in his honor. The Speaker of the NYC Council Melissa Mark-Viverito stated, “These namings are a way of keeping the history of our community. We don’t want people to forget our legends like Chocolate.”
He resided in the Taino Towers for more than 30 years. Maria Cruz, the executive director of the complex, stated, “Everyone, from the very young to the eldest of the seniors, knew and loved Chocolate Armenteros. He enriched us.”
The East Harlem street was crowded with his family, fans, friends and fellow Latin musicians. It was a very uplifting ceremony of tribute.
His close resemblance to the Cuban boxer Kid Chocolate earned him
While living in Havana, he performed and toured with the band Sonora Matancera, with the pianist Bebo Valdés’ group in 1952, and, from 1953 to 1955, with his cousin Benny More, the popular Cuban singer.
In New York he played with a variety of innovators, such as Arsenio Rodriguez, Cachao Lopez, Eddie and Charlie Palmieri, Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez and Larry Harlow.
“This is a great honor to have a street named after my father,” said Alfredo Armenteros Jr. “Within our community we can get anything done. It was love, family and friends that made this happen.”