Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 21 July 1953, Havana, Cuba) Conga, bata drums; composer, bandleader. He played in street gatherings, an annual carnival, tourist hotels; occasionally joined singer Carlos Embale in shows and on record; turned full-time pro after leaving Cuba (forcibly) in 1980: he went to NYC in July, joined Afro-Cuban jam sessions in the scene at the Soundscape loft including Andy and Jerry González, Paquito D'Rivera, Ignacio Berroa, Jorge Dalto; sessioned on albums by Kip Hanrahan, D'Rivera, McCoy Tyner, Justo Betancourt. Rising maverick producer Bill Laswell saw Ponce at Soundscape, used him on Herbie Hancock 12" single 'Rockit' and album Future Shock '83: the complexities of Cuban drumming helped knit together Laswell's blend of electronic percussion and synths as bedrock and as a tangible hook. Ponce appeared in productions with Jamaican toaster Yellowman and on Laurie Anderson's 'Mr Heartbreak', wrote track 'Karabali' for Hancock's Sound System, played on Nona Hendryx's Art Of Defence and Mick Jagger's She's The Boss; all '84; in '85 on a Ginger Baker comeback album on Celluloid, Sly & Robbie's annual electro-reggae LP, Yoko Ono's Starpiece and with avant-garde rock group Golden Palaminos, each time standing out in the mesh of diverse sonic output.
He maintained his Cuban links: his solo album New York Now '83 conceded little overall to the dance crowd: bravely spare in places, resurrecting the Cuban ballad style called 'feeling', leaving D'Rivera to unravel/ remake Ernesto Lecuona's classic 'Siboney'. He received the CAPS (Creative Artists Public Service) award for composition, went to yhe Berlin Jazz Festival '83, went to Tokyo with Hendryx and sessioned on Caimán LP Super All Star '84, worked with Celia Cruz in show Yoruba Fantasy '85 and visited London, playing with local salsa outfit El Sonido de Londres; sessioned on Afro-Cuban Jazz '86 on Caimán with Mario Bauzá and Graciela. His Arawe '87 on Antilles included Tito Puente, others; followed up with Changó Te Llama '91 on Mango produced by Oscar Hernández.