Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

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(b 14 July 1930, NYC of Puerto Rican parentage; d 13 January 1979, Sweden) Conga and bongo player. He made pro debut in 1941; replaced Chano Pozo (his major influence) in Dizzy Gillespie's band three days after Pozo's death in 1948; also played with Duke Ellington, Count Basie, J. J. Johnson (The Eminent J. J. Johnson Vols 1 And 2 on Blue Note '53-5), Art Blakey (including Drum Suite '57 on Columbia, Orgy In Rhythm Vol. 1 '57 on Blue Note, Cu-Bop c.'57 on Jubilee), Charlie Parker, Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Mary Lou Williams, Lionel Hampton. In the Latin field he played with Noro and Esy Morales, Marcelino Guerra, Lecuona Cuban Boys, Miguelito Valdés, Joe Loco (in Loco's original trio formed 1951), Tito Rodríguez, Arsenio Rodríguez, others.

He formed his own quintet in 1957 (trumpet, piano, bass drums and conga); his debut album as leader with Afro-Cuban rhythm section and voices was Palo Congo '57 on Blue Note featuring Arsenio and his two brothers. Other recordings as leader included Sorcery! on Columbia and Safari on RCA. He made the cult Latin jazz LP Jazz Espagnole '60 on Alegre (see entry for Al Santiago). He sessioned on Arsenio's Cumbanchando con Arsenio (Fiesta en Harlem) '62 produced by Gabriel Oller for his SMC label and remained with SMC to make In Orbit and Astronautas de la Pachanga early '60s. He relocated to Sweden, formed group Burnt Sugar; made Afro Temple in Europe '70s; also sessioned on Clarke/Boland Big Band's Latin Kaleidoscope '68.