Walter is an openly creative multidirectional drummer/percussionist. His richly eclectic and unique gift encompasses a plurality of styles–from rock to latin to world music–in a way that is extremely rare in a realm dominated usually by “doing-one-thing” specialists. Combining powerful technique, uncanny sense of time, deep understanding of the essence of different cultural musical manifestations with a profound sense of stylistic appropriateness, Walter embodies -“The drummer/percussionist of the new century”- quoting his mentor Alex Acuña.
There are drummers, and there are percussionists. Very, very few of his generation have an equally flawless command at the Drum set, Latin percussion (from congas, to bongos/timbales), other World Music percussion (African, Brazilian, Afro-Uruguayan, and Indian… among other), and Electronic percussion (both as a programmer/performer). All of these are brought together and nurtured by a profound sense of purpose and meaning, defined by him as his “calling”. Walter wants to dedicate his playing to JESUS CHRIST, “The One Whom every perfect gift comes from”.
Playing drums from a very early age, Walter Rodriguez, born in San Juan. P.R., played his first TV show at the age of seven. His father, top studio call on the island for over 20 years, was his first teacher and still his greatest inspiration. While playing side by side with his dad, he was surrounded by today’s musical greats Alex Acuna and Giovanni Hidalgo; simultaneously enhancing his musical knowledge by studying piano and working as a sound engineer. At the age of 22, Walter moved to Los Angeles to study at Musicians Institute of Technology, specifically the PIT (Percussion Institute of Technology) division.
While getting involved in the local music scene, Walter and Alex Acuna connected, this time Alex taking Walter under his wing and becoming his spiritual and musical mentor. Where others would concentrate on fewer options/activities as time passes-by, Walter is heading to broader, more musically challenging directions. He is not only dealing with harmonic and other relevant music-theory elements, but also opening an even bigger sonic “palette” by studying -yet- other World-Music percussion traditions, including the Australian didgeridoo [the oldest woodwind instrument ever] and the Indian tabla, to mention a few. Walter’s excellent musicianship is only a part of his appeal as player and performer. His innate charisma, adding warmth and flare to any stage, and his smile frequently pointed out, as “lighting up the whole world”, are only surpassed by his sense of meaning and purpose. He defines the essence of his musical endeavor as two-fold: To shine for GOD Almighty in JESUS’ Name, and to affect people in a positive way in a world desperately needing so.
Few drummers playing today can successfully combine the rich history of Latin, Afro-Cuban and World Percussion with the drum set. For Walfredo Reyes Jr., fusing the two disciplines has been his driving passion. In fact, by blazing this path, Reyes has challenged the technical levels of our instrument.
Born in Cuba, raised in Puerto Rico and culminating his musical style in the U.S., Wally (Walfredo Jr.) learned the traditions from the master, his father Walfredo Sr. He married those principles with his love of the drum set, coming up with his own truly global rhythmic style. Simply put, Wally is able to sound like a drummer and a percussionist at the same time. Add blistering chops and a penchant for playing unusual patterns to the mix, and you have only a small idea of what this man can do.
Not surprisingly, this "one man percussion show" has gathered an impressive list of gigs over the years, including touring and / or recording with: Carlos Santana, Traffic, Steve Winwood, Jackson Browne, Celia Cruz, Gloria Estefan, David Lindley, Ricki Lee Jones, Richard Marx, Sergio Mendes, Smokey Robinson, Robbie Robertson, Joe Sample, Boz Scaggs, Christina Aguilera, Ricky Martin, Johnny Hallyday.
Because of his versatility, Walfredo is one of the most in demand musicians in the world today. He currently lives in the Los Angeles area where he continues to expand his talents to recording, producing, composing, education, live performance and touring.
Percussionist Ray Solis adds the spice and drive to a live DelGado Brothers show. Bringing along everything but the kitchen sink (not sure if he had one in the trunk) he plays an assortment of congas, timbales, brake drums, and anything that makes an interesting sound.
It's hard to believe that someone with as much musical depth and history as Ray Armando has never released an album of his own. He has worked with some of the brightest stars in jazz and Latin music and is respected worldwide as an arranger and percussionist of the highest caliber.
Mallet Hands, his debut album for CuBop, is a long overdue labor of love that will surely put Armando on the map once and for all as a true treasure of the Latin jazz genre.
Born on January 27, 1939 in Brooklyn, the young Armando would listen closely to his father's Machito and Arsenio Rodriguez records and to the voice of his mother, a professional singer, dancer, and actress. While his dreams of becoming a baseball player were never realized, he did manage to become skilled on the conga drums at an early age.
"I got involved with Latin percussion through my uncle at the age of 8," he recalls. "My first real influence and teacher was Mongo Santamaria. He lived across the street from my family at that time." At the age of fifteen, he went on the road with Elmo Garcia's Big Band. After paying his dues with Garcia, he went on to work with the Mambo King himself, Tito Puente, with whom he would play at the legendary Palladium in New York City. After his stint with Puente, he continued his studies in percussion instruments and guitar compositions, delving into elements of harmony, theory and counterpoint.
"In between studies," he recalls, "I often free-lanced, which consequently gave me the opportunity to travel the globe. This included Europe, Japan, South America, and the Caribbean Islands. I became exposed to the different facets of music in various cultures. This enabled me to develop a new rhythmic concept that is both distinctive and unique." His expertise was put to use in playing with and/or arranging the works of such notables as João Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Duke Ellington, Stan Getz, Freddie Hubbard, Donald Byrd, George Benson, Machito, Charlie & Eddie Palmieri, La Playa Sextet, Barry White, Nina Simone, Santana, Bobby Hutcherson, Kenny Burrell, Art Blakey, Dexter Gordon, Oliver Nelson, Lionel Hampton, Donny Hathaway, Sarah Vaughn, Richard "Groove" Holmes, Grant Green, Lou Donaldson, Cal Tjader, Gilberto Sextet, and many other notables. He has also participated in the creation of such classic scores as The French Connection, Bionic Woman, and Kung Fu, as well as working with Gato Barbieri on The Last Tango in Paris.
Mallet Hands is produced by the legendary Bobby Matos and features all original compositions with a stellar line-up of players, including Ben Clatworthy on tenor, George Griffin and Theo Sanders on piano, Eddie Resto on bass, Enzo Tolesco on drums, and Robertito Melendez and Jose "Papo" Rodriguez on bongos. Fans of CuBop labelmates John Santos and Marlon Simon will be pleased with this welcome addition to the growing stable of CuBop artists.
Although he began his musical life as a guitarist, Ramon Banda took over the drum chair in the family band in 1967. Along the way he has become one of the most respected and in demand Drummer/Percussionists today. His unique style and hard grooving approach evolved naturally from his formative years on the Los Angeles music scene.
Most familiar to U.S. and international audiences for his work on timbales with the Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band, Ramon participated in over 22 recordings, countless world tours and educational workshops over the past two decades. Ramon has now ventured out on his own, working with a variety of artists, including live performances, session work and private instruction.
Ramon's musical tastes run wide and deep from; Rashaan Roland Kirk to Hank Williams and everything in between. His drumming influences include; Max Roach, Billy Higgins, Jeff Hamilton, Clyde Stubblefield and Al Jackson as well as percussion greats; Tito Puente, Manny Oquendo, Willie Bobo and Orestes Vilato. Ramon's versatility on drums and percussion have allowed him to perform and/or record with many legends of Jazz and Latin music such as; Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Cal Tjader, Freddie Hubbard, Carmen McRae, Mongo Santamaria, Celia Cruz, Eddie Harris, Al McKibbon and The Jazz Crusaders. As well as the innovators of today including Chick Correa, Dianne Reeves, Joey De Francesco, Arturo Sandoval and Terence Blanchard. Playing with an energy and conviction that is soulful, relaxed and intensely swinging, Ramon signs all of his art that way, but never more so than when he along with his brother Tony head up their own ensemble, The Banda Bros. Group. Formed in 1996 with a powerful emphasis on straight-ahead Jazz as well as drawing from the rich Afro-Caribbean traditions. The sextet has a unique talent for bringing insight and imagination to original material as well as covered classics, providing the perfect balance of accessibility and invention.
Nick Mancini is, by his own admission, most at home when behind the vibes and in front of a capacity crowd. As both a vibraphonist and as a bandleader, Mancini enjoys a reputation as one of New York’s most called-upon studio players, trusted bandleaders and kick-ass sidemen. Playing with a maturity that belies his youth, he has accrued both a band and a following that reflects his dual commitment to deep musical exploration and old-school entertainment.
A graduate of the Manhattan School of Music’s prestigious jazz program, his prowess as a musician never obscures his talent as an entertainer. “Honestly, I think of myself as a singer, really,” says Mancini, “Songs are at the heart of what I do. I try to stay connected to the songwriter’s original intent. I think that keeps listeners engaged in a way they aren’t typically used to when listening to instrumentalists. Also, I think that there’s an element of surprise in my playing...not that I’m trying to pull any fast ones. But I do feel that my sense of humor comes out in my playing,” muses Mancini, “I find myself approaching standards as if they were pop tunes and pop tunes as if they were standards. That, too, has a way of drawing people in.”
As a bandleader, Nick has written, produced, and recorded with Kitchen Sink (Everything But The...), the Nick Mancini Collective (Live: New York) and Type II (Flexible Plan), which Cadence Magazine described as “full of drive and lyricism...music with pizzazz and finesse....There is a sense of another era embedded in this music; yet it is not dated. The style is given fresh life in the hands of this band with sparkling improvisations and fine interactivity.” Nick appears regularly at Joe’s Pub, Birdland, Fez, Mercury Lounge, the Living Room, Cornelia Street Café, Detour and Jack’s Joint.
As a sideman he has recorded with Julian Fleisher and his Rather Big Band, Johanna Grüssner’s Manhattan Jazz Orchestra and Dave’s True Story. Outside of New York City, he has played extensively in Europe and upstate New York, in particular the Van Dyck in Schenectady, where he’s something of a hometown hero — if not a prodigal son. Nick originally hails from Amsterdam, New York, a picturesque burg in New York’s Mohawk River Valley where his first forays into music were as a drummer.
Even at the tender age of 13, he was widely sought after among that region’s most accomplished bands. In order to apply to an orchestral program in college — he graduated cum laude from SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music — he needed to learn a new instrument, one that could produce a melody. He quickly picked up the vibes, and the rest is history. Nick also received a masters degree from the Manhattan School of Music where he received the President’s Award two years in a row. “I never intended to become a vibraphone player, but my desire to communicate through melody as well as rhythm led me to the thing, and now, well, it looks as if our love is here to stay.”
While chock full of percussion , this is not a percussion only album. Steel pans, piano, and guitar were also used. Munyungo tours the world with Vinx and Dianne Reeves, and has performed with Miles Davis, Lionel Hampton and Anita Baker. His recording credits include major work with Vinx, Sting, Kenny Loggins and most recently KebMo.
Though Daryl "Munyungo" Jackson began his musical career as a classical pianist, he began to play timbales at age 17 with his high school classmates in a Latin jazz band. It wasn't long before Jackson was hooked on Latin styles of percussion, moving on to congas, bongos, bells and triangles.
Throughout his career he has worked with traditional drummers from Africa, Latin America, China and Japan, building an international resume of musical styles, as well as a collection of over 400 pieces of equipment. Jackson also experiments with the non-traditional percussion equipment of drum machines, sequencers and samplers to create his music.
Jackson has also performed with artists like Willie Bobo, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, Miles Davis and Anita Baker, as well as working on a number of film and television soundtracks. Because of his skill and range, Jackson can perform in any musical setting, from funk to pop to jazz to Latin. He has also performed and toured with Jean Luc Ponte and Diane Reeves.
In addition to his touring and session work Jackson is a staff member of the Los Angeles-based Watts Towers Art Center, and leads the traditional African band Jungle Book.
Musical and life influences (books, recordings, teachers, friends): Chris Hart (U-Da Cat!!) I love music that has a wonderful spirit in it! I also love percussion and percussionist like - Nana Vesconselos, Paulinho Da Costa, Mongo Santamaria, Tito Puente, Willie Bobo, Giovanni, Orestes Vilato, Armando Perraza, and there are more, but no room.
Most memorable musical experience: Those have been many! Let see…working with Joe Zawiinul, Miles Davis – a serious school!! Vinx – a percussion band that played in tune for each song which we sang too! And Dianne Reeves which is like playing with a horn player who sings!
VAN NUYS — For musician Richard (Moon) Calhoun, the irony strikes as forcefully as the lyrics to a sad song:
Here's this 41-year-old drummer, singer and songwriter, who survived years of hard drinking, drugs and crazy living in the manic Los Angeles rock music scene, reached rock bottom and decided to bulldoze his bad habits for good.
He joined Alcoholics Anonymous, later settled down with his wife, June, and began to write new and inspired songs at his tiny home bedroom-turned-recording-studio. He even began riding a bicycle to shape up and lose weight.
Then, on a cloudless Sunday morning in September, Calhoun was struck down by a freakish turn of his bicycle wheel--an accident that came on the kind of wide-open suburban street where boys take their first bike rides.
That's when he hit the innocuous pothole that grabbed the front tire, throwing the rider without a helmet violently to the ground, breaking his neck, turning him into what doctors refer to as a C-6 quadriplegic.
One month following his release from a 90-day hospital stay, the articulate lyricist is still reeling from the sudden turnaround to the lifestyle he had fought so hard to clean up.
"I was just riding my bike at the wrong time, in the wrong place, " said Calhoun, who has played with the Gap Band, Chaka Khan, Ray Parker Jr. and numerous lesser-known groups. "Now, what am I going to do with my life? What's the message here? It's kind of scary."
On Monday, local musicians will sponsor a benefit at Mancini's Restaurant in Canoga Park to raise money for Calhoun, who is faced with mounting personal bills and an uncertain future in the music business. On hand will be guitar players, drummers, bass and horn players, many of whom are reconsidering their own version of the fast-paced L. A. lifestyle.
"We're all in shock over what happened to Moon," said Jeff Paris, a musician and songwriter who has played with Calhoun. "It's absolutely surreal. Many local players just don't believe it happened. We all know that if something like this could have happened to Moon, it could have happened to any one of us."
The accident damaged Calhoun's spinal cord, leaving him with limited use of his arms and legs, turning the once-precise movements of his hands into an unsteady wobble. He now spends three days a week in physical therapy and needs help just to get out of bed and get dressed.
But while doctors have expressed only guarded hope that Calhoun will walk again, fellow musicians are more optimistic. If anyone can make a comeback, they say, it's Moon.
"Spiritually, the people who know Moon say that he's going to come back 100% from all this, period," said Dennis O'Donnell, a friend who also produced one of Calhoun's bands. "It may take time and hard work. But we're all expecting to see him on the music scene again, playing drums again, singing again."
Moon has the greatest hope of all.
He still has nerve signals moving up and down his spinal cord. The other day in therapy, he stood for a full minute without help. Heck, no matter what doctors say, Moon pledges he'll be back: "I believe in my recovery."
But before the accident and the new self-realization, there were the wild years.
Growing up in Tulsa, Okla., Calhoun was hanging out with musicians who were into reggae, who laughed at the way the teen-ager would drawl out the word mon or man, to "mooooonnnn."
During a brief stay in the home of singer Leon Russell, Calhoun recalls, Russell coined the nickname, Moon: "He liked the way it rhymed--Moon Calhoun. Leon, Mr. Poet-head."
At age 19, Calhoun hit Los Angeles and immediately liked what he saw--the weather, the women, the music scene. And, of course, the party scene.
Throughout the 1970s, he was always working, playing with the Gap Band, Chaka Khan. He had countless lounge gigs and began singing and songwriting.
But then there were the drinking and the drugs--the howling at the moon. Like the night when he threw a bottle of whiskey from a car sunroof, laughing as it shattered on the sidewalk. Friends said Calhoun partied so hard, he later spent days recuperating, lying prone on his living room floor watching television, turning the set on its side so he could see it better.
Then, on Dec. 4, 1980, the music finally stopped: Calhoun admitted he had a drinking problem. He called Alcoholics Anonymous.
"It was a life of blow, alcohol and coke," he said. "I was losing friends, running things into the ground. I didn't like the way people were talking about me behind my back, saying that I was just too crazy to be around."
Soon, he and his wife, June, moved from the Westside to Van Nuys. Calhoun set up his own recording studio in a spare bedroom and did numerous local gigs and toured with Andy Gibb and Ray Parker Jr. For kicks, he rode his motorcycle, drank a lot of coffee.
Last year, he began his new workout regimen: Each morning, he got onto the floor--not to watch TV, but to do 100 sit-ups. Then he'd ride a borrowed bicycle to a local health food store, always taking the back roads, avoiding the busy Valley thoroughfares.
"I'd never ridden a bike much before and I really got into it," he said. "And so I rode--not crazy, not wild, just cruising."
On a suburban street near Victory Boulevard, Calhoun's bike hit the hole. Calhoun's shoulder and head absorbed the impact. He recalls laying there for an eternity, unable to move his legs, realizing that his arms were nearly useless. "I was praying," he said. "I was really scared."
He spent three months in the hospital as doctors fused together his damaged spinal cord with bone grafts and a metal plate.
Now, outside his tiny home, a wooden plank has been erected so he can roll his chair to and from the front door. Friends have stored his three drum sets and have redesigned his studio so he can maneuver from a sitting position.
"It slays me, the fact that my independence is gone," he said. "It's hard to accept. But I have to make the best of it. The only other choice is to sit here and waste away."
The other day, with the help of his day nurse, Calhoun climbed into his wheelchair and rolled the few blocks from his house back to the Spot.
For one languid moment, he waited in silence over a shallow pothole, thinking about fate and ugly bad luck and the things that could have been.
"I had to go see the hole again," he said. "It wasn't particularly emotional. The accident, it's done now. But I couldn't put things aside in my mind until I went back."
Now Moon Calhoun is ready to start Life No. 3. He has new songs to write, music to make.
"Before the accident, I never felt that what success I had was ever enough," he said. "I always felt crippled because I never believed I was a big enough star on my own. It was like I fell short.
"I never realized what I had, just being healthy enough to play my instruments and have my life the way I had it. Now I know."
Michito Sanchez will never forget the day he was called to supply percussion in sessions with both Crosby, Stills & Nash and Elton John. Naturally all days cannot be as auspicious, but one such as that is an indication of the caliber of musicianship Sanchez has become known for. There have been countless musical highlights -- the Rolling Stones, Don Was, Bruce Hornsby, Robert Palmer, Herbie Hancock, Placido Domingo, Luis Miguel, Glenn Frey and an endless list of sessions, videos and live performances in every genre of music.
Such success was the dream for the kid growing up in New Jersey. While the family jam sessions during the snowy nights were rough around the edges, music seeped into the blood of this boy. As a first generation born American of Cuban parentage, bongos were a constant fixture in the Sanchez household and between those and the pots and pans, the youngster was able to cut his early musical teeth. Then after attending some bata and rumba jam sessions, Michito was hooked.
"When I saw the real cats playing, it freaked me out," he recalls, referring to Patato and Totico, Cachete, Julito Collazo and Little Ray Romero.
The family moved to California as Michito began his sophmore year in high school. Musically, it was a turning point for the boy whose music teacher, Ken Smith, happened to be a drummer. Aside from learning how to read music and playing in the South Gate High School marching band and jazz band, as well as the All City Marching Band, the creative freedom Smith allowed his student influenced Sanchez's entire approach to drums and percussion.
"I would get bored with the sticks and I'd say, "I can do all this double stroke stuff and rudiments with my hands," Michito explains. "That's where my style came from, so I really owe a lot to my teacher for turning me on to stick control."
At the same time, Sanchez benefitted by private lessons with Rolito Soto, formerly of the Cuban band Rumbavana, considered by many as an institution in modern Cuban music. As one of Cuba's best bongoceros, Soto not only worked with Sanchez on percussive technique, but he addressed the more practical issues as well.
"We went through everything," Sanchez recalls, "even how you place bongos between your legs when you play and what kind of shoes and socks to wear. When you play bongos, you're sitting down, so your pants are higher and people see your socks and shoes. You don't want to be on the stage with funky socks and shoes, do you?" he says with a laugh.
When Sanchez enrolled in Los Angeles City College, his father knew he was serious about music as a profession. He had hoped for a more secure profession for his son, but that opinion never effected Michito's burning desire to play music or his commitment to excel at it. For two years, he played salsa five nights a week at a nightclub, slept three hours and arose at 6:00 a.m. to take the bus to college each morning. Although it was tough, he says, "I wouldn't change that time for the world."
While attending the Dick Grove School of Music, he received a call from Devauhn Pershing, Nel Carter's musical director whom he had met while subbing on another gig. He joined her band at 22, and was thrilled to be making a living playing music and experiencing his first encounter with life on tour.
"I learned how to play show tunes and how, while you're still playing one tune, you must be looking to the next chart which is about to start any second. It was great working with dancers and being exposed to their lingo and it was a learning experience just on how to be on the road, how to deal with hotels, people, etc."
As soon as the job ended after two years, the phone began to ring. Sanchez had already earned a sterling reputation that would employ him with local bands such as Claire Fischer, Rudy Regalado & Chevere, The L.A. Salsa Society Orchestra, Bongologic and Cecilia Noel & the Wild Clams. At the same time, he toured for eight years with John Denver alongside Elvis' rhythm section, guitarist James Burton and bassist Jerry Scheff. When he left Denver in the spring of 1990, it was to join Crosby, Stills & Nash.
There have been so many memorable situations like a recent Don Was drumless project where he worked beside Herbie Hancock and percussionists Shiela E., Lenny Castro, Mike Fisher, Curt Bisquera and Was on bass. For the most part, the challenge remains choosing the proper instrumentation to provide the right sound and texture to complement the music. Oftentimes, he's the last ingredient to be added to the musical pot and it's his ability to choose just the right seasoning that completes the project.
But a great percussionist never thinks just about his part. Even though the part may consist only of a strike of a cowbell or a groove on a shaker, Sanchez is contemplating the whole musical picture. "I love drums and percussion, but it's really music I love," he states.
He knows he's one of the fortunate few who gets to make a living playing music and he never takes that privilege for granted. "Every call to play -- from club dates to recording sessions -- is a unique experience and a blessing, one I look forward to," says Michito, who has enjoyed working with such artists as Kenny Loggins, Boz Scaggs, Joe Sample, Herb Alpert, Hanson, Chucho Valdez, Tito Puente, T-Bone Burnett, Joe Zawinul, Elvis Costello, Toni Braxton and Steve Winwood. Sanchez is a full member of Caravana Cubana, nominated for a Grammy in 2001 in the catagory of Best Traditional Tropical Latin Performance for their debut album Late Night Sessions.
In 2002 Michito was part of the Raul Malo (lead singer of the Mavericks) solo project. At the same time he was asked by Boney James to join his touring band. Michito toured with Boney from April thru September. During that time, he was also able to work on record projects for Flora Purim, Tommy Walker, Fernando Ortega and several others. He also performed at the Latin grammy's with Nelly Furtado & Juanes (Grammy Award Winner for Song and Artist of the Year) and the Country Music Awards with Brooks & Dunn. In August he received a call from Japan asking him to join Iekichi Yazawa (the Mick Jagger of Japan) touring band. He toured Japan extensively with Yazawa thru December.
In 2003, although a relatively slow touring year, Michito had some great experiences. He worked on several different record projects including; Airto Moreira new solo CD along side with the great conguero Giovanni Hildalgo, Eric Benet, and Angelique Kidjo. He also kept busy performing live with artist, Bill Cantos & Mary Falcone, Doc Sevrinsen, Nestor Torres, Rick Trevino, David Garfield, Jose Rizo's Jazz on the Latin Side All Stars and several contemporary christian artist including Darlene Zschech, Tom Brook, Lenny Leblanc, Tommy Commes (Franklin Graham Praise Band,) Andre Crouch, and of course Tommy Walker of his home church, Christian Assembly in Eagle Rock, CA. His plate is full, but he never complains about too much work -- it's what makes him tick.
"As long as I am playing music, I am happy," he says.
What can you say about a guy who smokes on percussion, blazes on trumpet, and
can sing like you've never heard - and can whistle like a bird! All you can say
That's Mark Ledford for you. After a long stint with guitar wizard Pat
Metheny, he is featured on some tunes with Sandro Albert recorded at the Baked Potato.