Category Archives: Percussion

Luis Conte

Artist Profile:

Luis Conte

"luis_conte_4I really don't know how I got started playing. As far back as my memory will go, I owned a drum. It's like asking someone how long they've been breathing."

Luis Conte

Luis Conte’s genius stems from his ability to integrate the powerful rhythms of his native Cuba with the American necessities of American pop music. His long and varied career has included numerous Hollywood film scores and mega-successful albums with Madonna, Ray Charles, Phil Collins, Santana, Shakira, Jackson Browne, Sergio Mendes, Cachao, and a multitude of other artists too numerous to mention.

Born in Santiago, Cuba, Luis spent the first 15 years of his life soaking up the rich musical heritage of “El Son” and Carnival. "Life in Cuba is all about enjoying life, and music is central to that lifestyle," Luis says. "Music is almost like food to Cuban people.” While immersed in the music of his native Cuba, Luis also developed a passion for Rock & Roll, R&B soul music, jazz, and the Beatles. luis_conte_1
At 15, looking for freedom, Luis emigrated to Madrid, Spain. He soon had another opportunity to travel, this time to Hollywood. In California, Luis stayed with a cousin and attended Hollywood High School, playing guitar in numerous rock bands throughout his teens.
After high school, Luis met John Monteallegre, who reunited him with Cuban drums at LA City College. By the time he was 18, Luis was intensely interested in drumming and took every opportunity to play and to learn, drawing his inspiration from a deep source of rhythm absorbed during his youth in Cuba.
Since then, Luis has become one of the most respected and recorded percussionists in the world.
Some of Luis’ musical influences:
All the drummers that play in Carnival in Santiago
Tata Guines
Mongo Santa Maria
Papin
Patato Valdez
Armando Peraza
Francisco Aguabella
Airto Moreira

Lenny Castro

Artist Profile:

Lenny Castro

lenny_castro_1A native of New York City, Lenny Castro moved to Los Angeles in the late 70’s where he quickly established himself as a first call percussionist in the prestigious Los Angeles studio session scene.  Since then his talents have taken him to work with artists such as Al Jarreau, Boz Scaggs, Toto, Dolly Parton, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, David Sanborn, Joe Sample, Kenny Loggins, Ricky Lee Jones, Dan Fogelberg, the Crusaders, Barbra Streisand, Simply Red, Karizma, Quincy Jones, Tom Petty, Wildflowers, Dave Koz, Macy Gray, Eric Clapton, Elton John, Gordon Lightfoot, Pat Benetar, Randy Crawford and Bette Midler to name a few. 

Lenny Castro is one of the world's most in-demand percussionists, and he has done his part to inject percussion into rock and pop music. "I've always been into the Latin feel, because of my heritage. But I was the only kid on the block that was listening to Hendrix, classical, country and western," he says. "Percussion can go in almost any kind of music. You have to be open-minded enough to try it."

Castro was first influenced by Armando Peraza, Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo, the Rascals and the Beatles. He learned by playing and watching others play at parks and beaches in New York. At the age of 15, Lenny began playing LP fiberglass congas. "Now, I gotta have wood, and I gotta have skin," he laughs. lenny_castro_2

Lenny has performed recently with Little Feat, Boney James, Peter White, and on the Francis Ford Coppola film Rainmaker with Charlie Watts, Taj Mahal, and Billy Preston. On Joe Sample Trio's Sample, he plays a kit that is part drum set and part percussion. "It's really different, almost like having a second career," he laughs. "I add the colors and highlights to the music, and that's what's fun about it."

Joey De Leon

Artist Profile:

Joey De Leon

joey_deleon_1Percussionist and drummer Joseph “Joey” De Leon Jr. was born New York City. He holds a Bachelors Degree in Classical Percussion from the prestigious Manhattan School Of Music in which upon graduation, was given the school’s Most Outstanding Musicianship Award. He moved to LA in the early 90’s, started playing with the late Francisco Aguabella and gradually move up in the ranks, getting an opportunity to play alongside one of his idols, Alex Acuña in the band Tolu. He has performed or recorded with such luminaries as Arturo Sandoval, Kevin Eubanks, Dean Brown, Robbie Williams, Al McKay(EWF Fame), Strunz and Farah, Spanish Harlem Orch., international artists Joan Sebastian and Juan Gabriel, Bill Cunliffe, Chante Moore, Al Jarreau, Queen Latifah, among many many others.

joey_deleon_2Joseph “Joey” De Leon Jr.
Currently, he is performing with Grammy winner Poncho Sanchez and Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band and is co musical director for Lucky 7 Mambo, a seven piece dance music band.

Jack Costanzo

Artist Profile:

Jack Costanzo

jack_costanzo_1Jack Costanzo is known and responsible for the popularity of the bongos all over the world. He introduced bongos into American music when he was with the famous Stan Kenton Band, which shot him to jazz fame overnight. Jack recorded with Stan such favorites as The Peanut Vendor, Bongo Riff, Cuban Carnival and about fifty other recordings.

jack_costanzo_2Most jazz aficionados know Jack Costanzo as the groundbreaking bongo player for the legendary Stan Kenton Band, which made three appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. Or maybe they learned his name when Nat King Cole took Costanzo into his fold, honoring him by changing the band's name to "Nat King Cole and the Trio (featuring Jack Costanzo)." Or simply by virtue of having his own band, which has released excellent Latin jazz records, including this year's Back from Havana.

Others may know Costanzo for his public persona, "Mr. Bongo." Under that name, Costanzo has performed and acted in many movies, including Visitor to a Small Planet and The Delicate Delinquent (with Jerry Lewis), Danny Kaye's Man from the Diners Club, Red Skelton's Stool Pigeon Number 1, and Harem jack_costanzo_3Scarum, alongside Elvis Presley.

However you know of him, Costanzo is a living legend, credited with introducing the bongos to American jazz in the 50s. He was raised in Chicago until the age of 15, beginning his entertainment career as a touring dancer with his late wife. "We did everything -- jitterbug, ballroom dancing, rumba," the 79-year-old says from his home in Lakeside. "Rumba was just becoming known in this country. When it became popular in the big cities, we toured nationally. That's how I learned to do bongos.

a was just becoming known in this country. When it became popular in the big cities, we toured nationally. That's how I learned to do bongos.

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Francisco Aguabella

Artist Profile:

Francisco Aguabella

francisco_aguabella_1Francisco’s talents extend well beyond the realms of Latin Jazz and pop. He gets down all the way from impromptu street rumbas to marathon comparsa drum battles at Carnival. Perhaps most impressively he is a master of the ceremonial Batá, an Afro-Cuban religious drum with origins in West Africa. Aguabella’s performances on this giant talking drum are so intense and spiritual that it is said he can actually direct the spirits, or Olishas, to take possession of the bodies of specific dancers. “He makes the walls sweat,” Carlos Santana says of Francisco’s playing In Sworn To the Drum, a Les Blank documentary tribute to Aguabella. “I am not making francisco_aguabella_2this up, the walls start sweating. By virtue of how (he) plays he literally changes the elements around him.”

The Francisco Aguabella Latin Jazz Ensemble combines the smooth sound of Jazz with the electrifying rhythms of Afro-Cuban music to form a unique and versatile sound. They add an exciting twist to Latin Jazz, with their use of a combination of Afro-Cuban music, Yoruba, and Son. The Francisco Aguabella Latin Jazz Ensemble has something for everyone, as they fuse Latin Jazz with the rhythmic power of Afro-Cuban drumming, the clever creativity and spontaneity of Son, and the familiar swing of Salsa. francisco_aguabella_3

The Francisco Aguabella Latin Jazz Ensemble is led by Francisco Aguabella, a "virtuoso" percussionist who has performed, collaborated, and/or recorded with such legendary artists as Tito Puente, Clarlos Santana, Poncho Sanches, Mongo Santamaria, Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie, Eddie Palmieri and Machito just to name a few. The rest of the members of The Francisco Aguabella Latin Jazz Ensemble are a group of exceptional musicians who's backgrounds are just as impressive. The Francisco Aguabella Latin Jazz Ensemble delivers a sound rich in Latin Jazz, illuminated with the authenticity of the Afro-Cuban element. They are now performing at various venues within Los Angeles and beyond. Be on the look out for the Francisco Aguabella Latin Jazz Ensemble for they will be coming to a venue near you. So come on out, enjoy the show and prepare to be swept away.

Bryan Brock

Artist Profile:

Bryan Brock

bryan_brock_1Bryan Brock is a freelance percussionist specializing in traditional and contemporary applications of rhythms and instruments from Africa, the Caribbean, and the Americas. His diverse musical background and experience results in a unique blend of creativity, versatility, and skill which enhances all styles of music.

Bryan's formal musical training began at age six with classical piano instruction. At age twelve, he undertook the study of percussion and was soon performing with top youth orchestras in his home state of Texas. He received his Bachelor's degree from the University of North Texas where he studied drumset with Ed Soph, African percussion with Gideon Alarwayle, ethnomusicology with Steven Friedson, and performed regularly in ethnic percussion and jazz ensembles.bryan_brock_2

Bryan's love of music and culture inspired travels throughout Ghana, Cuba, and North America to study with world-class percussionists such as West African master Godwin Agbell, Brazilian master Jorge "Alabe" Bezerra, and Cuban masters Jose Luis Quintana "Changuito", Miguel 'Anga" Diaz, and Roberto Vizcaino.

His performance and recording experience includes television and radio commercials for McDonald's, Kia, Oldsmobile, Pepsi and 7-Up; live performances with Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons, Gabriela Anders, and Cadi Sosa; and sessions for Joe McBride, Pieces of a Dream, and producer Dr. Dre. Bryan is currently performing, recording, and teaching in Los Angeles.

Brad Dutz

Artist Profile:

Brad Dutz

brad_dutz_1Brad Dutz, born 1960, in Decatur, Illinois, has played music all his life. In 1981, after graduating from North Texas University, he moved to Los Angeles and began studying with Luis Conte, who to this day is a stong influence, both as a teacher and a friend. Other long-term influences for Brad include Don Alias, John Bergamo, Airto, and Emil Richards.

Brad has eleven CDs to his credit, including his solo and duet CDs and bandmember CDs by Submedia, OtherParts, and Sleight of Hand; he has also done a series of eight instructional videos for Interworld Music. In addition, here are a few of his otherbrad_dutz_2 accomplishments in the music industry:

  • Film& TV: Beverly Hills 90210, Mission Impossible, Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek V, Little Mermaid, Nightmare on Elm Street, etc.
  • over 140 album credits, including: David Benoit, Tribal Tech, Leo Kottke, Rickie Lee Jones, Uncle Festive, Jeff Berlin, Steve Smith, Terrance Trent D'Arby, KISS, various 'At the Movies' CDs
  • live performance with: Airto, Frank Sinatra, Maynard Ferguson, Kenny Loggins, many others.
  • active on the LA underground jazz scene

Brad welcomes comments and questions. He can be reached by e-mailing brad@rhythmweb.com

Make sure there's plenty of room when you invite Brad Dutz over to play. The standard drum kit would take up some space to begin with, but that's just one brad_dutz_3 small section of the Dutz spread. Blink and one will miss the arrival of what seems like the entire cargo of a boat, all drums from faraway places across oceans, seized by customs and dumped all over the stage, awaiting the careful setting up of the maestro. Then there are a series of special clay drums, vaguely resembling the lineup of ceramic cookware in the front of a Moroccan culinary shop. The space an ordinary drummer might utilize for his complete setup might notbrad_dutz_4 even be sufficient for Dutz's phone books of contacts, let alone his percussion ordnance.

After perusing the Los Angeles based percussionist's discography, one can imagine a phone book that is cleaved off into volumes based on each letter of the alphabet. Adventurous listeners discover Dutz through his involvement with the southern California free improvisation and avant-garde jazz scene, performing and recording with artists such as trumpeter Jeff Kaiser, multi-instrumentalist and multi-record producer Vinny Golia, and talented drummer and bandleader Alex Cline. Quite often fans of such artists bemoan the fact that their talents are not put to use on commercial recording projects as well; a Vinny Golia contrabass clarinet solo, for example, would liven up just about every new pop release that comes out of the Hollywood hit factory, and he probably even lives around the corner from one of the recording studios.

In the case of Dutz, here is at least one avant-garde performer whose talents are in demand in the mainstream music business. He has integrated well into the Los Angeles recording scene, appearing on the recordings of top female vocalists such as Alanis Morissette, Rickie Lee Jones, and Maria Muldaur and bringing whatever exotic instruments are asked for to an impressive range of new age, fusion jazz, Latin, and otherwise unclassifiable instrumental projects. He has backed up Frank Sinatra, Tom Petty, and Willie Nelson, none of whom could probably identify the instruments Dutz used on their sessions by name. The percussionist has also created a series of recordings of his own music under his own name, all quite well received. On the other end of the sonic spectrum, he is involved in the Jazz at the Movies band, a group that is working its way toward the release of its tenth CD. He has played on the film and television soundtracks to Beverly Hills 90210, Mission Impossible, Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Ocean's 11, Star Trek V, Little Mermaid, and Nightmare on Elm Street.

The busy whirlwind of activity that is his musical career didn't exactly come blowing in from out of nowhere. Dutz has played music all his life. He moved to Los Angeles in 1981 after graduating from North Texas University and began studying with one of his strongest influences, the percussionist Luis Conte. Dutz eventually began making a contribution to the music scene as a teacher as well, and has done a series of eight instructional videos for Interworld Music. He began working as an applied faculty member in the music department at CSULB in 1992, and also conducts percussion clinics.

He's been called "One of L.A.'s true oddballs. A merger of Harry Partch and Spike Jones, a musical whiz kid and a hopeless crackpot". Many call him "The funky frame drummer" or "The twisted tabla man." L.A.'s hippest musicians call him to ask if he'd come down and give them a bit of his special sound and energy.

 

Alfred Ortiz

Artist Profile:

Alfred Ortiz

alfred_ortizAlfred has a long history of playing with Latin greats such as Poncho Sanchez, Banda Brothers, Scott Martin, Johnny Polanco Y Su Conjunto, Rob Thomas, Candi Sosa and many others.

Aaron Serfaty

Artist Profile:

Aaron Serfaty

aaron_serfaty_1Aaron Serfaty has been playing professionally for 17 years. From 1980 - 1990 he was a first call session drummer in his native country of Venezuela. He moved to Los Angeles in 1991 to attend the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). Soon after he began touring and recording with Arturo Sandoval and Jon Anderson, and performing with Sergio Mendes, Dori Caymmi, Oscar Castro Neves, Frank Gambale, Shelly Berg, Juan Carlos Quintero, Rique Pantoja and Don Grusin. Aaron is currently the director of the Latin Jazz Ensemble at the aaron_serfaty_2University of Southern California (USC). Aaron currently teaches Ensemble Workshops, and Afro-Cuban/Brazilian Drums.