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Kiki Valera - Vivencias en clave cubana - New Cuban Son album - Traditional Cuban Music

Changuito Tribute

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What can I say about José Luis Quintana, (aka “Changuito”), that hasn’t already been said by many who know him, learned from him, or are still trying to comprehend the complexities of his rhythm? On my first visit to Cuba, I climbed up on stage at a Van Van concert­–video camera in tow­­–so I could view firsthand the hand movements (and feet, of course) of the person who had driven so many of my percussion colleagues bonkers! Myself a “closet” percussionist, I too was consumed with the many nuances of those time-bending breaks, the rapid-fire and mind-boggling solos, and the solid, in-the-pocket groove he established for so many years in Latin music’s quintessential dance band. When I asked him who he had listened to in the way of 60s and 70s era American bands, he responded, “Sangre, Sudor y Lágrimas” (Blood Sweat & Tears) and “Tierra, Viento y Fuego” (Earth, Wind & Fire)! Wow, I had always thought it somewhat goofy to translate the band names until he uttered those words in his gravelly, severe tone. He was dead serious, and following a brief interrogation by Changuito to see if I was “clave-savvy,” he welcomed me into his world with a steely-eyed smile and a secret handshake reserved only for those macho dudes who normally strut their rhythmic chops around fellow drummers. I was in. In subsequent years, I would endeavor to bring Changuito to the West Coast for a series of clinics, concerts and master classes, and record an album as well as an instructional video [History of Songo] with him. I have many anecdotes, most of which will stay private so as not to embarrass the many poor percussionists who were no match for his rhythm challenges! I will say, however, that Chango is one of the most genuine and sincere individuals I have ever met. He is brutally honest, demanding and darn right ornery at times, but what you see is what you get, on stage and off. He has given the music world a touch of ingenuity seldom seen in a scene filled with many imitators. So many try to emulate him; many come close, but there will always be one Changuito, and I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the man, and endless appreciation for his art.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011, 03:32 AM