[JPL] Patato Obituary In Today's NY Times
mfa - jazz radio promotion & publicity
MitchellFeldmanAssociates at comcast.net
Thu Dec 6 11:55:18 EST 2007
Arturo arturo893 at qwest.net
Wed Dec 5 18:20:43 EST 2007
I am sure official obits will appear by Thursday or Friday in the
usual places..... Arturo
Here is the NY Times obituary:
December 6, 2007
Carlos Valdés, a Conga King of Jazz, Dies at 81
By BEN SISARIO
Carlos Valdés, better known as Patato, whose melodic conga playing
made him a giant of Latin jazz in Cuba and then for more than half a
century in America, died on Tuesday in Cleveland. He was 81 and lived
The cause was respiratory failure, said his manager, Charles Carlini.
Born in Havana, Patato (a reference from Cuban slang to his
diminutive size) played in the 1940s and early ’50s with important
groups like Sonora Matancera and Conjunto Casino. He became a star in
the early days of Cuban television for his virtuosic playing and for
his showmanship; his signature song was “El Baile del Pingüino” (“The
Penguin Dance”), which he illustrated with side-to-side, penguinlike
movement in perfect time.
He came to the United States in the early 1950s and settled in New
York, where he quickly established himself as an indispensable
player, performing and recording with some of the top names in jazz
and Latin music. In the ’50s and ’60s he worked with Dizzy Gillespie,
Tito Puente, Machito, Kenny Dorham, Art Blakey and Elvin Jones; he
played with Herbie Mann from 1959 to 1972.
Known for his fluid, improvisatory melodies, Mr. Valdés tuned his
drums tightly to produce clear, precise tones, and he popularized the
playing of multiple conga drums; when he began his career, conga
players, or congueros, typically used only one or two drums, but Mr.
Valdés played three, four or more to allow a wider range of tones.
He is also associated with using a key to tune the congas instead of
heating the skins with a flame. Latin Percussion, the leading Latin
drum company, makes a Patato line of conga drums.
Mr. Valdés had an influential role in expanding the rumba form. His
1968 album “Patato & Totico,” recorded with Eugenio (Totico) Arango,
a singer who was a boyhood friend from Havana, was particularly
inventive. Instead of sticking to the usual format of drums and
vocals, the album added several other instruments played by star
musicians like Israel (Cachao) López on bass and Arsenio Rodríguez on
tres, a six-string Cuban guitar. It is said to be Mr. Rodríguez’s
last recording session, and its innovations had a lasting effect on
“I had these ideas and wanted to advance them through jazz,” Mr.
Valdés said in an interview with Latin Beat magazine in 1997. “I
wanted something progressive.”
He was also a flamboyant performer who knew how to work a crowd. One
of his performance hallmarks was jumping atop his drums and dancing
while keeping the beat. In the 1956 film “And God Created Woman,” he
is briefly seen teaching Brigitte Bardot to dance the mambo.
He is survived by his wife, Julia; two daughters, Yvonne and Regla;
and two grandchildren, Jose Valdes and Mayra Garcia.
Mr. Valdés never stopped touring, recently working with his group the
Conga Kings, which also includes Giovanni Hidalgo and Candido Camero,
a fellow octogenarian. While flying back a few weeks ago from
concerts in California — including one at the San Francisco Jazz
Festival on Nov. 9 — he had trouble breathing, and the plane made an
emergency landing for him in Cleveland. He had been hospitalized
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