Legendary Afro-Cuban percussionist Carlos Patato" Valdes performs in a rare appearance with his group Afrojazzia on Friday, January 23 at Satalla, located at 37 West 26th Street Between Broadway and 6th Ave., in New York City beginning at 8:00 pm. Considered by some to be the greatest living Cuban conga player, Patato has played with Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Tito Puente, Machito, Mario Bauza, Quincy Jones and many other salsa and jazz stars.
The first conguero to tune his congas to a song's dominant chord, Patato's influence has been felt on the jazz and Latin music scenes and also in the world of film, where he gave Brigitte Bardot a mambo lesson in And God Created Woman. A New York resident since 1954, Patato's work was most recently collected in Six Degrees' The Legend of Cuban Percussion, which featured Omar Sosa, John Santiago, and Changuito, Orestes Vilato and other Cuban and African all-star performers.
Patato came to the United States in 1952 and worked at New York's Tropicana nightclub with Conjunto Casino. In 1954, he said good-bye to his homeland, Cuba and never returned. Patato's first jazz work was with Billy Taylor at Philadelphia's Blue Note jazz club. After that he worked at New York City's Apollo Theater with trumpet player Chip Murray and played on his first jazz recording, Afrodesia, with trumpet player Kenny Dorham. Years later Patato formed a group of his own, which he named Afrojazzia. Although Patato has recorded few albums as a bandleader, he is more influential than almost any other conguero because he invented the tunable conga, a revolutionary step in music history. Before Patato's innovation, the traditional conga consisted of a wooden body with a nailed-on drum skin, which was tuned by holding a candle beneath the skin, but the results of this technique were not very satisfactory, as the tension of the drum skin slackened as soon as the skin cooled down again. It was Patato's idea to fix the skin to a metal ring which, connected at various points with the conga body, could be stretched and loosened with the help of a square box wrench, thus enabling the musician to tune his instrument to specific pitches. Consequently, it was now possible to hit each half step of an octave, initiated by Patato's unique melodic style of employing multiple conga drums and using them as a melody-creating instrument, just as a piano player or a horn player would.
Patato patented this invention, and the company Latin Percussion Inc. began manufacturing the instrument. Latin Percussion's Patato Model" is the top star of their product family, and Patato's conga type is now used by hundreds of groups from Santana to the Rolling Stones, as well as by a lot of well-known congueros, many of whom are his former students. Since the 1950's, Patato has been among the congueros who are in highest demand in the Latin music and jazz worlds. He has played, toured, and recorded with Miguelito Valdes, Perez Prado, Beny More, Cachao, Bebo Valdes, Tito Puente (who called him the greatest conguero alive today"), Machito, Herbie Mann, Chico Hamilton, Kenny Dorham, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones, Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones. Patato also acted in and composed the title song for the television series The Bill Cosby Show. In 1991 he contributed to the movie soundtrack of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love.
Recently, Patato, along with The Machito Orchestra, Candido Camero, Armando Peraza, Alfredo Chocolate" Armenteros and Francisco Aguabella, was chosen by the Smithsonian to participate, in the Mambo and Afro- Cuban Jazz seminar hosted by Musica de las Americas. This series was an unprecedented event that celebrated the long tradition of exchange among the diverse music cultures of the Americas. Patato was inducted into the International Latin Hall of Fame in 2001.
For more information on the Carlos Patato" Valdes & Afrojazzia at Satalla on January 23 contact Charles Carlini of Carlini Group www.carlinigroup.com at (212) 714-7722 or to make reservations call Satalla at (212) 576-1155.
This story appears courtesy of All About Jazz Publicity.
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