Carlos "Patato" Valdés
Patato first played conga in Havana's carnival comparsas, moving on to such 1940s trend setters as La Sonora Matancera and Conjunto Casino, also working with Chano Pozo and Mongo Santamaria. Moving to New York in 1954, Patato pioneered the tunable conga and helped to consolidate the multiple-conga playing style that became de rigueur with such luminaries as Puente, Herbie Mann and Kenny Dorham. (For film buffs, he also gave Brigitte Bardot a mambo lesson in And God Created Woman.) The conguero's Patato y Totico (Verve, 1967) remains a classic creation of Havana's rumba transplant in New York, featuring the talents of blind tresero Arsenio Rodríguez and bassist Cachao.
Patato assumed a lower profile in the 1970s and 1980s, but reemerged in the 1990s with Masterpiece (Messidor), and his Grammy-nominated Ritmo y Candela (a two-CD project whose finest tracks are collected on The Legend Of Cuban Percussion). Legend closes the circle of Afro-Cuban music with a literal return to its West African roots, showcasing the lilting, enormously good-humored vocals of Samba Mapangala and the delicate kora savor of Abdou M'Boup. Also featured are the considerable talents of Los Van Van timbalero José Luis "Changuito" Quintana, percussionist Orestes Vilató, and Enriques Fernandez on flute, piccolo and saxes. Add a new generation of forces to be reckoned with in Afro-Cuban jazz, including alto saxophonist Yosvany Terry, and up-and-coming pianists Rebeca Mauleón-Santana and Ivan "Melón" Gonzalez. Forged in the vital Afro-Latin musical setting of the San Francisco Bay area under the astute direction of producer Greg Landau, the result is one of the freshest recordings of the post-Buena Vista era, a must for anyone looking over the horizon for the shape of Cuban roots music to come. - Michael Stone
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