Emil Richards was born Emilio Joseph Radocchia on September 2, 1932 in Hartford, Connecticut. He began playing the xylophone at age six and went on to graduate from the Julius Hartt School of Music. He took private lessons from Asher George Zlotnik and performed with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and with various jazz musicians in New England.
After serving as Assistant Band Leader of the First Cavalry Army Band for two years, his career took off. He became first call percussionists for jazz, rock and other popular music as well as performing on countless movie and television soundtracks.
In 1954 Emil moved to New York City and played jazz gigs with Charles Mingus, Ed Shaughnessy and Ed Thigpen, while doing studio recordings for artists such as Perry Como, the Ray Charles Singers and Mitch Aires. In 1955 Emil joined the George Shearing Quintet and stayed with the group for over four years, playing 51 weeks a year.
1959 saw Richards settling in Los Angeles,California and working with the Paul Horn Quintet, Jimmy Witherspoon, the Shorty Rogers Big Band, Don Ellis, Lalo Schifrin, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Kenton, Shelly Manne, Alphonse Mouzon, Dakota Staton, Gábor Szabó, Lenny Bruce and Lord Buckley. He also recorded with Frank Sinatra, Nelson Riddle, Judy Garland, Sarah Vaughan and Doris Day. In 1962, in response to a request from President John F. Kennedy, he and a small jazz combo joined Sinatra on a tour around the world for the benefit of underprivileged children.
He would go on to work with Harry Partch, go on a world tour, then return to Los Angeles to perform and record with among others the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, Bing Crosby and Nat Cole, Frank Zappa’s Abnuceals Emuukha Electric Symphony Orchestra. He also worked on film scores for Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, Henry Mancini, Elmer Bernstein, Johnny Mandel, Quincy Jones, Oliver Nelson, Neal Hefti, Lalo Schifrin, Dave Grusin, Michel Legrand, Alex North and Bill Conti, to name a few.
Emil began collecting ethnic percussion instruments that became so diverse and expansive that is became known as the Emil Richards Collection. Having served several terms on the Board of Directors for the Percussive Arts Society, and donating the largest single-donor collection of instruments to the society museum, he directed the sale of part of the collection to be sold to the L.A. Percussion Rentals so that the instruments continue to be heard.
Percussionist Emil Richards remains active in Musicians’ Union Local 47 as part of their campaign to get musicians credited in the film industry.
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Peter Michael Escovedo was born on July 13, 1935 in Pittsburg, California of Mexican heritage. With his two brothers, he formed the Escovedo Brothers Latin Jazz Sextet, before Santana hired him and his brother Coke to play in his band.
Long well known on the San Francisco Bay Area music scene for several decades, in 2002 Pete made a notable national television appearance on the “By the Hand of the Father” episode of the PBS Austin City Limits program. He would go on to lead the 14-24 piece Latin big band Azteca.
Escovedo, along with his sons Juan and Peter Michael recorded with Latin Rock group El Chicano and their 3 piece percussion is featured on the studio album.
Percussionist Pete Escovedo has recorded eleven albums as a leader for Concords Jazz, Crossover and Picante labels, Fantasy and EsGo/Fantasy. He continues to tour, perform and record Latin Jazz at 80 years old.
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Tata Güines was born Federico Arístides Soto Alejo on June 30, 1930 in, the poor town of Güines east of La Habana in the province of Havana in Cuba. He made his first drums out of milk cartons and sausages. But, by the 1950s he was working with such top Cuban musicians as Arsenio Rodriguez, Luciano “Chano” Pozo, Bebo Valdes, and Israel “Chachao” Lopez.
In the late 1950s he formed a band with the pianist Frank Emilio Flynn called Quinteto Instrumental de Musica Moderna, which was later changed to Los Amigos. Güines moved to New York City in 1957 and quickly immersed himself in the jazz scene paying with Dizzy Gillespie, Maynard Ferguson and Miles Davis at Birdland. As a percussionist, he performed with Josephine Baker and Frank Sinatra.
Tata returned to Cuba in 1959 after Fidel Castro came to power in the Cuban Revolution which he helped fund by contributions from his earnings as a musician. For a while instrumentalists fell out of favor with the Cuban public and his popularity diminished. However, by 1979 his star began to shine once again with his work in the Estrellas de Areito sessions, recording for Egrem, the Cuban state record company, which revived the old descarga style.
By the 1990s, he was considered an old master and frequently toured. He recorded with the young conguero Miguel Diaz on the 1995 Pasaporte that garnered them the Egrem Album of the Year award, the equivalent of a Grammy in Cuba. He has played with pianist Bebo Valdes and singer Diego El Cigala Lágrimas Negras (Black Tears) that won a Latin Grammy, and has performed with saxophonist Jane Bunnett.
Conguero and tumbadora player, percussionist and composer Tata Güines, who during his career spanning six decades was known as the “King of the Congas” and who was important in the first generation of Afro-Cuban jazz, passed away on February 4, 2008 in his hometown of Havana.
Pablo “Chino” Nunez was born on June 25, 1961, adopted as an infant, the only son of Puerto Rican immigrants and raised in New York City’s Sunset Park section of Brooklyn. Inspired and encouraged at a young age, he attributes his success to the “masters” he studied as well as idolizing many instrumentalists and vocalists most notably Tito Puente, Orestes Villato, Miles Davis, Gil Evans, Nicky Marrero, The Beatles, The Jackson 5, James Brown, and Ella Fitzgerald among others.
Self-taught, Chino’s career spans four decades he established himself as a percussionist, multi-Instrumentalist, producer, arranger, composer, recording artist, band leader, and educator. He is a multiple Grammy, Latin Grammy and Billboard nominee and winner. He has amassed hundreds of music credits as a producer including the documentary film, “Pedro “Cuban Pete” Aguilar: Dancing En Clave”. He has toured with a who’s who list of performers and has garnered critical acclaim with his Chino Nunez Orchestra.
Nunez has recorded and performed with Tito Puente, Hector Lavoe, Celia Cruz, Johnny Pacheco, Marc Anthony, El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, Ray Barretto, Willie Colon, Ruben Blades, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Larry Harlow, Tito Nieves, Spanish Harlem Orchestra and a host of others. He has performed all over the world including Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, North Sea Jazz Festival, Madison Square Garden, Montreal Jazz Festival, the Tito Puente Amphitheatre and Bellas Arte Performing Arts Center in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to name a few.
He creates a unique and rhythmic swing fusing Salsa, Big Band, Latin Jazz, Christian, Gospel, Bachata, Reggaeton, Hip Hop and R & B. On Broadway he has performed in “The Life of Celia Cruz”, “Evita”, “Cape Man”, “Lion King”, and “A Tale of Two Cities” featuring his arrangement “Another 100 People”. In 2005, he released his debut album Chino Nunez & Friends, A Tribute to the Dancers, It’s ShoTime. Producer of voice-overs, jingles, radio and television and commercials, Chino Nunez continues to perform and tour worldwide.
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Billy Cobham was born William Emanuel Cobham on May 16, 1944 in Panama but moved to New York City with his family during his early childhood. A drummer from his youth, he attended New York’s High School of Music and Art. Graduating in 1962, he played in a U.S. Army Band from 1965 to 1968, followed by joining Horace Silver’s ensemble for a year. He went on to work with Stanley Turrentine, Shirley Scott and George Benson.
Branching out into jazz fusion Cobham blended elements of jazz, rock and funk to create a signature sound and recorded with the Brecker Brothers in their 1970 group Dream. From here he performed with John Abercrombie, then touring extensively with Miles Davis and recording on may albums including A Tribute To Jack Johnson.
By 1970s, Cobham was working with John McLaughlin, co-founding the Mahavisnu Orchestra, released his first solo debut titled Spectrum, and played with Carlos Santana, George Duke and Jan Hammer. It was during this period that he began recording a series of groundbreaking fusion records and experiencing astral projections during his concerts.
He would record extensively for the fusion-oriented CTI Records, while simultaneously becoming a member of the New York Jazz Quartet. By the Eighties he was working with Jack Bruce & Friends, joined up with the Grateful Dead for a performance at Radio City Music Hall, formed his Glass Menagerie, releasing two albums with Michael Urbaniak, Gil Goldstein, Tim Landers and Mike Stern. The Nineties saw Billy with an all-star cast Live At The Greek with Stanley Clarke, Larry Carlton, Najee and Deron Johnson.
In the millennium a number of solo albums have followed with drummer Billy Cobham releasing more than 30 recordings under his own name, and continuing to record, perform and teach.