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.
Dennis Chambers was born May 9, 1959 in Baltimore Maryland. He started playing drums at the age of 4 and his ardent interest in drums at that age propelled him to keep playing whenever he got a chance. A child prodigy started performing in clubs at the age of 6, despite his lack of formal training. Within a short time, he had been invited to perform in most nightclubs in Baltimore area.
After graduating from high school in 1978, Chambers, then 18, joined George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, a band he played with until 1985. He was recruited in 1981 by the Sugar Hill Label to be their house drummer and played on many Sugar Hill releases including, “Rapper’s Delight”. A sought after first call drummer for his technique and speed, as well as his ability to play “in the pocket”. His session work and performance have included John Scofield, George Duke, The Brecker Brothers, Santana, John McLaughlin, Mike Stern, CAB, Craig Howe, Sugar Hill Gang and his own band Niacin, among others.
Dennis went on to gain membership with Special EFX for two years, then joined David Sanborn, and performed on the critically acclaimed Maceo Parker live album “Roots and Grooves” with the WDR Big Band. He has played with most of the major jazz-fusion musicians.
Drummer Dennis Chambers has appeared as a featured drummer on the late Show with David Letterman’s Drum Solo Week II, alongside other such notable players Tony Royster Jr., Gavin Harris, Neil Peart and Stewart Copeland. He continues to perform, tour and record.
Kendra Shank was born on April 23, 1958 in Woodland, California and was acting in plays at age 5, picked up the guitar at 13, and at 19 began her music career playing in Parisian subways and sidewalk cafés. After several years on the west coast folk and pop music circuit, a Billie Holiday recording inspired her to pursue jazz.
In 1989 Shank began studying with jazz vocalist Jay Clayton in Seattle, while keeping dual residency in Paris, France where she gigged in jazz clubs. Her jazz career blossomed quickly and in 1991 Bob Dorough hired her as vocalist-guitarist-percussionist for his west coast tour. She soon caught the attention of jazz legend Shirley Horn, who invited Kendra to perform as her guest at the Village Vanguard in New York and co-produced her critically acclaimed debut release Afterglow in 1994 featuring pianist Larry Willis and saxophonist Gary Bartz.
Kendra relocated to New York in 1997 and recorded Wish and Reflections for Jazz Focus Records, the latter debuted The Kendra Shank Quartet, her current working band. She followed these in 2007 with her groundbreaking A Spirit Free: Abbey Lincoln Songbook, and then with Mosaic in which she married her folk and jazz improvising talents.
Shank has been the Downbeat magazine’s top female vocalist for 1999, 2006 and 2007, has been featured on National Public Radio’s JazzSet and Piano Jazz with Marian McPartland, has taught clinics at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, The New School and the Brooklyn/Queens Conservatory of Music in New York City, and the Jazz in Marciac Festival in France.
Vocalist, guitarist and percussionist Kendra Shank continues express her talents through performance recording and touring.