From the time he arrived in New York at age 23 in 1986, saxophonist Craig Handy was acknowledged as a musician with big, burly tenor sound, sharp wit, and above all, individuality. Over the next few years he would breath life into those accolades through a number of important associations: holding his own on the front line of legendary bebop drummer Roy Haynes’ band, working with South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, and weaving sensuous obbligati behind Betty Carter on the kind of tunes most young artist are presumed not to understand.
Handy cites each experience as having a profound impact on his development. "Working with Ibrahim taught me a lot about thematic development," states the saxophonist. "He lays down simple melodies that build on each other, and listening to his compositions remind me of great architecture."
Recalling the time he spent with Betty Carter describes her as "a wonderful songstress, great mentor, and nurturer who instills confidence." And in Haynes he found a master timekeeper who can teach you when to jump and when not to. "He’s like a cat in the jungle," Handy notes. "He judges very carefully, that moment when he can capture an audience, then at just the right time he pounces!"
Handy has also contributed a Mingus-like brash and confidence tone to the Mingus Dynasty – an association which led to another imporatnt connection. !I was playing with Mingus Dynasty at the Bottom Line when I first met Bill Cosby," Handy recounts. "He came up and introduced himself and said that he was going to call me. I thought ‘yeah, right.’"
Cosby did call Handy, and invited him to be the featuerd artist on the recording of the theme for the "Cosby Show" for the 1989-90 season. Handy would also go on to score, produce and perform the music for the 1994-95 season of "The Cosby Mysteries". It wasn’t long after the lesson of his New York apprenticeship that Handy made his recording debut as a leader. In 1992 the Arabesque label released "Split Second Timing," an album named after something Handy heard onstage nightly during his tenure in Art Blakey’s band in 1989. "Blakey used to sasy the music came ‘from the creator to the artist, direct to you the audience with split-second timing.’" Recalled Handy.
Born in Oakland, California on September 25, 1962, Handy played guitar, trombone, and piano before he fell in love with the saxophone after hearing Dexter Gordon on the radio. "I was captivated by the deepness and the richness, the robustness of Gordon’s tone," says Handy. "The directness of his ideas also impressed me."
After participating in the renowned Berkeley High School jazz program – which also produced David Murray, Peter Apfelbaum, Benny Green, and Joshua Redman – Handy earned the highly competitive Charlie Parker Scholarship award which allowed him to study at North Texas State University. He attended North Texas for two and a half years, majoring in psychology and playing in the school’s prestigious One O’Clock Lab Band.
More recently, Handy appeared on two recordings for the "Chartbusters," a band comprised of Handy, alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, organist Dr. Lonnie Smith and drummer Idris Muhammad. Released in 1995 on the NYC label, the group’s first disc, the critically acclaimed "Chartbusters! Volume 1," paid homage to the Blue Note records of the late ‘50s and ‘60s. "Mating Cal," the groups second album which was co-produced by Handy, has been released by Prestige. In the fall of 1996, Handy can be seen on the big screen in the Robert Altman film titled "Kansan City," portraying a character based on the late Coleman Hawkins. Also in 1996, Handy can be seen touring with one of the most prominent voices in modern jazz – pianist Herbie Hancock.
In the time that Robby Ameen has spent living in New York City since the early eighties he has compiled a recording career stretching from Dizzy Gillespie to Paul Simon, while maintaining a more than fifteen year relationship with Latin luminaries Ruben Blades and Dave Valentin. Although he is of Lebanese origin, Robby is best known for the unique and powerful Afro-Cuban style he has created.
Growing up in New Haven, Connecticut, Robby was able to take advantage of his proximity to New York City by going to clubs and hearing many of the great jazz masters at a very young age. At the same time, he was involved in the local jazz and latin scene, as well as later attending Yale University, where he received a BA in literature. His jazz roots were strongly influenced by his studies with the great Ed Blackwell in high school, while in college he studied classical percussion with Fred Hinger at the Yale School of Music
Upon moving to New York, Robby began recording with Dave Valentin and Ruben Blades, who was the first salsa singer to add a full-time drummer to his band, Seis del Solar. Another one of his early recordings was New Faces with Dizzy Gillespie, about whom Dizzy said in Jazz Times "Just the other day I made a record with a Lebanese drummer – b-a-a-d! He had so much happening, and it keeps going, you know?"
On the Latin scene Robby has also recorded many records with Eddie Palmieri, as well as records with Mongo Santamaria, Hilton Ruiz, Daniel Ponce, among others. He has toured with Willie Colon, Paquito D'Rivera, Gato Barbieri, DLG, and was the drummer at Marc Anthony's historic first solo concert at Madison Square Garden.
Another one of Robby's longstanding relationships has been with producer-composer Kip Hanrahan, with whom he has been recording and touring since 1987. He was also the drummer for Paul Simon's "Capeman", with whom he worked through the long rehearsal period up until the recordings and the actual show, as well on a VH1 "Storytellers" special.
Along with Horacio "el Negro" Hernandez, Robby co-leads the "el Negro & Robby Band, " who have recorded three records and are touring extensively worldwide. As co-leader he also recorded two records with the band Seis del Solar. Robby is the co-author with Lincoln Goines of the best-selling instructional book and CD: Funkifying the Clave: Afro Cuban Grooves for Bass and Drums, which has sold over 35,000 copies worldwide. A video based on the book was also released on DCI/Warner Bros. Robby is an active clinician, performing at Modern Drummer Day, Montreal Drum Festival, NAMM and PAS shows, to name a few, as well as internationally.
One of the top bassists in the Latin music world, Joe Santiago is a freelance performing and recording artist in New York City for Latin jazz, jazz, and salsa. He is currently performing in the Eddie Palmieri Orchestra, where he is known as “El Bajista con Timba.”
His prior performing experience, which has taken him on tour throughout the United States, Europe, South America, the Middle East, and Japan, includes work with Joe Quijano, Larry Harlow, Ismael Miranda, the Machito Orchestra, Mario Bauzá, Hilton Ruiz, Paquito de Rivera, Jorge Dalto, Carlos “Patato” Valdés, the Tito Puente Orchestra, Latin Jazz Ensemble, Celia Cruz, Willie Colón, Rubén Blades, Héctor Lavoe, Xavier Cugat Orchestra, Tito Puente & Max Roach, Bebo Valdés, Chucho Valdés, and La Sonora Ponceña, among other top artists.
Santiago recorded as a trombone player for the first and last time in El Malo and The Hustler LP with Willie Colón (1966-67). After becoming a bass player, Santiago recorded in Larry Harlow’s La Oportunidad (1971), Ismael Miranda’s Asi se compone un son (1973), the Machito Orchestra’s Grammy award album Fireworks (1974), the Tito Puente and Celia Cruz Grammy award album Tribute to Beny Moré (1983), Afro Cuban Jazz (1985) with the Mario Bauzá Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra, Carlos “Patato” Valdés’ Patato’s Masterpiece (1985), Mario Bauzá’s My Time Is Now (1993), Steve Turre’s Sanctified Shells (1993), and Ritmo y Candela (1995) by Patato, Cándido, and Changuito.
Among his other recordings are Jammin’ in the Bronx (1996) (a live concert tribute to Machito), Charlie Santiago’s Son Primero (1996), Chucho Valdés Live (1997), Patato Valdés’ Live (1997), Eddie Palmieri’s Rumbero del Piano (1999), Paquito de Rivera’s Grammy award winner Tropicana Nights (1999), the Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri Grammy award album Masterpiece (2000), Sonora Ponceña’s Into the 90’s (2000) (Santiago arranged “El Tiempo”), and Único y Diferente (2000).
Santiago’s motion picture soundtracks include Calle 54, Golden Men of Latin Jazz (Tito Puente Latin Jazz), Our Latin Thing (Fania All Stars), Radio Days (Woody Allen; Tito Puente Orchestra) and The Thomas Crown Affair (The Chico O’Farrell Orchestra).
His musical education began with viola studies and trumpet at the New York School of Music. Santiago studied classical bass at the Manhattan School of Music, and took courses in composition and jazz arrangement at the Berklee School of Music.
One would think that a gig with Tito Puente's world-renown band would keep a percussionist busy enough. But performer, arranger, and composer Jose Madera has still found the time to record and write music for some of the most influential bands around.
Before teaming up with Tito Puente 25 years ago, Madera played a four-year stint with the famous Machito Orchestra, and recorded with a host of noted r&b artists (including James Brown, Diana Ross, David Sanborn, and the Aztec Two-Step). As staff arranger for Fania Records, he performed on several commercial hits, and over the years has written music for the Fania All-Stars, Larry Harlow, Johnny Pacheco, Willie Colon, and Celia Cruz. Although he's recorded roughly 75 albums in 20 years, as well as numerous radio jingles and motion picture soundtracks, Madera still finds the time for his other career: For 15 years he has worked as a teacher and bandleader at a privately funded junior high school for the performing arts in New York City.
Madera's saxophonist father, Jose "Pin" Madera, was one of the original members of Machito's Afro-Cuban orchestra. The younger Jose was influenced first by Machito's drummer Ubaldo Nieto ("the bast Latin big-band drummer I've ever heard") and at age 11, started playing timbales. He was further influenced by Jose Mangual, Sr. and Tito Puente himself. LP'sTimbale Cowbell (circa 1966) was Madera's first piece of LP gear; these days, he plays an assortment of LP congas, bongos, guiros, and cowbells.
"Compared to the instruments used years ago, the sounds I get from LP instruments are very authentic. As an arranger, it's gratifying to know that anything I write will be accompanied by LP instruments, which will only enhance the quality of the performance."
Little Johnny Rivero
Little Johnny was born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents. As a young boy, he was drawn to the sounds and rhythms of the conga players from Jefferson Park and Randall's Island Park. Little Johnny began practicing percussion at age ten and played in the school band. Soon after, he took dance lessons and performed on stage with the best bands of the era at such famous venues as the Manhattan Center, the Colgate Garden and the Copacabana. At age fourteen, Little Johnny joined Orchestra Colon, the youngest Latin band in New York City, and recorded two albums with them. In 1973, he moved to Puerto Rico with his parents, and joined La Sonora Poncena in 1974. After playing bongos with them for a year and a half, he switched to congas, which rekindled the love affair he had begun with the instrument as a small child. Little Johnny attributes the rhythms and professional conduct he learned from Quique Lucca and his son Papo Lucca, at this time, as the qualities that have made him what he is today.
During the sixteen years Little Johnny played with the La Sonora Poncena, he traveled the world and made eighteen highly respected Latin albums with them. Little Johnny's other credits include work with Bobby Valentin, Celia Cruz, Eddie Palmieri, Dave Valentin, Tito Puente, Lucecita Benitez and numerous other artists. He also performed with the RMM All-Stars Band, directed by Sergio George, Bebo Valdes and David Murray. He is currently the co-leader of the Alfredo de la Fe Orquestra. He has recorded with such producers as Cuto Soto, Ramon Sanchez, Cuco Pena and many others. In May 1997, Little Johnny shared the stage with his inspiration and idol, Jose Mangual. Currently, Little Johnny is traveling the world with the winner of eight Grammy awards, Eddie Palmieri. In addition, Johnny continues to perform with many of the biggest and most respected acts in Latin music.
Johnny's first solo effort, "Pasos Gigantes, is very well-received by critics and music fans alike. Johnny also wrote and produced every song on his cd, showcasing his arranging and playing abilities.
A native of Brooklyn, New York, José Claussell was raised with his ten brothers and sisters in a very musically charged Puerto Rican household. His mother was his first and biggest musical influence. Raising eleven children with a husband who was a merchant marine, Mrs. Claussell worked very hard in and out of the house. Her main form of relaxation and entertainment was listening to music. Her vast collection included music from Cuba and Puerto Rico, American popular music, big bands, jazz, and anything else that was joyful and fulfilling. After a hard day at work she would return home and start spinning albums like a DJ, filling the whole house and her children's lives with incredible music. Recently I sat down with José Claussell and he expounded further on the subject.
"Besides my mom, another influence in my life was my older brother who was a popular rock drummer in Brooklyn. As he rehearsed in our home's basement, my younger brother and I would mimic playing drums on old one-gallon paint cans and refrigerator shelves for cymbals. On my seventh birthday, my brother asked me what I wanted, so I told him I wanted him to teach me how to play the drums. He took me to the basement and sat me by the drums. Before he said anything, I started to play as if I had been playing drums for years. It was in my blood, in my genes, a gift from the creator, definitely.
I've been playing the guitar since the age of 12. Rock and soul music at first (Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Kool and the Gang, Jeff Beck, Wilson Pickett). After high school, in 1972, I spent 4 months at Berklee College of music, then left to go on the road with the 5 Satins. After that, a wide variety of playing situations (Tim Hardin, Jimmy McGriff, Bobby and Eddie Buster, Ted Daniel, and many others).I continued my music study w/Ted Dunbar at 'Jazzmobile'.Coming in to New York by train from New Haven every saturday to study with that master was quite a thrill for me.
Moved to New York in 1978 to be closer to the source of the music I loved. Met Rodney Jones, then playing with Dizzy Gillespie. Rodney intoduced me to guitar guru Bruce Johnson who introduced me to many other great guitarists on the scene at that time. Rodney left Dizzy's band in 1978 and asked Diz to call me. Remained with Dizzy from 1978 to 1983. Joined again in 1986 until his passing.
Since that time I've performed with many of the great players on the scene today, Bluiett, Henry Threadgill, Jimmy Smith, Kenny Burrell, John Patton, Dakota Staton, Roy Hargove, Sherman Irby, Pheeroan Ak Laff,Ratzo Harris,Oliver Lake,Mario Rivera,Laird Jackson,Hilton Ruiz,Yoron Israel,Andy Mckee,Ruth Brown,Steve Coleman,Chris White and many others. my recordings: first take-1993(groovin high) a second look-1995(groovin high) the spirits speak-2002(justin-time)
Since moving to New York from Pittsburgh in 1993, trombonist Joe Fiedler has performed in a wide array of musical settings within both the Jazz and Latin Jazz scenes. His current projects include the Joe Fiedler Trio, a group devoted to playing the compositions of the late German trombone master, Albert Mangelsdorff; Rasp, an improvising brass quintet performing original, avant-Latin music; and Solo Trombone, blending original compositions with free improvisation expanding upon the solo trombone vocabulary. To date, Fiedler has released two critically acclaimed recordings as a leader, Joe Fiedler Plays the Music of Albert Mangelsdorff for Clean-Feed, and his 1999 debut, 110 Bridge St. for C.I.M.P.
In addition to leading his own groups, Fiedler has performed or recorded with Lee Konitz, Kenny Wheeler, Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton, The Mingus Big Band, Roswell Rudd, Charles Tolliver, Myra Melford, Borah Bergman, Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, The Vanguard Orchestra, The Maria Schneider Orchestra, and The Lionel Hampton Orchestra. Currently, he is a member of pianist Andrew Hill’s Sextet+11, trumpeter Charles Tolliver’s Large Ensemble, the new group Fast and Bulbous—The Captain Beefheart Project, co-led by guitarist Gary Lucas and saxophonist Phillip Johnston, the Phillip Johnston Quintet, saxophonist Chris Jonas’ innovative group, The Sun Spits Cherries, trombonist Craig Harris’ God’s Trombones, and big bands led by pianists Roy Hargrove, Jason Lindner and Satoko Fujii, among others. To date he has appeared on more than 70 recordings.
As a member of New York’s Latin Jazz scene, Fiedler was a founding member of the highly acclaimed Latin Jazz group Timbalaye, led by percussionist Ralph Irizarry. He has also performed with such greats as Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Hilton Ruiz, Dave Valentin, Candido, Willie Colon, The Spanish Harlem Orchestra and Nestor Torres. Fiedler has also been a featured soloist with “The Queen of Salsa,” Celia Cruz, vocal legends Cheo Feliciano, Lalo Rodriguez, and Andy Montanez. He is currently playing with pianist Larry Harlow, drummer Bobby Sanabria, virtuoso violinist Alfredo De La Fe, and the exciting Latin fusion group Viento de Agua.
Dave Miller was born in Waukegan, Illinois, a Chicago suburb on Lake Michigan. His father was a trumpet player in the late 40’s and early 50’s. His love of music had an enormous effect on Dave. In his youth, Dave’s father would play records of Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Kenton, Louis Armstrong and Oscar Peterson, which the family would enjoy together.
At age 10 Dave choose to play the trombone. He played in band at school and took private lessons with local musicians including Scott Bliege, who turned Dave onto JJ Johnson. Through diligent practice, and patient parents, Dave was awarded a scholarship to attend the Interlochen Arts Academy for his final year in High School.
Dave continued his studies at the University of North Texas. It was in Denton that Dave had the opportunity to befriend and study with the legendary trumpet player and teacher Don Jacoby. After two years in college Dave got the call to go on the road with the Artie Shaw Big Band.
In December of 1991 Dave went to New York to rehearse with the Temptations for a tour of South Africa at the invitation of Nelson Mandela. The tour fell through, and Dave stayed in New York. After some toiling a break came and Dave joined La India’s Orchestra. This led to performing and recording with Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Johnny Pacheco and many others.
In 1999 Dave joined the Harry Connick, Jr.Big Band. He played and recorded with the group. Dave has also performed and recorded with Les Paul, Frank Foster, Al Grey, Chico Hamilton, and many others. He’s currently a student at Rutgers University pursuing a Master’s Degree in music.