Carlos 'Patato' Valdes
Carlos 'Patato' Valdes
He became a member of the comparsa Las sultanas in which he played the congas (tumbadoras). He became a master of the instrument at a young age, playing alongside other greats such as Mongo Santamaría, Cándido Camero, Julito Collazo and Armando Peraza. The latter was his neighbour and partner in the Conjunto Kubavana led by Alberto Ruiz. He was only 18 years old when he joined this band in 1944.
He left the group in 1947 to join the well-known Sonora Matancera, where he stayed for a year. From 1949 to 1954 he played for the Conjunto Casino, one of the most popular bands in La Habana at the time. In 1952, they toured New York City, where fellow drummer Cándido Camero decided to stay. Patato would make the same decision two years later.
Attracted by New York's thriving jazz scene, Patato left Cuba definitely on October 5, 1954. His first full-length recording as a sideman was the notorious LP Afro-Cuban by Kenny Dorham. He went on to perform live alongside Mongo Santamaría and Tito Puente in Harlem. He then joined several ensembles, including those led by Willie Bobo, Machito and Charlie Palmieri. He recorded with jazz drummers Art Blakey, Art Taylor and Max Roach.
By the early 1960s, Patato was amongst the most sought-after conga drummers in New York. His association with flautist and bandleader Herbie Mann would last over fifteen years. In 1959, the United States Department of State funded a trip for bandleader Herbie Mann to visit Africa, after they heard his version of "African Suite." The grueling 14-week tour took place between 12/31/1959 to 4/5/1960 featuring Mann (bandleader, flute and saxophone), Johnny Rae (vibraphone and arrangements), Don Payne (bass), Doc Cheatham (trumpet), Jimmy Knepper (trombone), Carlos "Patato" Valdés (conguas) and José Mangual (bongos). They toured Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, Mozambique, Rhodesia, Tanganyika, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Morocco and Tunisia. Patato accompanied Dizzy Gillespie and Quincy Jones on extended tours throughout Europe.
He acted in and composed the title song of The Bill Cosby Show. In 1977 he took part in the recording of Cachao's comeback albums. In 1991, he contributed to the movie soundtrack for The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. Patato was the leader of his own band, Afrojazzia, which toured Europe in the spring of 1994.
In 1995 he recorded the album "Ritmo y candela" with fellow percussionists Changuito and Orestes Vilató. Similarly, together with Giovanni Hidalgo and Candido Camero he released an album in 2000 entitled The Conga Kings. That year he appeared in the documentary Calle 54. In 2001, Patato was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame. A lifetime smoker, Patato had emphysema and died of respiratory failure in Cleveland, Ohio on December 4, 2007 Read more on Last.fm.
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