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Date or Sequence
Narrative including Bands &
Personnel and Musical Influences

Larry Harlow recently emailed me to let me know that he and the show Sofrito would be playing in Costa Mesa and said I should come up and he would get me in even though it was a "closed" show. The group was to arrive late Thursday night for the Friday show but would not be flying out until Sunday morning and we agreed that if they did not find another job, they might come down to see us again. He said the group Sofrito and four other friends and business associates might be able to come down for dinner.

So today I drove up to Costa Mesa. I got there about 11:30 am and most of the folks were sitting in the lounge at the hotel. We left for the Orange County Performing Arts center about noon. The plan was to do the show, return to the hotel and leave for Poway about 3:30 pm and every one was to follow me back to Poway. After the show (it happened that Sofrito was the last group to perform instead of in the middle of all the various performances), Sofrito had an hour interview with two Latino newspapers. By the time we got back to the hotel, everyone changed clothes, etc., it was almost 6 pm when we finally left for Poway. When leaving the hotel and trying to get on the freeway, the cars got separated. But we all got safely to our house about 7:30 pm.

I had met but not really talked to Chembo when Harlow came to dinner last July and I did not know Bobby except by reputation. Both Chembo and Bobby were kind enough to share some techniques and a lot of information with me. They are like the bunch from the Latin Legends Band , i.e., extremely friendly and open. They both suggested that I visit them in NY after my business trip to Niagara Falls this summer (maybe I can extend the trip to include Friday evening through Sunday evening). One of the main things they both pointed out was that I am cruzao by today's standards on several patterns on congas and timbales but that those patterns were not cruzao back in the 60s and 70s when I was playing. Bobby also pointed out that my LLRRLLRR conga tumbao (in contrast to the current LLRLLLRR pattern) was the pattern used by Chano Pozo so I guess that I am/was in good company! I will continue working on the LLRLLLRR pattern and Chembo gave me a few exercises to help me get it down. Chembo and Bobby also corrected a rumba pattern I was practicing, Stan had shown me correctly but since the time I was first shown the pattern, I managed to distort the timing just a wee bit :>)

The most wonderful thing about Chembo and Sanbria was their attitude, i.e., they corrected me when I was wrong but did not put me down. And they even said that although I was cruzao on many things according to today's music, I was not cruzao back in the old days when I was playing! It is just that the music changed during the time I was not listening and playing. Chembo said he would record some exercises for me and Bobby will annotate them, so I can get my chops up to date. I think that includes some rumba patterns too. Chembo did show me some saliador variations and explained how they were just the same pattern but varied where the hands hit the drum and the different tones which resulted. To the untrained ear (like mine) it sounded like some really drastic variations until he showed me them in slow motion! I may spend the rest of my life working on these new concepts!

A lot of email addresses were exchanged, most of the guest expressed a desire to return again, and I was promised a copy of the video, copies of other photos, and a tape from Chembo with annotations by Bobby to help me attempt to master some of the things they shared with me. Chembo said he liked some of my playing on the 60s and 70s recordings on my site (for me, a very nice compliment from a fantastic conguero!). Bobby said I should get the tape on CD and get it published.

It is a bit ironic that all these great players are now in my life, at least briefly, at a time when I am not really actively playing! Where were they when I was playing? Actually many of them had not been born or were just babies :>)

The additional guests included: Julia Sewell of, Chembo's girl friend Rosana (who immediately jumped in to help with serving the dinner),"Tall Paul" Fleisher and his wife Junko from Japan (Paul is the guy who plays bass sax while on stilts for some of the Thunder Drums shows and a chef in Japanand asked  if he could come and watch Mary cook  next time) and after dinner Junko jumped into the domino game some of the women were playing in the kitchen and they all helped her to learn how to play !, Rudy Morel from Wallyball, and Manuel de ? and Armando Tan, both dance instructors from the S.F. Bay Area.

Mary's daughter, Cookie, and grand daughter, Jeny, who are visiting were duly impressed and they helped her all day and night preparing and serving the dinner. Every one seemed to have a great time and they all loved Mary's food (notice the empty plates in the photo of Chembo, Mary and me, all the plates came back empty...some were even missing the bones???)! The menu included her  famous PR roast beef, arroz con gandules, pasteles, her "PR"tamales, her also now famous PR chicken but this time with rosemary and a hint of orange, habechuelas rojas, salad, and her special arroz con dulce with a cream cheese topping. There was beer, sodas, wine, hard liquor, coffee, and tea  but they drank only a few beers, some sodas, coffee and tea (the same as the Latin Legends Band last time)! Several guests mentioned that they had traveled quite a bit around the world and had never eaten such good PR food! Mary was beaming (and she definitely deserved the compliments).

This time Mary and I managed to get a photo with Harlow which we had missed the previous time. And I got to visit with him during the afternoon before and after the Sofrito show. We are supposed to get a video that one of the other guests recorded with Chembo, Bobby and I playing congas, timbales, and bongos/bell, respectively, in our living room. benefits to me are so great :>)

2000/01/29: Larry gave me Guagua's new phone number and I called him this afternoon in Miami. He sounds like he  is doing well and we plan to keep in touch on a more regular basis. Hopefully he will get back to San Diego again.

L-R: Jeny, Armando, Manuel, Larry

L-R: Rudy, Tall Paul, Junko, Bobby

L-R: Bobby, Julia, Rosanna

L-R: Armando, Manuel, Larry

Paul expressing his appreciation of Mary's culinary artistry!

L-R: Chembo, Mary, Califa ... notice the empty plates!

L-R: Califa, Mary, Larry, Bobby (hidden), Chembo, Rosanna (hidden)

L-R: Califa, Bobby, Larry, Rosanna, Mary, Chembo

My Mary relaxing during a well-deserved break in the festivities!

The following is presented without Larry's permission but I don't think he will mind!

-----Original Message-----
From: larryharlow
To: Rudy Morel
Date: Monday, January 31, 2000 3:32 PM
Subject: for web site/ Harlow's NEWS

This week, the band from Sofrito were in Costa Mesa California to perform a showcase for the International Showcase for Young Audiences, at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. We were supposed to leave NYC on Continental Air from Newark airport at 6:30pm. all were on board except for David Gonzalez and Bobby Sanabria.. David called Chembo's cell phone saying his car had broken down on the NJ turnpike but probably could get there in time. No word from Bobby. This being a gig that I am NOT the head honcho on , I usually just lay back and take it as it comes BUT, David is Not here. So I took over ....I started talking to the flight attendants the pilot, the >reservations people etc etc etc . The plane was almost through boarding. David is seen running down the hallways of the airport with his hugh suitcase in tow carrying his guitar over his shoulders. He just made it . Now is the time for the doors to close and No Bobby Sanabria. David's cell phone rings ...Its Bobby ...he IS in the airport and the security will not allow him to pass because they believe the plane has already left...David talks to the captain and convinces him to call security to let him pass. We held the departing flight 25 min. until he arrived to a huge round of applause by all passengers. We settled in for the 5 1/2 hr flight to John Wayne Airport in Orange Cty California.

We arrived at the the airport on time and rented a mini van for the 6 people in the group, arrived in 10 min at the Double Tree Hotel . A beautiful hotel, 5 min from our venue. It was late about 10:30pm California time , so to us it was 1:30 in the morning. I received a message from Wendy to call her in the morning instead of now..Went directly to sleep. It is very difficult for me to sleep on the road. I keep getting up every 2 hours all the time. I awoke early and had breakfast and started to make my plans for the weekend. I have been e-mailing to a gentleman named Rudy Morel, who I was finally going to meet after a few months of corresponding together. We would meet for the pre-show set up at the hotel ..Also meeting us were Julia Sewell from SFSALSA ,website in San Francisco, Dennis "Califa" Reed, a friend and music/video collector , who's wife Mary would be cooking a Puerto Rican meal for 12 persons after the presentation near San Diego, Armando and his buddy , who are GREAT dance teachers and friends from the Bay area , who were in the LA area to film a commercial, Chembo's girlfriend and educator, Rosana and a few groupies. We all would meet for Brunch at the hotel between 11-12 noon to arrange transportation to the theater and permission for entrance.. This is a showcase for Pacific Rim presentors, paid for by Kids Entertainment of Toronto, Cananda and David. These presentors were buying childrens entertainment for the 2001 season for China, Australia, Japan, N. Zealand, Hawaii. West Coast US+Canada, Thailand, Indonesia, Phillepines, and all the small islands like BoroBora, Tahiti etc etc etc . We were supposed to perform at 2, the 2;20 then 3 then finally 3;20.. All of the children had left by now. We had NO sound check, No line check, etc etc tc . We did our show to a really bad sound mix to maybe 100 presenters. What a bad time to go on .. We did the best we could considering the conditions...After the presentation we did interviews for three Latino reporters from local papers for the next time we come back which is March 2-3 at the Barkley Theater in Irvine CA, Those interviews will be used for next month...We all returned to the hotel to get ready for the drive to the San Diego area for dinner, laughs and good music and videos.

Dennis and Mary put out a spread for 20, with lechon, Pasteles, Arroz, pollo, tamales, arroz dulce, cafe, cerveza, vino etc etc etc ..Rudy and I were gorging ourselves and Rudy was treated to his first day of hanging with musicians. He was in awe of the vintage videos we were watching.. Miguelito Valdez and Noro Morales from the late 50's, I had brought him a copy of the "SALSA" video of the Fania All-Stars(1974) that is unavailable now. We watched Harlow and Miranda from Univ. of Puerto Rico ,Circa 1990. Old 1974 Imagines TV videos ,in color, of Machito/Graciela, Barretto/Baldes, Harlow/Junior and the origional Typica '73 Band with Adalberto...All of us were skinny with long hair, bell bottoms, high heel platform shoes.....We all had a lot of laughs.

After dinner the music started ..Califa broke out his cherqueres . Congas, timbales, Bongos and the rumba started ,with Bobby, Dennis and Chembo playing and me in my froglike voice cantando toques de Cuba....Julia and Armando danced rumba and all joined in on the coros..Even Rudy played the Claves.. at midnight we started to leave . We got lost going back to Costa Mesa . It took us 2 1/2 hrs But it gave me a chance to really rap and get to know Rudy Morel in person....He is quite a man!

The next morning we all met for breakfast.. Guillermo Edghill was going to LA to visit his mom and sister, David was going to visit his Padrino in San Diego, Sooooooooo Rudi and Chembo, Rosana and I decided to go Universal Studios to have some fun....We drove there and went on several of the attractions and by 6;30 were exhausted. We then went down Sunset Strip to Miyagi's Japanese restaurant where we had the BEST meal of filet mignon and Sushi. I have NEVER seen so many beautiful women in one place at one time..We returned to the hotel at 10pm all said goodby and went to bed for our flight was at 7am. I returned to NY only to be greeted to the next snowstorm....All in all it was a GREAT weekend........Hasta la Proxima...Larry Harlow


In the photos below, you can see Bobby playing the big shekere Mary made for me. Bobby and Chembo both seemed impressed with Mary's work and the deep tone of the chekeres (we grow our own gourds and one of these days I would like to make a hinged tube which will open laterally with some large wires soldered to the inside and try to grow a gourd in the tube hopefully to end up with a pre-grooved guiro!). Chembo seemed to like my old congas and Bobby played my old timbales for quite a while! In the photo of Chembo and me, you can see my cheapo bongos which sound so good.

L-R: Cookie, Rosanna, Mary

L-R: Paul (hidden), Junko, Bobby, Chembo, Califa

L-R: Armando, Chembo, Bobby, Cookie

L-R: Bobby, Chembo, Califa, Mary

L-R: Bobby, Chembo, Califa, Mary

L-R: Califa, Larry

L-R: Califa, Chembo

A note from Chembo


L-R: Chembo's hands, Bobby, Julia (half hidden)

L-R: Larry, Bobby, Julia

2000/03/17: Just received these photos from Chembo.

2000/07/23 - 2000/08/02

NYC Work in progress. More details if I recall any and photos will be added after they are developed.

2000/07/23 Sunday

My boss and I left San Diego for Niagara Falls for a business conference about 5 am PST. The flight had a connection in Chicago and the layover was more than three hours instead of the hour and a half described on the ticket and the connecting flight landed at Buffalo. Taking a cab, we finally arrived at our hotel in Niagara Falls about 9:30 pm EST. After checking into our rooms, we walked over the Rainbow Bridge into Canada for dinner. I had the best prime rib I had ever been served.

2000/07/24 Monday

I attended various conference meetings during the day and then went on a group boat cruise and luau in the evening. After the cruise, I went to check out a Canadian casino just, of course,  to see if it was different than the California Indian casinos :>) BTW it was no different, i.e., I lost money :>(

2000/07/25 Tuesday

With no required meetings, my boss and friend, Ken Popp, and I managed to get away from the conference and see the falls including taking the Maid of the Mist boat ride to the bottom of the falls...spectacular! We also walked back to the Canadian side, site seeing and for lunch and shopping.

2000/07/25 Niagara Falls

2000/07/25 Niagara Falls

2000/07/25 Niagara Falls

2000/07/25 Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls!

2000/07/26 Wednesday

Third and last day of the conference. I left the conference about noon after the required meetings, I took a cab back to the Buffalo airport and flew to NYC. First time to the Big Apple for me! The plane arrived about 6 pm, I took a cab from JFK to Marilyn's place and Eddie met me at the door. We went out to a Columbian restaurant for dinner. I hate to admit it but Eddie is really a very nice fellow regardless of his persona! And I concur with Eddie that Marilyn is indeed a "warrior woman"! Eddie is not particularly interested in Santería (see below) but Marilyn is somewhat interested in the subject and she selected a few books for me to read while I was there (she gave me one book to take home).

2000/07/27 Thursday

We had some great $1 a dish Chinese food, Eddie had Chow Fun and I had Lo Mein, for a buck it was great food! I think was the day we went to a metaphysical bookstore and Eddie recommended Ken Wilber's "A Brief History of Everything" so I bought it (2000/08/18: it is a most interesting book and I suspect that it will take several re-readings to grasp and absorb the large amount of information Wilber presents). I think it was also the day he took me to J&R Records where I pickup a PR salsa video for Eddie and Marilyn and a video and several CDs for Mary and me. We then went to Pier 54 on the West Side @ 13th Street to see a Brazilian group but it started to rain after a few songs so we headed for home. We ordered delivery from a Japanese restaurant for sushi and ton katsu was really great food!

2000/07/28 Friday

Eddie took me to Katz's in the Lower East Side for a real pastrami sandwich and a real egg cream (both were excellent). We also went to "Losaida" (PR for Lower East Side) and Eddie showed me where he was raised and told me about his childhood claim to fame (he was hit by a car in the middle of a riot!) and to an anarchist bookstore (I am now probably in the FBI files!). He also showed me some community gardens and Adela's Kitchen (a real PR restaurant) which we were supposed to go to eat but never made it :>(

We then went to the World Trade center plaza where we met Cesar Diaz and saw part of a concert by Angelo (Vaillant) Y Su Conjunto Modelo (who were opening for Los Hermanos Moreno who we did not see). I planned to see Harlow and Csar at SOBs on Monday night. After part of the concert, Eddie took me for quite a distance to see a drum circle but by the time we got there it was over so after talking a bit with a woman drummer, we headed for home. The photo of the three of us is courtesy of Csar Diaz. The picture of Eddie shows that he actually carries the weight of the world on his head!

L-R: Cesar, Eddie, Califa

Eddie with the weight of the world on his head!
2000/07/29 Saturday

Eddie and I went to Larry Harlow's apartment. Larry was really hospitable and immediately gave me several CDs ("Sofrito!" by David Gonzalez with Larry Harlow and the Latin Legends Band featuring Yomo Toro and Adalberto Santiago, "Smokin' Live" by Max Gollehon, "Tall Paul" by Paul Fleisher (final mixes unreleased; see the last Harlow Dinner), and "Larry Harlow's "Live" "Latin Jazz encounter Live at Birdland "2nd Set" recorded 7/9/00 (rough unmixed unreleased)), the book, "In One Ear, and Out the Other - Memories of 48 Years in Recording" by Irv Greenbaum, a famous recording engineer (not released), and some historical music documents and pictures. He also gave Eddie a CD and the same book. I finally got to meet Larry's wife Wendy.

The following photos were taken at Harlow's apartment:

L-R: Eddie, Califa

L-R: Eddie, Larry

L-R: Eddie, Larry

L-R: Califa, Larry

L-R: Califa, Larry

Larry gave us a guided tour through El Barrio: he showed us the apartment where Joe Cuba was born and still lives with his mother! He also pointed out where Adalberto Santiago lives when in NYC. Many folks in El Barrio stopped Larry to say hello. He took us to Boys/Girls Town and the Barrio Museum but the music department was closed by the time we got there so he was not able to introduce us to the teachers there but the museum was open and we took a quick tour.

We also went to the Salsa museum which is in the back of a small store. It has an incredible collection of memorabilia and I said I would sent some 1970s pictures Celia Cruz in concert in the S.F. area (who knows but my picture might end up in the Salsa Museum!). Larry at the Salsa Museum:


Larry treated then us to dinner at one of his favorite places, a Peruvian/Chinese restaurant! Great food!

Harlow arranged for passes into the Copacabana for tonight (don't know who is supposed to play) and for SOBs Monday night (to see the Cuban Sonero Mayor: Ramón "Monguito" Sardias with Johnny Pacheco it will be their first meeting after 30+ years). But Eddie does not care much for night clubs so Marilyn took me to the Copa in a taxi. Good thing too, although we were on the "get in free" list, we did not have a table but she talked a waiter into letting us sit at a reserved table where the party had not yet arrived. If the person had shown up, we would have had to move but no one showed up so we got to sit at the table all night! I had a good view of the stage and I sat there all night watching the bands while Marilyn went off and danced. The first band was Andy Montañez and his two sons. It was a solid band and Andy and sons provided a good show. The second band, Bobby Valentine, was my favorite! The third band, Luis Damon, was good but not exactly my preference in musical style even though the musicians were very good. Marilyn and Califa before leaving for the Copa:

L-R: Califa, Marilyn
2000/07/30 Sunday

2000/07/30 Sunday: Larry had arranged for me to have a reading from a babalao (a Santería "high priest") so Marilyn and I took the "train" to his apartment in Harlem. Jorge, a Cuban babalawo, and his wife were extremely likeable and the readings were quite interesting and accurate. Based upon my reading, Jorge suggested a ceremony to which I agreed and he arranged it for the next night, i.e., Monday night,  because I thought I was leaving on Tuesday. Usually, the person for whom the ceremony is to be performed is responsible for getting all the necessary offerings and other items needed for the ceremony but because I did not know the area and where to obtain the required items, Jorge offered to pick everything up for me!

2000/07/31 Monday

Because of the ceremony, I was not able to meet Cesar at SOBs. Marilyn had to work late so I took the "train" alone to Harlem for the ceremony (rogacin de cabeza). While waiting for his apprentice to arrive, Jorge explained some of the history of Santería and its relationship to many other religions. Another very interesting evening! It will take me some time to assimilate the events of the evening. Marilyn had asked Jorge to get me a taxi after the ceremony but Jorge, his wife, and his apprentice drove me back to Marilyn's apartment. I hope to keep in touch with Jorge.

2000/08/01 Tuesday

I said goodbye and thanks to Eddie and Marilyn in the morning before they left for work. I left the apartment shortly after noon and took a cab to La Guardia airport for the return flight only to find that the flight was for the following day! I called Marilyn and asked if they could put up with me for another evening. We went to an Indian restaurant for dinner...very good food!

2000/08/02 Wednesday

Again goodbyes and thanks in the morning. In the afternoon, I again took a cab to La Guardia only to find out that my flight was delayed and that I would miss the Chicago connecting flight, so I had to get a cab to JFK and the ride was in part like the movie NYC wild cab rides! I got my flight at 6 pm EST and arrived back in San Diego about 9:30 pm PST and home about 10:30 pm PST. Nice to travel but nice to be home at last!

During the trip I tried to contact Bobby Sanbria, Yomo Toro and Victor Rendon but I was not able to reach them. Oh well, maybe next time!

I have not walked so much as on this trip to Niagara Falls and NYC since I was a small child!

A final note: Eddie said he was waiting to "fry this old white boy"! Actually, I think he tried to walk me to death :>) I found Eddie to be an intelligent, well educated, well schooled in the life of the streets, friendly, funny, and hospitable fellow and I look forward to a continued, although distant, friendship with public and private discussion on topics of mutual interest. The "Warrior Woman" Marilyn is also extraordinary in many, many ways and I value the time we were able to spend together and her willingness to take an unknown old geezer into her home.

P.S. Eddie does not want me to say too much good about him and ruin his RMAL persona!


Photo of Willie Vargas (vocalist and timbalero I worked with in the 60s and 70s) and Mary's niece Gigi taken at Mr. E's (Pete Esovedo's Club) CD release party in Alameda, Ca. Photo courtesy of Gigi:

L-R: Willie Vargas, Gigi Belluomini (Mary's niece)
2001/04/06 My friend Roy Gonzales called me to substitute for him substituting for the regular conga player. I played with a quartet at the Calypso Cafe in Encinitas, Ca. I had not played with this group before and I was out of shape but the job went well! My chops were starting to come back by the second set. The group played mainly American tunes with a Latin flavor and a few Latin tunes. It turned out that the the piano player, Ron Iganta, knew and worked with many of the musicians I knew in the SF Bay Area including Wally Chillcott who gave him Latin piano lessons! I am scheduled to play with them again on 04/13 and I am really looking forward to it especially since Roy will be playing timbales substituting for the regular timbale player.
2001/04/13 I played again at the Calypso Cafe. This time Roy and I switched places a couple of times and I got to play timbales (first time in a group for many many years!). It was fun and their timbale player will not be playing with them any more so it looks like I might get to play timbales with the group when Roy cannot make the job. RMAL's Clayton Leander and his lady Beth managed to get to the place for the last 1/2 hour we were playing!

A mini Harlow-type dinner with Clayton Leander and Beth O'Brien...PR roast, gandule rice, PR beans, tamales, salad and cheese cake...Mary made everything except for the cheese cake. During dinner we watched a Banco Popular video and then Clay asked me to show him a couple of things on timbales and Beth asked about the pattern on congas. After the drum lessons with Mary dancing all the time, Clayton asked Mary to show him a few steps and then Beth asked me to show her the basic box step and later Clayton asked me to show him. A whole lot of dancing! We basically listened to two CDs, Charlie Palmieri's "Giant Step"  and  Fruko's "Power Salsa". Most of the dancing was to Fruko! Mary also presented Clayton with the chekere she had made for him a couple of years ago in thanks for his taking me to Dave Harvey's conga/bongo/bell making shop and for introducing me to Orestes Vilato. A good time was had by all.



Clayton & Beth


Moment of Ecstasy!

Califa & Clayton - Cohibaville!

It's us!

Using timbale drum set combination with Alex back from Cuba and he said that this is the combination he wants me to play.


Played a basically jazz job on drum set (first time ever!), I felt I was at a real disadvantage because I lack drum set chops but everyone seemed happy with my playing. This is a real prompt for me to begin developing my chops, rudiments and reading. Hopefully I will have more such opportunities to play such jobs.


Still playing timbales with Cal-Son. A new piano player started last week, 20 year old Danny ? and dynamite player and knows the older Cuban music!!! I have been using a new timbale setup; i.e., timbales with 20" bass drum from my Traveler drum set and a remote high-hat which allows me to put the high-hat a bit behind the larger timbale and provides access to cascara on both drums. I am waiting for a new set of 14" & 15" timbales and a snare drum with a floating head...I am hoping that the floating head hardware will work on the 14" timbale as a snare when required and still allow a proper timbale sound. If this works, it will also put a tom on my left which will be useful for sambas and other rhythms which would otherwise require cross-sticking.


The floating head snare hardware does work in the 14" timbale and the cascara sound is good (a bit muted but still good)! I would like to find floating head snare hardware for my 13" timbale but they seem to be somewhat rare and expensive. I also got a 18" chrome tom and bass spurs; I will make the tom into a matching bass drum for the timbale setup which will fit under the timbales when played sitting down. I will provide pictures of the timbale setup with bass drum and hi-hat and pictures of the new music room when I get a chance.


Still playing timbales occasionally with Cal-Son but much less frequently.


Visited Ted Rivera for his birthday party. After many years, Rudi Coronado and I finally got to talk for several hours about our musical careers and about the history of Latin American music in the SF Bay Area and the western US. We found many correspondences in our musical lives and much overlapping of friends and bands. Rudi is going to check his musical photo albums to see if we ever played in the same band(s)...we have known each other for many years but we can't recall if we played in the same bands other than just sitting in on occasion.

2002/12/01 smiley face


smiley face

After some 35+ years with the University of California starting with UC Berkeley - Computer Center, UC Berkeley - Office of Admissions, UC Berkeley - Statewide Offices, and ending with UC San Diego - Administrative Systems, at last, I have retired.

Now I should be able to find time to finish the music room and time to get back my chops on congas, bongos, timbales and drums! I also plan to finally study rudiments and maybe even some keyboard!


Rehearsed a few times recently with a Latin group: guitar/cuatro/tres, bass, congas, timbales. I played the timbales.


Nothing happening with the Latin group but the guitar player (Ray) asked me to play drums with an pop/jazz/funk/rock/Latin group: 2 guitar players, bass and drums with occasional other instruments sitting in. Great fun and it helps me to keep/develop my chops.


Lost the bass player a couple of weeks ago. Now playing bongos and bell with the 2 guitars. Sounds pretty good. Trumpet player Luis Gasca has come to listen to the group with the bass and without the bass. Tonight he complimented me on my bell playing...when I play bell I usually play the hembra like the large timbale/conga...with a basic 2 and 4 beat or a semi-guaguancó.


Rehearsed with Ray this afternoon tres, bass, and bongos. The bass player was a Cuban, Ignacio Arango (here from Cuba just 7 years). What a joy to play with such a solid foundation. It reminds me of the good old days! :>) :>) :>)


Got a call from Ray to play bongos in a Latin jam at some club (? Monkeys ?),,,full band, piano, bass (Ignacio again!), trumpet, trombone, tres, vocal, timbales, congas and bongos. what a joy to play big band again. I was the only one not miked and I could be heard fine...guess I have not completely lost my chops. After the break I got several compliments from fellows in the band (I only knew Ray and Ignacio) and when Ignacio complimented me again on my playing (it really pleases me to get compliments from a real Cuban heavyweight) and I mentioned that I was not miked, he just broke into a big smile. I guess most congas and bongos are miked today most of the time.


Yearly pics of Mary and me (probably July 2003

Absolutely no music since last December???


Virtually no music for another year but today I played a private party on bongos with Ray and Duke.


Another job with Duke...guitar, flugelhorn, upright bass and bongos...nice 1 hour job!


Another job with Duke...guitar, upright bass and bongos...nice 1 1/2 hour job! I have messed around with a 12/8 martillo but never had the opportunity to play it with a band...this evening the band played a very very slow jazz ballad and it was so slow that the normal 4/4 martillo would have been very empty sounding so I tried the 12/8 martillo and it worked great!

I played it as follows:


  I   index finger
  f   fingers tap
  M   middle finger
  F   2 or 3 fingers
  R   right hand
  L   left hand
  m   macho
  h   open hembra

Yesterday afternoon I went to Robert Felcher's house for a get together with Robert, Jack Costanzo, Ralph and Mark Flores whose dad was the owner of Valje and several other guys. Robert buys and sells congas and bongos and skins...I would guess he currently has over 100 drums including some GonBop bongos with 5 tuning rods on each drum!

I took my Valje bongos with the comfort rims for the brothers to see and, although they had not been tuned for over 15 years, they sounded pretty good with those old thin kip skins! Even Jack said they sounded pretty good. But everyone was surprised at how good my cheapo World Beats sound.

I got a chance to talk with Jack for quite a while and we shared "war stories" regarding playing and shared opinions regarding our favorite conga and bongo players (and those who did/do not move us musically even though they had/have great chops). I also got a chance to play some of Robert's congas including the nEW3 drum set he got from Ralph (Ralph build the congas).

We all went to a new Cuban restaurant for dinner...the food was great but I had my first mojito and I did not think it was anything special :>(

And then everyone except Jack went to see Robert play with one of his groups: pretty good Latin and Latin-Jazz music (piano, bass, congas and drums and a guest singer and a guest sax player).

After the first tune, Robert handed me his bongos...I played one tune and then asked if it would be OK for me to go get my bongos (the cheapos)...I ended up playing bongos and bell for about 3 1/2 hours (the longest and hardest I have played for quite a few years) hands/fingers held up well even though I was playing harder than usual...I got compliments on the sound quality of my bongos and the band seemed pleased with my playing.

And I have 1 1/2 hour job around dinner time tonight with the guitar, bass, and bongos group I have played with lately.


I have played several times with the trio during the year...all interesting jobs.

2007/00/00 frowney face
Diagnosed with diabetes.frowney face

First I played with the jazz trio (guitar, bass, bongos) I have been playing with for a couple of years...about 6 months since we last played...jazz tunes, sambas, bossa novas and a couple of semi-Latin tunes. Then the bass player took me to see an all Cuban group (keyboard/bass, trombone, trumpet(s), giro, clave, tres, vocals, congas and bongos)...the real thing... older style music...I was told that the tres player would have been in the Buena Vista Social club movie because he hung out with all the Cuban old timers but he was in Europe when the movie was made. I was impressed with the percussionists (and the whole band) and, on a break, the my friend, the bass player, acted as translator while I asked a few questions regarding technique of the conga player....I then met the bongo/bell player, checked out his Matador bongos (he gets a very good sound)...I hit a few licks to check them out...I then asked if he would like to see my bongos (the cheapo WorldBeat bongos), he said yes and I got them out of the car....he was really impressed with both the bongos and the hand bell I have had for years...he played my bongos and bell on a couple of tunes...then I was asked to sit in on a couple of tunes on bongo and bell! I have not played that kind of music since the early 70s and then I was playing congas...I loved it...during the tunes, the conga and bongo players were all smiles...they asked me several times to play more tunes on bongos and even congas but I had to decline...I have not played congas for years and I have not touched the bongos until tonight for 6 months and I am definitely out of shape and endurance :>( when they finished playing for the night, I thanked the guys and the bongo player kept shaking my hand and giving me hugs and without my asking he gave me his phone number! he also asked me where to the the synthetic head I use on my friend, the bass player, said they liked my was also very nice to hear my bongos and bell played by someone who knows how to is difficult to judge how drums sound out in front of the band because they do not sound the same as when one plays them. What a night! I am totally bushed!


With the help of prescription Chantix I finally quit smoking after smoking for more than 40 years!

2009/09/29: still a non-smoker.

2010/12/??: took a few puffs when Cookie visited and continued to smoke again


I have not played with the trio for almost a year :>(

Rey called and said he wanted to jam with a new guitar player so maybe I will start playing again soon.


Got Herschel Levi's phone number from Sonny Crockett. She gave me James' phone number, I called and talked with James Levi after some 40 years!

2009/12/15: unfortunately after a computer crash and losing some emails, I lost James' phone number :>(


I got an email from a fellow who found a reference to Tim Small in this autobiography asking if I knew how to contact Tim. I replied that I had not see Tim for over 40 years but that I had been looking for Juanita Oribello for many years. He replied with a reference to a phone number for Juanita! I called and we talked after period of some 40 years! We also talked about Sonia Gutierrez.


Got together with Rey (guitar/tres/cuatro), Dominic (keyboard/bass), another fellow on guitar, and a fellow on violin for a jam session party at Rey's place. I played drum set mainly...conga on a couple of tunes. Nice to play again!


just a partial (editted & cleaned up) copy of email(s) posted to thebongogroup by its founder, Matthew Dubuque:

----- Original Message -----

From: "Matthew Dubuque"

To: "TheBongoGroup at"

Sent: Wednesday, June 25, 2008 7:38 AM

Subject: BongoGroup: Re:When the music is over, by The Doors video

Santana was one of the LOUDEST bands ever.

Bill Graham used to have Armando Peraza's mikes cut regularly; he felt his solos were too long and they wanted the band to appeal more to the  female teenage demographic, like Steve Perry and Journey.

I actually witnessed this happen in concert.

After they cut his mikes, Armando started playing with his slaps even louder.  The band resumed playing at a deafening level and Armando was so furious (he eventually left the band for this and other reasons after 20 years) that he REALLY started slapping loud and you could hear that his slaps were louder than the band, louder than Carols' deafening solo.

You can confirm all of this with Armando. His slaps are as loud as gunshots.  Unlike the modern conga  style that does not use many high slaps, he DOES NOT sound like a tabla.  His high slaps are as loud as ANY rock band.

Dennis has world class high slaps.

It's that simple.

You should hear him. I have heard both Armando's and Dennis' high slaps up close and personal (within 2 feet) and I assure you personally that Dennis does not need to be miked.

Perhaps the new generation needs to.

But Dennis has the velocity and the power that is required to do so.


--- In TheBongoGroup at, jpbongo... wrote:

I'd like to see you go down to Cafe Sevilla in downtown S.D., on any given night when the salsa bands are playing and sit in on bongo without a mic, then let me know how it goes. Or play the Mayan, Rumba Room, J.C. Fandango's, Mama Juanas, Sevilla or anywhere in L.A. with no mics.

No mics?? Its just not practical in todays day and age...

Best of luck...

-----Original Message-----

From: "Dennis M Reed \"Califa\""

Date: Tue, 24 Jun 2008 21:48:13

To: TheBongoGroup at

Subject: Re: BongoGroup: Re:When the music is over, by The Doors video

between 1960 and 1975, with one group, I played 6 nights with one night after mikes....with other groups, I played congas with no mikes with 5-12 piece groups 3-6 nights per week 4-5 hour jobs sometimes with additional afternoon mikes.

bongos I have played only 3-5 nights a week with small and big mikes.

in the old days, many folks who had decent technique and knowledge could not really play live because percussion was no miked and their hands/fingers could not take the beating...some of us apparently have hands/fingers and, for congas, upper arm strength to manage these kinds of jobs.

I stand by my original statement regarding mikes!!!

----- Original Message -----

From: jpbongo at

To: TheBongoGroup at

Sent: Tuesday, June 24, 2008 2:38 PM

Subject: Re: BongoGroup: Re:When the music is over, by The Doors video

Denis wrote: the only time I use mikes is in a recording studio.

Try playing "Macho/fuerte" 4 or 5 nights a week with no mics. "No mics", is not sound advice (IMO) There are a couple guys that can do it and on carpet but even they have admitted that it can't be done all the time.

Good luck.

Just ask someone with years of pro experience, ask Dandy....

Bongos tend to be harder on the hands than congas.

-----Original Message-----

From: "Dennis M Reed \"Califa\""

Date: Tue, 24 Jun 2008 13:22:01

To: TTheBongoGroup at

Subject: Re: BongoGroup: Re:When the music is over, by The Doors

then think about the time when you might begin to play with a group...can you hold your bongos firmly for a minimum of 45 minutes, take a 15 minute break...and do that 4 times a night? that is why I suggest lighter weight bongos. regarding volume, I play wood bongos (my cheapo WorldBeat bongos) and, even when playing with big Latin bands, I do not use a mike and I can be heard! I think most bongoceros now use mikes especially with big bands and even with smaller groups so volume should not be a problem for you.

the only time I use mikes is in a recording studio.

----- Original Message -----

From: abel morales

To: TheBongoGroup at

Sent: Tuesday, June 24, 2008 10:43 AM

Subject: BongoGroup: Re:When the music is over, by The Doors video

Hello Dennis:

No i don't play with a group, but how i am an apprentice i just want a very nice set of bongos to be prepared for the opportunity when it comes :), and i am just wondering which one is better between the Valje and the LP Generation III. If someone can tell me the difference between them, will be awesome.

Thanks, Abel

--- El sb 21-jun-08, Dennis M Reed "Califa"

De: Dennis M Reed "Califa"

Asunto: Re: BongoGroup: Re:When the music is over, by The Doors video

A: TheBongoGroup at

Fecha: sbado, 21 junio, 2008, 5:49 pm

you are welcome and you deserve it!

my question for you is you say you can handle you play to play them in a live group? if so, consider that you will may have to grip them harder to play harder...and usually for 45 minutes straight 4 times a night!

----- Original Message -----

From: abel morales

To: TheBongoGroup at

Sent: Saturday, June 21, 2008 2:29 PM

Subject: BongoGroup: Re:When the music is over, by The Doors video

Thanks Dennis for your comment about the video, i appreciate it I have tried the Gen II at the Sam Ash store, they are heavy, but not so much, so i think i can hadle them, my question is wich one has a better sound, the Valje or the Gen III? In other words... are the Valje the better bongoes from LP? I will appreciate any advice about that.

--- El sb 21-jun-08, Dennis M Reed "Califa"

Re: Dennis M Reed "Califa"

Asunto: Re: BongoGroup: When the music is over, by The Doors video

A: TheBongoGroup at yahoogroups.

Fecha: sbado, 21 junio, 2008, 11:51 am

make sure you try out any bongos before buying them...some are so heavy as to be very uncomfortable. ...some have hardware that is heavy and can "bite" into your legs.

personally I prefer lighter weight bongos.

BTW very nice video, nice clean variations, keep up the good work!

----- Original Message -----

From: "able morales."

To: TheBongoGroup at

Sent: Friday, June 20, 2008 11:09 PM

Subject: BongoGroup: When the music is over, by The Doors video

Hello Matt:

I want to share with you and the group a video playing around at home, trying to get an approach to a non conventional style of music with my bongos, of course i made some mistakes but i am trying to improve my skills, i just got a new head and the sound is better. I am thinking very seriously to buy a brand new LP bongoes, and the best value is in, do you think is a good idea get them from there? which one you think is better, the Valje or the Gen III? they are in the same range there of $280. Thanks and any suggestion is more than welcome.


El Segundo High School Class (ESHS)of 1958 50 year class reunion! On Friday afternoon, about 80 of us got a tour of the rebuilt ESHS. It has been completely rebuilt inside and completely renovated outside retaining the original 1927 exterior. The new building also have the same kind of exterior. ESHS has been and continues to be used in many movies and TV programs. After the tour, we had dinner and drinks at a local bar/diner. Later that evening I managed to visit with Mike Giannini's mother and older brother and then visited with Mr. Cummings, a former teacher. When I asked if he was going to attend the reunion, he said that he had not received an invitation. I suggested that he attend with me as my guest but he declined.

On Saturday morning, I contacted Fred Crook, the reunion organizer, and gave him Mr. Cummings telephone number so Mr. Cummings could be officially invited to the reunion. On Saturday night about 180 people attended the actual reunion dinner. Mr. Cummings and his new wife also attended.

I will fill in a few additional details when I get some time.


50th year El Segundo High School Reunion...picture with former teacher Larry Cummings:


I just got an email from Marty Olachea...I have not heard from him since the days at Arturo's in San Jose!

2009/03/09: received 2 CDs from Marty!

Solo Pianos by Marty Olachea:

01_Track  02_Track   03_Track  04_Track  05_Track  06_Track  07_Track   08_Track  09_Track

El Jazz: (Marty Olachea-piano, Bob Ebana-congas, Karl Harting-bass).

Note: some tracks have long silence at beginning:

01_Track  02_Track  03_Track  04_Track  05_Track   06_Track


Special Halloween Lunch at P&V Thai Cafe in favorite Thai restaurant!