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Cándido Camero, Conga Master Who Transformed Jazz, Dies at 99

Cándido Camero, Conga Master Who Transformed Jazz, Dies at 99
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Cándido Camero, Conga Master Who Transformed Jazz, Dies at 99

Cándido Camero, Conga Grasp Who Remodeled Jazz, Dies at 99

“Once you discuss percussion, notably the evolution of conga taking part in, you’re speaking about two intervals — earlier than Cándido and after Cándido,” the Grammy-nominated percussionist and bandleader Bobby Sanabria mentioned on Friday, having simply attended a memorial service for Cándido Camero. “His contributions have been actually sport altering.”

Mr. Camero — simply Cándido to most followers and fellow musicians — introduced his Afro-Cuban musical influences to america from Cuba in the course of the final century and introduced a brand new dimension to each Latin music and jazz. He performed a number of conga drums concurrently, one thing new on the time, and launched different improvements as he carried out with high names like Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Kenton.

“Greater than some other Latin percussionist of his technology, Cándido succeeded in making the sound of the conga drum a normal coloration in straight-ahead jazz rhythm sections,” Raul A. Fernandez, emeritus professor of Chicano and Latin research on the College of California, Irvine, who wrote about Mr. Camero in “From Afro-Cuban Rhythms to Latin Jazz” (2006), mentioned by electronic mail.

Mr. Sanabria, in an electronic mail interview, rattled off Mr. Camero’s record of improvements.

“He developed coordinated independence as utilized to the congas and bongo — with the ability to maintain a gradual rhythm with one hand whereas soloing with the opposite,” he mentioned. “He was the primary to develop the strategies to play a number of percussion devices concurrently, sounding like three or 4 gamers. He was the primary to tune a number of congas to particular pitches so he may play melodies on them, and he was an inventor as effectively. In 1950 he created the primary machine for a participant to have the ability to play a cowbell with one’s foot.”

Mr. Camero died on Nov. 7 at his dwelling in New York. He was 99.

The Nationwide Endowment for the Arts, which designated Mr. Camero a Jazz Grasp in 2008, posted information of his loss of life.

Cándido Camero was born on April 22, 1921, in Havana to Cándido Camero and Caridad Guerra. His father labored at a manufacturing unit that made soda bottles, and his mom was a homemaker.

He mentioned he started drumming when he was 4, pounding on empty condensed milk cans, tutored by an uncle who performed the bongos. He additionally realized to play the tres, a Cuban stringed instrument, and the bass.

By 14 he was taking part in professionally. In an interview for the Smithsonian Jazz Oral Historical past Program in 1999, he described the precautions his father took to maintain him on the straight and slender.

“As quickly as I got here dwelling, my dad would say, ‘Say ha,’” he recalled. “And I mentioned, ‘Ha ha.’ After which he’d say: ‘Just one ha is required. One is sufficient.’ He wished to scent my breath to see if I had been consuming.”

Within the Thirties and ’40s he performed one instrument or one other in a wide range of teams, performing in nightclubs and avenue parades and on the radio. For years he was a part of the orchestra on the Tropicana nightclub in Havana.

A job backing the dance duo Carmen and Rolando proved to be pivotal. He had accompanied them in performances all through Cuba when the act was invited to america in 1946. In Cuba that they had carried out with two percussionists, one among whom performed bongos whereas Mr. Camero performed the quinto, a higher-pitched drum than the usual conga. The journey funds, although, allowed for just one percussionist; they took Mr. Camero. And he launched a brand new flourish.

“I mentioned, ‘OK, I’m going to strive one thing to see should you prefer it and if it really works,’” he recalled within the oral historical past. “They usually mentioned, ‘What’s it?’ I say, ‘Properly, I’m going to shock you.’ Then I introduced the conga and a quinto. At showtime, I started to play the rhythm with my left hand on the conga and to do what the bongo participant was speculated to do with my proper hand on the quinto to mark the steps after they have been dancing. That was the primary concept, the low drum and the quinto on the similar time.”

The tour opened up quite a few alternatives for Mr. Camero in america — with the pianist Billy Taylor’s trio, the bands of Gillespie and Kenton, and others. He quickly settled in New York, and he stored on innovating.

By 1952 he was taking part in three congas without delay and tuning them in such a manner that he may carry a melody. When he would solo with Kenton’s orchestra within the mid-Fifties, he added adornments that made him a digital one-man band.

“I used the conga, bass drum and hi-hat to hold the rhythm on my own as a substitute of the drum set,” he defined, “accompanying myself rhythmically on the similar time that I took my conga solo.”

He tailored these dazzling strategies to a variety of bandleaders and musical kinds, and in flip he influenced these kinds.

“To me,” Professor Fernandez mentioned, “his best contribution was establishing the conga drum as an integral, if not important, part of the fashionable straight-ahead jazz percussion scheme and securing a spot for the ‘Latin tinge’ among the many many rhythmic tinges out there to the fashionable jazz drummer.”

His versatility landed him on numerous recording classes.

“His full record of recordings as a sideman is superior,” Professor Fernandez mentioned. “Greater than 100 credit — Woody Herman, Artwork Blakey, Ray Charles, Kenny Burrell, Erroll Garner, Stan Getz, Depend Basie.” He additionally recorded quite a few albums as a frontrunner.

At a 1999 efficiency at Birdland in Manhattan at which Mr. Sanabria was main one among his massive ensembles, he introduced out Mr. Camero for a visitor look. Peter Watrous, reviewing the efficiency in Gadget Clock, made it sound as if Mr. Camero stole the present.

“Mr. Camero has entry to the divine,” he wrote, “and when he started to play, the music modified. He makes use of a number of tuned conga drums, and he started by taking part in melodies rigorously. His taking part in is sensible, it has cadences, and it begins and finishes logically. And he swings.”

Mr. Camero was nonetheless performing in his mid-90s. Data on his survivors was not instantly out there.

Mr. Sanabria summed up Mr. Camero’s profession succinctly.

“Each percussionist working immediately, in any context, owes a debt of gratitude to him,” he mentioned.

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