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Candido Camero: The First Generation

29th Oct 2014

CCamero

The King of the Congas is the man behind the beats for many of Jazz's best known acts. Candido is credited as the first person to bring Latin beats into Jazz with his famous Congas. Duke Ellington, Coleman Hawkins, Yardbird, Dizzy Gillespie, and Stan Kenton would not be the same without his unique rhythms. But being first isn't what make Candido famous, he has brought a spirit and fire to his drums that few younger players can match. He has a unique style of play and level of energy that has not diminished even at age 91.

Born in Havana, Candido learned to play drums from his Father and Uncle. He would later learn to play other instruments like the bass, but he was never formally trained on these instruments. Eventually, he realized that playing the congas would allow him to stay along with the arrangements he was playing easier and that's where he stayed. Seventy years, later he is still behind the drums, now recognized as one of Conga Kings.

While Afro-Cuban Jazz had begun to develop in the United States prior to his entrance, it was he that brought the Congas into the standard lexicon of Jazz instruments. But this was not his only innovation. Not only was Candido innovative in bringing Latin fusion into Jazz, he also developed a new technique where he could play the Congas and the Bongos at the same time. While placing the Congas to his left he would play a beat with that hand; then, he would put the bongos between his legs and tap out a different rhythm with his right hand.

Candido has been injecting a little Afro-Cuban flavor into Jazz for decades playing alongside many of Jazz's greatest performers. But his beats are just for the background. He recorded nine albums with Congas out front. Still going strong, Candido now plays with pop acts and even spent time with the disco crowd. In 2000, he joined Giovanni Hidalgo, Carlos 'Patato” Valdes for the album, 'Conga Kings.' He says he plans to keep going as long as people keep calling him back.