Sunday, May 9, 2010

Tribute to Francisco Aguabella

A cadre of some of Cuba's finest musicians came to the states in the fifties, creating the bedrock for traditions established in cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco , Miami and Chicago. Francisco was part of a Cuban vanguard exodus that included percussionists Julito Collazo , Candido Camero, Carlos "Patato" Valdes, Armando Peraza, Luis Miranda and Mongo Santamaria, when he left Cuba in 1954 to work on the Shelly Winters film "Mambo", made on location in Italy. This was followed by a tour with Katherine Dunham and an international career that spans over five decades performing with artists Peggy Lee, and Frank Sinatra to Lalo Schifrin, Paul Simon and The Doors among many others. His contributions to Jazz, Afro-Cuban Jazz, and Rock n Roll are proof positive that Francisco Aguabella was always at the forefront of innovation, all the while dipping into the bottomless well of Africa and Matanzas.

Franciscos legacy is preserved on a slew of recordings including his dates as a leader on the Cubop label. But it's in the film "Sworn to the Drum", directed by Les Blank where one gets a firsthand look at how Aguabella earned the respect and admiration of so many, so fortunate to have borne witness to the master with such profound knowledge and respect for his roots/traditions. In recognition of his profound love and respect for his music and for the generosity with which he shared his knowledge Francisco has been honored with the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Durfee Foundation's Master Musicians' Fellowship.

His humble beginnings in Matanzas, Cuba where he was consecrated to the drum, more than adequately prepared him for his journey. Francisco Aguabellas' priorities were always the music and the accurate, dignified representation of his cultural traditions; the legacy left to him by his ancestors.

Francisco Aguabella(1925-2010)
Ibae Ibae Entonu Embelese Olodumare

Side Notes..

In April of 2007 I had the unique opportunity to share the stage with Francisco Aguabella, Carlos "Patato" Valdes and Candido Camero during a Blue Note performance. It was an experience that I will never forget; like being on Mount Olympus, and I thank the legendary Sonny Bravo, pianist and musical director that night, for putting me on that date. To learn more about Francisco Aguabella please go to his website The photo of Francisco Aguabella is by Orestes Matacena.

- Onel Mulet. Brooklyn, NY

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