Trumpeter, composer, bandleader, singer, TV host & Latin music distributor Tony Pabón was born in Puerto Rico March 6, 1939 but grew up and spent most of his life in New York City. He began playing with the Pete Rodriguez band in the 1960s. He is often neglected or given credit / recognition for the huge impact he had during the Boogaloo era. He was responsible for writing and co-writing several popular songs during this era such as Michaela, Oh that’s nice, Guagaloo but his most popular track which can still be heard today is, “I like it like that.” I had the privilege of working with Tony during the years of 1972 through 1976. These were the most amazing years of my life being able to gain much experience and to work with such a great musician, mentor but most importantly a great friend. Sadly Tony left us on 1-21-2014, he is missed dearly. RIP my dear friend.
Band Leader, Pianist, Music director, Composer and Arranger Rene Grand (Rene Jose Humphries Stephens) was born in San Andres Isla, Colombia, South America on July 22, 1935.
Rene Grand’s passion for music began when he was a young boy growing up in Colombia, South America. His musical inspiration was greatly influenced by Cuban Rhythms and rhythms from other parts of the Caribbean. He studied Music (Harmony, Orchestration, Arranging Theory and Piano) at the Colegio De Bellas Artes in Colombia, South America from 1952 to 1956. While studying music, he played with many small groups at places of entertainment within Colombia and Panama. For over 45 years, he led a very successful musical career as a pianist and in leading his own band “Rene Grand and His Combo New York”. During these 45 years as a professional musician, he performed at many clubs in New York City. To mention a few, Club Tropicoro, Club Caborrojeno, New York Casino, Happy Hills Casino, Brooklyn Casino, Casa Borinquen and many other night clubs and theaters. He also played alongside many famous orchestras like Sonora Matancera, Charlie Palmieri, El Gran Combo, Tito Puente, Joe Cuba, Primitivo Santos and many others, whom he admired and were an inspiration to him. I met Rene back in 1968, I was contacted by a friend that Rene was looking for a drummer to finish a recording for a song titled (Love Story) for Seeco records and the rest is history. Rene was a mentor, and a father figure and a dear friend, it was an honor and great privilege to have worked so many years with his orchestra, an amazing musician. Rene Grand passed away in New York City on April 21, 2010. You will always be in our hearts.
Ubaldo Nieto was born in Guayama Puerto Rico and lived in New York City and was considered one of the most renown timbaleros in New York. Uba was highly respected in the music world and was recognized as one of the great performers with Latin American rhythm instruments, he was considered to have an impeccable time on the timbales and was the most outstanding factor when playing with any big band orchestra. Uba has recorded with such greats as Artie Shaw, Mitch Miller, Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Rodrigues, Percy Faith, Art Blakey and the great Machito Orchestra to name a few. I was a musician back in the seventies and was looking to study with a good teacher, I use to play a lot at the Caborrojeno on 145th and the New York Casino on 96th and Broadway. Sometimes Tito Puente would be playing there and the great and late Mike Collazo would let me sit in with the band. I would always ask him if he would give me lessons and he would say no, instead, he use to tell me Ubaldo Nieto is the teacher you need. Sometime during the year 1976 the late Jimmy Sabater called me to sub for him with the Joe Cuba Sextet and during our conversation he also recommended I study with Ubaldo Nieto. In 1976 I called Uba and had the privilege of finally meeting him at his home and he starting giving me lessons, sadly Uba was not in the best of health at the time but I continued to visit him and take lessons every week. He was such a wonderful person I remember paying him for lessons and one day he said to me don’t worry about the money and just come for your lesson. From there on we became very close friends until his death in 1980. I will always remember one important phrase that Uba use to say to me when playing the timbales "RITMO CON BUEN TIEMPO". A fascinating man, teacher, mentor, and friend that I will miss forever. RIP Uba.
Photo Courtesy by Martin Cohen www.congahead.com
Mr. Cohen was nice to grant me permission to use this photo of my teacher back in 1976