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Carlos "Patato" Valdez

1926 - 2007

On December 4, 2007 Cuban percussionist, Carlos "Patato" Valdez passed away in a hospital outside of Cleveland, Ohio due to pulmonary problems stemming from lung disease. He was 81 years old.

I first saw Patato perform in the mid 1960s when he was working with Willie Bobo. It was love at first sight. I adored him. His playing and his clown-like antics. I came to become a close friend of his and wherever he performed I would be there. Myself a Jew living in New Jersey would have been rejected by his crowd of rumberos had it not been for him saying I was "cool". It was an instant "kosher" stamp and I became known and respected by his inner circle. Knowing him taught me about hipness that served me well in designing instruments to meet his and other percussionist's needs. LP named a conga series after him and in 1974 he agreed to make the first of 3 recordings for me as a leader. They were Authority, Ready For Freddy, and Bata y Rumba.

In 1979 Patato, along with Tito Puente formed the backbone of a Latin Jazz Group I assembled. The reason I formed this band was to create a demand for LP percussion products in Europe where I had virtually no business. The effect was almost immediate and 3 European and one Japanese tours completed my involvement with presenting live music. LP sales grew rapidly in Europe. Japan took a bit longer. The last performance took place in July 1980 at the Montreux Jazz Festival.

As a result of my working with Patato and the Latin Percussion Jazz Ensemble far more people around the world began to play Latin percussion instruments than ever before.

The world lost a percussion legend who lived each day to the fullest.

Martin Cohen

Click here to see a gallery of Carlos "Patato" Valdez
Click here to see a gallery of Carlos "Patato" Valdez Memorial photos
Click here to see a video of the rumba
Click here to see a video of the Conga Kings Manteca


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