Conga Kings Rehearsal at St. Peters in NYC
Carlos "Patato" Valdez, Candido Camero & Giovanni Hidalgo

Candido Camero, John Benthal, Giovanni Hidalgo,
Pedro "Pedrito" Martinez and Nelson Gonzalez, Jr.


The Conga Kings rehearsed at St. Peter's Church on West 20th Street in New York City, under the musical direction of Ray Santos for their upcoming CD. They performed on March 2, 2001 at Town Hall, a concert hall in New York City. The Conga Kings features conguero virtuosos Candido Camero, Giovanni Hidalgo and Carlos 'Patato' Valdez. Other musicians who participated were Thelonias Monk contest winner Pedro "Pedrito" Martinez, as well as Joe Gonzalez, Guilherme Edghill, John Benthal, Jimmy Bosch, Mauricio Smith and Nelson Gonzalez, Jr.

At 80 years old, Candido Camero is one of the most influential percussionists in modern music. He came from Havana in 1946, at the age of 25, and made his first Latin jazz recording with the legendary Machito and His Afro-Cuban Band. He went on to play with more than one hundred great musicians, such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, Billy Taylor, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Tito Puente - and many more. And he appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and "The Tony Bennett Show," among others. His gift is a powerful, driving music; even when he performs onstage alone, he fills the stage.

Giovanni Hidalgo, a native of Puerto Rico, is the most highly acclaimed percussionist alive today. He has performed with Dave Valentin, Eddie Palmieri, and Carlos Santana, and has traveled all over the world with Tito Puente, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey and Planet Drum. Giovanni represents the talent of a new generation. Rarely is there a musician who reaches his heights. Giovanni's technique can be seen most clearly in his videos (produced by DCI Video).

For over 60 years, 75 year old Carlos "Patato" Valdez has combined technical skill, an incredible sense of melody and superb showmanship. In my career I have never seen a better dancer than Patato, his conga playing fuses melody with a rhythm rooted in dance. Patato's sophisticated melodic percussion required advances in drum technology - in the late 1940s, for example, he helped to develop the first tunable congas. In the 1960's I collaberated with Patato in creating the design of the Patato Model Conga that still stands as a world standard. His spontaneity and charm keep drawing audiences from vastly different cultures to the Afro-Cuban rhythms he creates.

Visit the photo galleries from the rehearsal at St. Peter's Church and from their performance at Town Hall in New York City - only to be seen here! - at!