Drummer/percussionist Francisco Aguabella emigrated to New York City from his native Matanzas, Cuba -- where African music was a tradition -- in 1957. He followed a long line of Cuban drummers who made their mark in America: Chano Pozo, Patato Valdez, Candido, and Mongo Santamaria. Aguabella's music fuses traditional African and Latin rhythms with smooth jazz/soul for an electrifying sound.
His proficiency on the bata (talking drums of Yoruba origin) made him a wanted man. He first worked with Dizzy Gillespie, then Peggy Lee, Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Weather Report, Cal Tjader, Frank Sinatra, Louie Bellson, Walfredo de los Reyes, Nancy Wilson, Lalo Schifrin, Machito, and Carlos Santana. He was an original member of Malo, which included Jorge Santana; Malo had three LP releases and crisscrossed the States before disbanding.
The legendary drummer participated in movie soundtracks and television scores. Producer Les Blank chronicled Aguabella's career in the documentary Sworn to the Drum. He also received a National Heritage Award from the National Endowment of the Arts, and served as a visiting professor in U.C.L.A.'s Department of Ethnomusicology, where he taught a basic and an advanced course in Afro-Cuban music. He also performed along the West Coast with his group, Francisco Aguabella's Latin Jazz Ensemble. Francisco Aguabella died in Los Angeles on May 7, 2010; he had been battling cancer, and was 84 years old. ~ Andrew Hamilton, Rovi