#122 Wilson "Chembo" Corniel- Latin Jazz Conga Master, Educator & More!
This week’s guest is “Chembo”. 2009 GRAMMY NOMINEE Percussionist Wilson “Chembo” Corniel was born in Manhattan on November 22, 1953 of proud Puerto Rican parents and raised in the humble streets of Red Hook, Brooklyn. It was during these years as a quick-witted youngster that he had the privilege and honor to study with such luminaries of the Afro-Caribbean percussion tradition as, Tommy Lopez Sr., “Little Ray” Romero, Louie Bauzo, and Cachete Maldonado.
Chembo honed his skills at The Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts in New York and at the prestigious La Escuela Nacional de Arte in Havana, Cuba under the direction of the great Chucho Valdés. His intense studies with such legends noted above channeled his energy onto a path where Wilson “Chembo” Corniel has now created a reputation for himself among musicians and the public. Today, he is considered as one of the best hard-hitting, versatile percussionists around. Chembo teaches percussion to students at the SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music and leads numerous clinics throughout the United States, bringing awareness of the rich Afro-Caribbean traditions to others. Among his credits, Chembo was chosen by Latin Percussion to create his own instructional DVD entitled An Introduction to Hand Percussion: Volume I – Congas. This DVD was released in December of 2000 with distribution by Warner Brothers and has been a success. He’s been a vital endorser of Latin Percussion instruments since 1982 as he is currently for Remo drum heads, Vic Firth sticks and Sabian cymbals. His touring credits are as long as his performing credits. Chembo has toured with many major artists throughout Europe, Asia, North & South America, and the Caribbean. Television credits include an appearance on the “Bill Cosby Show” and a recurring recording gig on Nickelodeon’s children show, “Dora the Explorer”. Chembo continues to perform and/or record with many artists of different genres. He is currently concentrating on leading his own Latin Jazz quintet, “Chembo & Grupo Chaworó”. Chembo received a GRAMMY NOMINATION by NARAS IN 2009 for “BEST LATIN JAZZ ALBUM” for his 2009 CD release entitled Things I Wanted To Do.
Educational spotlights for this week……
Also, Motown Records unveils two mentorship programs in Detroit. The first, dubbed the Motown Musician Accelerator, will provide individualized coaching, networking contacts, and a $20,000 grant. The second program, in partnership with Motown Museum, Capitol Music Group, TechTown Detroit, and Gener8tor, will select five music tech metro Detroit start-ups.
The Iconic Recording for this week……
Gig Alerts for this week…..
Woodstock 50 Organizers Are Fighting Over Whether the Festival Is Cancelled. After delaying its ticket sale date, an investment group behind Woodstock 50 has officially cancelled the event. But not everyone seems to agree on the death sentence.
Music News for this week…..
Peloton users stuck with 'terrible tunes' following licensing lawsuit. Connected exercise bike maker Peloton was hit with a $150 million lawsuit last month for playing unlicensed music, and now its customers are feeling the fall out. Owners of the machines, which cost up to $4,000 each, have taken to the internet to complain about the poor music selection now accompanying their $468 annual workout membership.
Tribeca Film Festival: 10 Music Docs We’re Excited to See. This year’s offerings range from documentaries on the legendary Apollo Theater, the Wu-Tang Clan and Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman to music-adjacent films like Danny Boyle’s “Yesterday” (about a world with no Beatles), and anniversary editions of ‘90s classics “Say Anything,” “Reality Bites” and “This Is Spinal Tap” — all three of which have special Q&As with castmembers after the screenings (head here for specifics on those).
Apple Is Already Working on Brand-New AirPods — With Noise-Cancellation a Distinct Possibility. As far as other wireless options, as mentioned in the episode from two weeks ago, you can CLICK HERE. There are also the bone conduction headphones as well.
Chembo grew up in Brooklyn and spent a lot of time at the Skin on Skin shop hanging and helping. He got his first lessons from Tommy Lopez.
A couple of the names Chembo mentioned that were part of the NYC scene while he was growing up were Cachete (Maldonado), Patato (Valdez) before Puntilla (Rios) arrived. He credits trumpet player Ray Feliciano with helping him learn how to read music.
Chembo’s first professional gig was with Bobby Rodriguez y La Compañia.
Here is an example of a traditional Cuban rumba, similar to what Chembo and Tommy might have rolled into around 5am after their gigs were over……
Chembo starts to elaborate on some of the differences in music that has evolved from Cuba.
The Willie Colon album that Chembo recorded on that Marcos likes and says is “really experimental” for the time is called “Honra y Cultura”.
Chembo credits seeing (friend of the show) Papo Pepin play rumbas at Coney Island as a kid for a lot of the main inspiration of wanting to play the congas professionally. Frankie Malabe and Frankie Rodriguez are two other percussionists that kept the flame going for Chembo as he studied and learned the various styles of percussion playing. The Charlie Palmieri album “A Giant Step” is the album Chembo brings up with Frankie Malabe on congas (it also has friend of the show, Johnny “Dandy” Rodriguez on bongos). The timbalero Chembo suggests checking out is Charlie Cotto. Here is a playlist of videos featuring Charlie (you might even see a young Giovanni Hidalgo (friend of the show) playing on the Eddie Palmieri videos. Two other guys Chembo suggests looking up are Julian Cabrera who played with Machito, and Phil Newsom.
You can hear Chembo’s percussion stylings in the Dora The Explorer soundtrack from the first 10 years of the show.
Chembo has 5 albums out with the album called “Things I Wanted to Do” being nominated for a Grammy.
You can also catch Chembo and his group in and around NYC as well as other locations.
The song leading out of the interview is called “Descendants” from the album with the same name.