#129 Luis Conte- Percussionist, Educator, Author and More!
This week’s guest is Luis Conte. His genius stems from his ability to integrate the powerful rhythms of his native Cuba with the American necessities of American pop music. His long and varied career has included numerous Hollywood film scores and mega-successful albums with Madonna, Ray Charles, Phil Collins, Santana, Shakira, Jackson Browne, Sergio Mendes, Cachao, and a multitude of other artists too numerous to mention.
Born in Santiago, Cuba, Luis spent the first 15 years of his life soaking up the rich musical heritage of “El Son” and Carnival. "Life in Cuba is all about enjoying life, and music is central to that lifestyle," Luis says. "Music is almost like food to Cuban people.” While immersed in the music of his native Cuba, Luis also developed a passion for Rock & Roll, R&B soul music, jazz, and the Beatles.
At 15, looking for freedom, Luis emigrated to Madrid, Spain. He soon had another opportunity to travel, this time to Hollywood. In California, Luis stayed with a cousin and attended Hollywood High School, playing guitar in numerous rock bands throughout his teens.
After high school, Luis met John Monteallegre, who reunited him with Cuban drums at LA City College. By the time he was 18, Luis was intensely interested in drumming and took every opportunity to play and to learn, drawing his inspiration from a deep source of rhythm absorbed during his youth in Cuba.
Since then, Luis has become one of the most respected and recorded percussionists in the world.
Educational spotlight for this week…..
PAS (Percussive Arts Society) announces its 2019 Hall of Fame class. Also, the 2019 International Percussion Ensemble winners were announced. You can nominate candidates for the Lifetime Achievement in Education Award.
Iconic recordings for this week……
Example Number 1: “Me Voy Con el Alacrán (Conga Comparsa)” by Tambores de Cuba de Alfredito Valdés, Comparsa El Alacrán
Example Number 3: “Conga” by Yoruba Andabo from the Rumba En La Habana album.
Music News for this week…..
Trump administration bans educational and recreational travel to Cuba. As a follow up, here is What travelers need to know about Trump’s Cuba restrictions. Universal Music Group Faces Dozens of Artist Lawsuits Related to the 2008 Universal Studios Fire — And a Potentially Serious Hit to Its $50B Valuation. Here is A List of Artists Whose Masters Were Lost In the 2008 Universal Studios Fire. This is the clip Damon and Marcos were referring to from the movie “Inglorious Bastards”. Previously Unheard Miles Davis Album ‘Rubberband’ Is Being Released by Warner Records on Sept 6th. Woodstock 50 Lost Its Venue After Failing to Pay a $150,000 Deposit. Rather than resulting from a complex contract disagreement, the deal collapsed because Woodstock 50’s planners failed to pay Watkins Glen the second half of their $300,000 rental and licensing fee. Ariana Grande Didn’t Cancel Her Atlanta Concert — But She Did Donate the Proceeds to Planned Parenthood. The $250,000 donation to Planned Parenthood will help the organization fight a bill recently passed in Georgia.
Santiago is famous for the Carnival style of music called the Conga de Comparsas. Luis talks about the use of the “Chinese Trumpet” versus brass instruments like trumpets and trombones. They are also famous for the traditional Son music.
The reason Luis left Cuba and headed to Spain was because of the Cold War and the results of Fidel Castro taking control.
The first congas that Luis bought in the US were Valje congas.
Pictured below is Luis playing his Valje congas from his studio.
At the time Luis was auditioning for the Supremes, Diana Ross’ musical director was in the room as well and he wanted to use Luis for some stuff with Diana. Unfortunately, that musical director, Gil Askey, has passed away.
Luis got one of his first gigs in the states by going to the Musicians Union. You can check out your local chapter and become a member and see if there are events going on. One of the people that helped him out was a great percussionist whom a lot of people looked up to named Héctor "Bucky" Andrade. He can also be heard playing congas on “The Hustler”, an album by Willie Colón that he recorded with Héctor Lavoe.
Not only does Luis do a bunch of touring as a sideman, but he also records on film scores. You can hear him on movie soundtracks like The Ocean’s movies and Coco. Shout-out to Walter Rodriguez and Alex Acuna.
When Luis isn’t playing or recording, he is teaching. He has a position as Cultural Ambassador at the Latin Music Institute.
Because of the amount of gear Luis has, he needs a storage/cartage facility. The one he uses is Angel City Drumworks. He also mentions Musicians Transfer in Burbank, CA and Royal Cartage in Sun Valley, CA.
One of the first recording devices Luis used for home recording was an Alesis Adat machine. Now Luis uses Protools, Universal Audio Apollo Quad, & Brent Averill microphone preamps. The microphones range from SM57s, to 421s to Royer SF-24, to AKG 414s.