Horacio El Negro Hernandez and Robby Ameen
"El Negro and Robby at the Third World War"
John Beasley, Ruben Blades, Pedro Martinez, Marie Daulne, Takuma Watanabe, Jerry Gonzalez, Yosvany Terry, Innersoul, Kelley Sae, Bobby Franceschini, Xiomara Laugart, Richie Flores, Larry Baeder, Charlie Torres, Orlando Puntilla Rios, Essiett Essiet, Lincoln Goines, Brian Lynch, Luis Perdomo, Ruben Rodriguez, Fernando Saunders, Roman Diaz
Produced by Kip Hanrahan, El Negro Horacio Hernandez and Robby Ameen
Hernandez, considered the best drummer in Cuba before coming to the US, has been the drummer for Santana, Michel Camilo and many more, while Robby Ameen has been the primary trap drummer for Ruben Blades, Paul Simon, Eddie Palmieri and many more. "Robby and Negro at the Third World War" is their debut as leaders.
The album also features Ruben Blades, Zap Mama, a member of WuTang, and others, and blends the absolute best of latin jazz, hip hop, Cuban music and creative rock. "Exploring neo-funk, Cuban roots and hip-hop, musical surprises rain down from track one: Ruben Blades dons the vestments of Mick Jagger's Diablo simpatico as Hernandez and Ameen build excitement." Downbeat **** "... a joyful project full of intriguing ideas, textures, imagination and unexpected combinations--a free-for-all of unbridled traps and percussion."
If drummers are the glue that holds together the music, then what if two of the best collaborated on record? What or who would hold them together? Just listen.
"El Negro and Robby at the Third World War" is the first collaborative effort, as leaders, of the two great trap drummers Horacio El Negro Hernandez and Robby Ameen. It's one of three new releases on American Clave.
As with many "drummer's records" the music is wildly diverse, but here the diversity doesn't equate with inconsistency. That's because of the passion, the intelligence and perhaps the anger of producer Kip Hanrahan Here, while El Negro and Robbie are the inspiration, the innovation and the sound, Kip is the glue.
Kip's take: "They’re drummers, and being a drummer allows and encourages them to sense, the room, the time. The air sparkles with musical possibilities - breathlessly. Everything available - surfaces, commercial musical styles and fads, conflicting ideas, word mistakes - is all material that can be made, that demands to be made into music."
In some ways, the music can be traced to Negro in Cuba in the early '80's, arrested for playing "Sunshine of Your Love", defying rules and expectations, despite the consequences. Then there's fellow master and co-leader Robby Ameen, who's rhythms melt effortlessly into Negro's.
The Robbie/Negro tandem sound like an orchestra of tones and rhythm. It’s music that reminds you of why it is good to be alive. Perhaps because of one added dimension that is undeniable and audible: this is music born of deep friendship.
Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez was the trap drummer of choice for most of the 1980s in Cuba. The story is that for a while he was working so much, and for such long hours and so many projects, he had a private mattress at the Egrem studios to allow him to get some rest as he was there for days at a time. Perhaps it’s more interesting though, that his musical posture represents a generational change among Cuban drummers, full of sheer swing, relentlessly inventive, but more importantly, so very, very musical.
Negro was born in Havana, Cuba where his father was a major Jazz writer and disc jockey. He’s part of a generation that was drawn, strongly, to rock, which was the forbidden fruit of his generation - the Party declared it decadent American / Capitalist musical perversion, which Negro insisted on playing, and for which he got in deep trouble over and over again, which is why it was so important for him to get the chance (through Kip) to get to work with Jack Bruce, and why it was so important for him to get to record the Rolling Stones’ "Sympathy for the Devil", it means something entirely different, a defiance, a new freedom in a way, for Negro.
He came to the States shortly after having jumped from Gonzalo's band during a tour of Italy in the early eighties. He’s spent much of the last ten years touring and recording with Michelle Camillo, Michael Petrucianni, as well as with Carlos Santana, Mike Stern, Michel Camilo, Tito Puente, Chucho Valdes, Changuito, Giovanni Hidalgo, John Patitucci, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, McCoy Tyner and more. He's also a member of Jack Bruce’s band, the Cuicoland Express, and appears on Jack’s two latest recordings on Sanctuary.
Currently, Negro tours with Robby and is involved in a new band, Italuba, which he formed with other Cuban exile musicians in Italy. He also continues to contribute his unique rhythmic take on things on various American Clave projects, including Deep Rumba (for which he's a co-pilot / co-producer), A Thousand Nights and a Night (since 1995) and all of Kip's other solo projects and tours. Kip's bands traditionally have two trap drummers (eight limbs forming a mini percussion orchestra), and Robby brought Negro in as the second trap when that seat became available in 1995, forming the most dynamic, creative and musical trap drum tandems in the band's twenty five year history....
Robby Ameen has compiled a recording career stretching from Dizzy Gillespie to Paul Simon, while maintaining a more than fifteen-year relationship with Latin luminaries Ruben Blades and Dave Valentin. Although he is of Lebanese origin, Robby is best known for the unique and powerful Afro-Cuban style he has created.
Growing up in New Haven, Connecticut, Robby was able to take advantage of his proximity to New York City by going to clubs and hearing many of the great jazz masters at a very young age. At the same time, he was involved in the local jazz and latin scene, as well as later attending Yale University, where he received a BA in literature. His jazz roots were strongly influenced by his studies with the great Ed Blackwell in high school, while in college he studied classical percussion with Fred Hinger at the Yale School of Music.
Upon moving to New York, Robby began recording with Dave Valentin and Ruben Blades, who was the first salsa singer to add a full-time drummer to his band, Seis del Solar. Another one of his early recordings was New Faces with Dizzy Gillespie, about whom Dizzy said "Just the other day I made a record with a Lebanese drummer – b-a-a d! He had so much happening, and it keeps going, you know?"
On the Latin scene Robby has also recorded with Mongo Santamaria, Hilton Ruiz, Daniel Ponce, among others. He has toured with Willie Colon, Paquito D'Rivera, Gato Barbieri and was the drummer at Marc Anthony's historic first solo concert at Madison Square Garden.
Another one of Robby's longstanding relationships has been with producer composer Kip Hanrahan, with whom he has been recording and touring since 1985, continuing to contribute on various American Clave projects, including Deep Rumba, Conjure
John Beasley - in ways a co-musical director for the record, he was able to translate all of Robbie and Negro’s harmonic/melodic impulses into something tangible, interesting and listenable, as well as facilitate whatever electronic ideas and curiosities they had.
Since turning down a scholarship to Julliard after high school, John has performed a recorded with music legends like Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Chick Corea, Barbara Streisand and many more. Add to that tons of credits working on music for feature films. According to Kip Hanrahan, “He’s a player who apparently doesn't know, or maybe even have a clue, as to just how good he is: Which means he's never secure enough to stop getting better and better...”
Ruben Blades - Robby was Ruben's trap drummer for the eighties and early nineties, with Ruben's "Seis de Solar" band. As Ruben has pursued his music, his acting, his politics, they remain good friends. “Ruben is probably the smartest sonero I've heard, and one of the strongest, deepest artists "Latin" music has produced” says Kip Hanrahan.
Marie Daulne - singer from Zap Moma whom Negro met when he was asked to do a guest concert appearance with the Afro-European vocal band. She was actually thrilled to be asked to sing on a "salsa" record. Not only sings with so much beauty and grace on the song “La Timba Francesa”, she wrote much of it.
Jerry Gonzalez congero, trumpet player, leader of Fort Apache Band, and an almost childhood friend of Kip’s, who's first record, “Ya Yo Me Cure”, was the first American Clave released, so many years ago. A long-time Kip Hanrahan collaborator, Jerry has played with Eddie Palmieri, Dizzy Gillespie, Larry Young, Stan Getz, Grupo Folkoriko Nuevo York and many more.
Bobby Franceschini is yet another veteran of the jazz and Latin music scene in and around New York, playing burning saxophones in various performance and recording settings and with the 911 Horns.
Yosvanni Terry Cabrera - recent import from Cuba, brilliant reed player, with a sparkling command of music theory and swing, Yosvanni is also now a member of American Clave’s Conjure.
Richie Flores also longtime American Clave collaborator, member of Deep Rumba, Jack Bruce's band, Conjure and Kip’s solo bands. Richie is an ex-member of Eddie Palmieri’s band and was brought into American Clave by Giovanni Hidalgo in 1989.
Xiomara Laugart - probably the most beautiful bolero singer to come out of Cuba in memory, awesome also when singing guaguanco and street or pop music. Member of American Clave artists Deep Rumba as well as the GRAMMY nominated Yerba Buena.
Lincoln Goines is a lifetime friend and collaborator with Robby Ameen, from early on in Connecticut. He has recorded extensively with virtually every major contemporary jazz artist (it might be able to be easier to list who he hasn’t played with!) from Sonny Rollins and Nancy Wilson to Mike Stern and the Brecker Brothers.
Essiet Okon Essiet began his musical studies at age 10 with the violin. Four years later he switched to the bass viol. In 1982 he met Don Moye and joined his quartet. That same year he joined Adullah Ibrahim (Dollar Brand) and began a six year relationship with the ensemble. In 1988 he joined Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers till Art's passing in 1990. Since then Essiet has performed and recorded with Benny Golson, Freddie Hubbard, Bobby Hutcherson, Louis Hayes, Cedar Walton, Kenny Barron, Sam Rivers, George Adams, Kenny Garrett, Al Foster, Bobby Watson & Horizon, Kevin Mahogany, Mulgrew Miller, Geri Allen-Ralph Peterson, Blue Note Allstars and many more. He also leads his group called IBO (Intercontinental Bush Orchestra), a Nigerian Jazz Project.