Armando Peraza: Percussionist who played with a host of jazz greats and worked with Carlos Santana for two decades

 

Described by Carlos Santana as "my greatest teacher, mentor and role model", the Cuban-born bongo and conga player Armando Peraza was a long-serving member of the Latin rock fusion group led by and named after the Mexican guitarist.

When Peraza joined in the spring of 1972, during the recording sessions for Caravanserai, the fourth Santana studio album, the band was in a state of flux after its emergence at the Woodstock festival three years earlier and the worldwide success of the Abraxas and Santana III albums. As Santana entered the most fascinating and experimental chapter in his storied career, collaborating with the British guitarist John McLaughlin on Love Devotion Surrender and the jazz vocalists Leon Thomas and Flora Purim on the Welcome album in 1973, Peraza remained at his side, a link to their Latin American roots, and the jazz greats he had toured with, including Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Dexter Gordon and Dave Brubeck.

A nimble, powerful and expressive percussionist, he particularly excelled on the Santana albums Borboletta (1974); Amigos (1976), on which he composed and sang "Gitano"; Inner Secrets (1978); Marathon (1979); Zebop! (1981); Shangó (1982); Freedom (1987), containing his evocative instrumental composition "Mandela''; the Viva Santana! collection (1988), which Carlos dedicated to him; and he left after Spirits Dancing In The Flesh (1990). He occasionally guested with Santana, most memorably during the trilogy of concerts the guitarist gave at the Montreux Jazz Festival in July 2006.

Peraza was unsure of his date of birth and might have been older than the information he gave US authorities when he arrived in 1948. Orphaned by the time he was seven, he was brought up by relatives until his early teens and subsequently lived on the streets of Havana, selling fruit and vegetables. He also danced, boxed and played semi-professional baseball.

He taught himself percussion and, after deputising for the congocero in Alberto Ruiz's Conjunto Kubavana, gigged alongside Mongo Santamaria in local night-clubs. They became lifelong friends and moved to New York at the same time. "We took Latin percussion to Harlem. It's international now," said Peraza, who recorded with Charlie Parker on his second day in the Big Apple.

Peraza proved a flamboyant match for the entertainer Slim Gaillard, whom he backed on a tour which led him to San Francisco, where he met Santana's father Jose, a mariachi musician. In the mid-1950s Peraza helped both the British pianist George Shearing and the American multi-instrumentalist Cal Tjader develop an influential blend of jazz and Afro-Cuban rhythms that has become a constant in popular culture, from the mambo craze of the 1950s via the acid jazz movement of the mid-1980s to the present. He suffered from diabetes and died of pneumonia in a San Francisco hospital.

PIERRE PERRONE

Armando Peraza, percussionist, singer and composer: born Havana c. 30 May 1924; married (one daughter); died San Francisco 14 April 2014.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific