Steve Berrios

Jazz Musician,Drummer/Percussionist  Steve Berrios has died . Details are sketchy at this time  surrounding the cause of death. It was announced by a few unnamed close friends Thursday night  July 25, including longtime friend, Drummer Alvin Queen posting it on his personal Facebook page. We will be following this story up with more details as they become available. follow also on twitter#SteveBerrios  #@blues2jazzguy.

“STEVE BERRIOS  (born February 24, 1945) was a jazz drummer and percussionist born in New York, New York. He started playing trumpet, but is not known for the instrument. He often performed in the Afro-Cuban jazz medium, having done stints with Pucho & His Latin Soul BrothersJoe Panama and Mongo Santamaría. He also worked with artists from other streams of the jazz medium, like Kenny Kirkland and Art Blakey, among many others”

Steve was born in uptown Manhattan  to parents who had just arrived from Puerto Rico. His father, Steve Sr., was a drummer with major Latin bands of the era, including Noro Morales, Miguelito Valdez and Pupi Campo.

Steve was given a bugle at age eleven and soon began trumpet classes in public school. But his real musical education came from his father’s records (which included modern jazz artist like, Duke Ellington and Charlie “YardBird” Parker) and his father’s musician friends. On the percussion side, his two greatest early influences were Willie Bobo and Julio Collazo, the legendary master of the batá sacred drum.

Steve became a percussion apprentice under Julio; at the same time, Julio became his spiritual mentor in Santeria, the Yoruba-based rites that are the wellspring of all serious Afro-Cuban music.

At 16, Steve started winning competitions with his trumpet, including five Apollo Theater first places. In high school, he was friends with  Harlem neighbor, budding pianist Larry Willis; this was the beginning of a lifelong friendship and jazz collaboration.

At age 19, he got his first steady gig as house drummer with a hotel band in Manhattan thanks to his father’s recommendation. He joined Mongo Santamaria’s band a few years later, playing both traps and timbales.

In 1981, he became a founding member of the milestone Latin jazz group, the Fort Apache Band. He’s been a crucial ingredient in Fort Apache ever since. Great drummers like Max Roach and Billy Higgins regarded Steve as the master of bridging the Latin and the mainstream  jazz tradition. a unique drummer who’s completely authentic in both worlds.

Because of this mastery, Steve was a veteran of more than 300 recordings. He’s also played and recorded with an enormous range of greats including, Tito Puente, Paquito D’Rivera, Michael Brecker, Grover Washington, Hilton Ruiz, and Miriam Makeba.

He’s leader on a remarkable CD of Santeria-based music on Fantasy, Son Becaché. In addition to his continuing work with Fort Apache,and a spectrum of first-rate New York musicians, he’s a longtime member of the Larry Willis Trio. 

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