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Artist News & Happenings - 2000
Up Close & Personal
Ramon Yslas

Hey Pam....

Hope you're well and having fun!! All is kicking here... quick update...

In the studio now with the Rippingtons, working on new c.d. no title yet, but we're looking at releasing it in Sept. Also working in the studio with Strunz and Farah, we did a best of c.d. and a taping for BET on Jazz which will be aired in the fall... watch out for that one!! ..and also recorded on the new 98 degrees single ,"Una Noche", which will be out this summer.... had a lot of fun recording that one!! Climbing the charts on Billboard Latin 50 (top 10).. is another one I'm on, Joan Sebastian.. "Secreto de Amor" Hitting the road with The Rippingtons and shows with Craig Chaquico and Strunz and Farah... this summer..... not too busy as you can see..... Check out the website when you get a minute... http://www.yslas.com

te mando abrazos.... hablamos, ramon


Julio Figueroa

After completing 356 shows (yes three hundred and fifty six!!!) as the house drummer for "Cuanto Cuesta el Show" I will be taking a break. Starting on June 19 I will no longer be on the show.

I'm starting a very exiting new project with my partner, Pianist "Rique Pantoja" (Steps Ahead, Ivan Lins, Carlos Santana, Milton Nascimento, etc...) I'll keep you informed!!!

I will also be on the road for a while with the great Tex-Mex Singer / Songwriter "Joan Sebastian" (currently number 1 at the Latin Hits chart and number 5 at the Billboard Magazine Hot Latin tracks).

We are just getting back from Chicago (Sold out performance at the "Chicago Sports Arena"), and we are playing at the "Staples Center" in Los Angeles on Sunday June 25. On July 1 we will be at the "Mandalay Bay" Hotel in Las Vegas.

The Nydia Rojas album "Si me conocieras", that I recorded last year for Hollywood Records, is a Latin GRAMMY award nominee as best Ranchero Performance Album. The 1st annual Latin GRAMMY awards will be telecast nationally on Wednesday, September 13 from Staples Center in Los Angeles on CBS.

I hope you are all doing well.
God Bless...
Julio Figueroa



Walfredo Reyes, Jr

I'm in the middle of production rehearsals. We are playing Saturday in front of the Eifel tower with an audience of about half a million people,plus is televised on tv & cable. It takes 23 semitrucks for the stage, this guy (Johnny Hallyday) is HUGE in France. Im sweating about 5 pounds a show. It is power playing for sure. Keep in touch, Wally



Tito Puente

Bandleader Tito Puente Dies

- The Associated Press

Tito Puente, the exuberant percussionist and bandleader who rose to stardom during the mambo craze of the 1950s and paved the way for Latin musicians from Carlos Santana to Marc Anthony, has died. He was 77.

Puente, who had undergone treatment recently for a heart ailment, died at a hospital Wednesday.

Decades before the current "Latin explosion'' of Anthony, Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez, Puente - a contemporary of Desi Arnaz - was driving audiences to the dance floor with his wide-eyed, energetic style and influential sound. He created his own jazz by blending Latin rhythm with the Big Band stylings of Tommy Dorsey and Count Basie.

In a six-decade career that began at age 13, the New York City native recorded more than 100 albums and won five Grammys. His most recent Grammy, best tropical Latin performance for "Mambo Birdland,'' came in February.

"The excitement of the rhythms and the beat make people happy,'' he said in an Associated Press interview in 1997. "We try to get our feelings to the people, so they enjoy it.''

Puente crossed over before anyone coined the expression, collaborating with jazz artists such as Dizzy Gillespie and Lionel Hampton. He wrote the song "Oye Como Va'' years before it became an enormous rock hit for Santana.

He performed with various symphonies, and brought his band to the White House for Presidents Carter, Reagan and Bush.

Puente transcended music and entered pop culture. Bill Murray's character in "Stripes'' hailed Puente's genius, as did TV's Lisa Simpson. Puente performed the theme song for "The Cosby Show,'' and played himself in the 1992 movie "Mambo Kings.''

In 1997, he received a National Medal of Arts from President Clinton.

"Tito was for me more than family,'' said Cuban-born singer Celia Cruz, a longtime friend and collaborator. "Our world is in mourning because one of the souls of Latin music has died.''

Gloria Estefan, in a statement with husband Emilio, praised Puente as "a pioneer in the music industry ... an inspiration for artists and music lovers alike."

"Tito said to us recently that his music was not only the story of who he was, but also the pride and the passion of a people rejoicing in who they are,'' the Estefans said. "There are no better words with which to say goodbye.''

Ernest Anthony Puente Jr. was born April 20, 1923, in Harlem, the oldest child of Puerto Rican parents - a factory foreman and his wife. His mother called her son Ernestito - Little Ernest - then shortened the name to Tito.

Initially, Puente was a Fred Astaire-style dancer; a serious ankle injury in a bicycle accident focused his attention on music.

Puente quickly took to percussion, beating rhythms on boxes or the windowsill and playing his first semi-pro gig at 13 in a local club.

The high school dropout was soon playing the timbales - a pair of single-headed drums mounted on stands and played with sticks - with the Machito Orchestra, a group that had merged the Big Band sound with a Latin beat.

Puente persuaded the bandleader to move the timbales from the back of the band to the front, and from his new spot, Puente became the center of attention - animated and constantly moving.

After a three-year stint in the Navy during World War II, Puente took courses at the Juilliard School of Music. He then worked with other bands until finally debuting his own, with the Tito Puente Orchestra, in 1948.

When the '50s mambo craze swept the states, Puente's fame soared and he became a regular headliner at the New York Palladium. He moved to Hollywood in the '60s, working with the biggest stars of jazz and Latin music, such as Cruz, Ray Barretto, Mongo Santamaria, Cal Tjader, Woody Herman, George Shearing and Hampton.

Over the decades, the hard-working Puente became an international star, taking his band around the world. In 1992, his 100th album - "The Mambo King 100th LP'' - was nominated for a Grammy.

Puente is survived by his wife, Margie, two sons and a daughter.


Steve Smith

Hello all,

I'm happy to say www.vitalinformation.com is back online! Wayne Saroyan, our webmaster, was able to reconstruct most of the website after it virtually disappeared when our server unexpectedly closed up shop.

Our double CD, "Live Around The World- Where We Come From Tour 1998-99” will be released on September 12. It took our record company, intuition music, a while to decide exactly when to release it. Now that we have this date to work with, the process of starting to book touring for the fall can begin. We plan to tour the US from mid-September until late October. The US portion of the tour will also include clinic dates and some “instore” performances at various music stores. We are working on a European tour for the November time period.

For those of you who can’t wait until September, the folks at Audiophile Imports (www.audiophileimports.com ) have gotten a hold of a limited amount of copies of this double live CD.

The West Coast run that Vital Information had from March 5-12 was a new high for the band. We played mostly all new music from the new CD "Show ‘Em Where You Live" (which will be released in February, 2001). The new tunes were very liberating for us to play after playing the music from "Where We Come From" for about two years. Our funky bass meister, Baron Browne, enjoyed playing music that he had a part in writing. Tom Coster's B-3 playing has never been better and Frank Gambale played his guitar at new levels of virtuosity. This new music has us opening up in ways that surprises us each time we play.

Tom and I had an absolute ball playing with the "Yo Miles!" band at San Francisco's Fillmore club on March 4th. There is a great interview with Yo Miles! mastermind, Henry Kaiser, at www.philzone.com. There are photos and sound clips and the whole site is a psychedelic experience! There is also a review on the Steve Smith website. Just go to www.vitalinformation.com and you'll see the Steve Smith site (if you haven’t been there already). We are planning on recording a new Yo Miles! record in late August.

Meanwhile, back to the website... Wayne Saroyan, our aforementioned webmaster, has been working on a Steve Smith "Interactive Timeline" that really covers my entire "journey" as a musician and gets into the details of "where I come from." I’m really happy with this new idea of his. I am amazed at the photos and album covers that he came up with (Focus con Proby?). Go to the news page on the Vital Information or the Steve Smith site to find the link and check it out. Or go directly to:

"Drum Talk" has its first installment. I've written on the importance of Learning From Mentors and the Master / Apprentice Relationship. Go to the Steve Smith site to find it or go directly to:

I've been busy with some other projects as well. In January, I traveled to LA to record VTT2, the second release from "Vital Tech Tones." This is a group made up of myself, Scott Henderson and Victor Wooten. We spent ten days at Tommy Tedesco Studio, at the music school MI, in LA recording some high energy jazz / rock / fusion. The music on VTT2 is looser with more improvisation than the first recording we did. The virtuosity of the players really comes through as well as a very sympathetic group interaction. This CD will be released on May 23rd, on Tone Center. I'll send out the liner notes, written by Bill Milkowski, when it's about to come out. To find out more, go to the news page of the Steve Smith site:

In February, Frank Gambale, Stu Hamm and I got together at my Neverland Studio to record a follow-up album to "Show Me What You Can Do." This recording surpasses the first by leaps and bounds. We call it "The Light Beyond." The writing is world-class and the direction has matured measurably. This CD will be released on July 11th, on Tone Center. I'll send out the liner notes written by Josef Woodard just before its release.

I have some gigs coming up with the Air Force Band of Mid-America and a date with the Buddy Rich Big Band. To find out more, go to the Steve Smith news page or:


Peter Basil

Hi there,

Peter Basil here dropping a line to tell you what I've been up to.

Just finished doing some recording for a new feature film entitled "Maze" starring Rob Morrow (from the show Northern Exposure) with music composed by Bobby Previte. Lots of percussion and a fun, ripping Timbale solo.

Also playing lots of Flamenco Cajon in NY at a spot called Xunta on First Ave. between 10th & 11th St. every Monday and Thursday.

The Latin Pop group "Fiesta!" be playing Friday, April 14 at midnight. We're about to release a new CD in May. Would write more but my 6 month old just woke up.

Peace and Drums, Peter Basil


Walfredo Reyes Jr

I am doing a tour with one of the biggest rock artists in France. His name is Johnny Hallyday. The tour is from june to the end of august. The band is an all star ensemble from LA.I will let you know full shedule soon...



Ernie Durawa

Hey Folks,

This movie "Price Of Glory" opens Friday March 31, 2000 in a theater near you. Look for one of our last projects as the Texas Tornados... on the sound track of this movie doing the Johnny Cash song "Ring Of Fire" Tornado style.

PS Also just found out that the new movie "Boys Don't Cry" currently is using a track "The Haunt" that I recorded in 1985 with Roky Erickson.


Ed Thigpen

Thanks for keeping in touch via the Newsletter; I always enjoy reading of your activities.

I've finished editing my Rhythm Brought to Life primer and Teacher's Manual as well as the revised edition of the Sound of Brushes.

Hopefully they will be released no later than April 2000. I was at the IAJE conference in New Orleans to make a presentation on RBTL, which was received with much enthusiasm.

Today Í start on a two week tour with my trio here in Denmark and Sweden. This will be our first tour, so I'm looking forward to performing with the guys over a two week period: Thirteen Gigs. Not bad for this area.

The trip to Japan sound like it was a killer. Please give my best to Pam and everybody.

I hope we can hook up soon and play some.

Ed Thigpen



Indian Tabla Maestro Allarakha Dies

.c The Associated Press

BOMBAY, India (AP) - Allarakha Khan, the best-known player of the tabla, or Indian drum, died early Thursday, his family said. He was 81.

His family said the musician, who used only the name Allarakha, died shortly after learning of his daughter's death. Family members said he was shocked by the news and suffered a heart attack at his home.

He and his daughter Razia, 51, who had suffered from a heart ailment, will be buried Friday.

Allarakha made his international debut in Japan in 1964, playing with Indian sitar maestro Ravi Shankar. The duo helped popularize Indian music abroad and sold out concerts both in India and elsewhere.

Allarakha also composed music for popular Hindi films in the 1960s. Over the last few years, he taught music at an institute he set up in Bombay.

At his birthday party last year, Allarakha was asked to say a few words. He played the tabla instead.``This is the language I know,'' he told the audience.

Allarakha is survived by his wife, three sons and a daughter. One of his sons, Zakir Hussain, also is an internationally known tabla player and one of India's most successful recording artists.


Lemoine Ndiaye Rose

Well known sabar teacher and son of Doudou Ndiaye Rose & Sophie MBoup, Lemoine Ndiaye Rose died in Italy last Friday. His memorial services were held in Dakar, yesterday.

Doudou and his family continue to tour the U.S. with their extraordinary music, despite this overwhelming family tragedy. Only Lemoine's wife Astou and his brother El Hadj were able to return to Senegal.


Storm Cloud

... doing an internet radio show at www.worldmusicradio.org every thursday from 11pm-3am(pacific) called WORLD BEAT CENTRAL.... feel free to forward and have all tune it in. to respond to the show email dj@worldmusicradio.org.

it's percussion intensive....


Steve Smith

Hello Everyone, Steve Smith here. I'm sending out a quick note to stay in touch.

The vitalinformation.com site is down as many of you have noticed. My server in Chicago has had a very serious personal tragedy in his life and as a result, he has neglected his clients. We can’t get a hold of him to put the site back up. We also can't get to the pages of the web site so we can move it. For now we’re stuck, I’ll let you know when it’s back online.

The new Vital Information Studio CD is tentatively scheduled for an early May release. We will probably call it "Show ‘Em Where You Live."

Now that we've played the Organ / Roots concept for over a year, we really "Live" there. I can't wait for everyone to hear it, it is SMOKING!

The "Live Around The World" Double CD is also finished, but the record company want's to release it after the the studio CD. We will probably have copies of it to sell on the road though, well before it’s "official" release.

Vital Information will be playing in LA this week, during the time the NAMM show is in town. We'll be at the Key Club on Sunset Blvd. Thursday, February 3rd. The gig is a co-bill with the Dave Weckl Band, so it should be a HOT night!

The next time we will be out playing again is in March.
Bach Dancing and Dynamite in Half Moon Bay, CA on March 5th
Kuumbwa Jazz Club in Santa Cruz, CA on March 6th
Catalina's Bar and Grill in Hollywood, CA March 7-12
We'll be booking more touring just after the new CD is released.

Some other projects that the band members are involved in: Tom Coster and I will be playing in the Tribute To Miles Band that plays at the Fillmore in San Francisco on March 4th. I just finished VTT2, the second Vital Tech Tones recording with Scott Henderson and Victor Wooten. We spent the Jan 10-19 writing and recording. Frank Gambale, Stu Hamm and myself go into the studio February 10, to do a follow up to Show Me What You Can Do.

Well, I need to go practice some of the new Vital Info tunes to get ready for our LA gig. See you soon, Steve

Steve Williams

This is Steve Williams just reconnecting for a minute. Happy New Year by the way . It's been quite sometime since we last spoke but I know things are going well for you and El Negro. I'm playing every Friday at Downtime (in NY, NY) with a great guitarist named Askold Buk. Hit time is early 6:30 to 8:30.

Downtime is on 30th between 7th and 8th. If you get a chance check out his web site which is www.askoldbuk.com.

Well I hope to see you soon. Take care



Danny Reyes

Hello! ... recently completed a concert series with Stevie Nicks at the House of Blues in the Los Angeles area and Las Vegas.

...will be performing at the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards with Ricky Martin in Los Angeles at the new Staples Center.

...two Stevie Nicks sites are including me on their current sites:

1) Beginning February 1st, Big Love (Bc's Fleetwood MAac) site will be conducting a month long "Question and Answer" session. Visit this Fleetwood Mac site and submit your questions to Daniel and he will answer it promptly. This is your opportunity to ask Daniel about his performances with Stevie Nicks, his album, SAN RAFAEL 560, his musical career, and anything else that comes to your mind. There is no limit to the number of questions that can be asked. Click on "Q&A sessions" and you will see Daniel's photo. Click on his photo and that will take you to the Q&A page to submit your question or to read what others have already asked Daniel with his answers. There will also be a brief interview with Daniel when the Q&A is finished at the end of February.

2) Wildheart's Stevie Nicks~Lady Of The Lamp site has created a page for Daniel. Here you will find a review of the House of Blues concerts mentioning Daniel's performance and bongo solo. There is also information about Daniel's SAN RAFAEL 560 CD with photos. Daniel will be doing an interview with this site in the near future so you will want to watch for that very soon.

Our monthly drawing for a free SAN RAFAEL 560 CD or poster will be on February 1st... Thank you for your continued support of Sabor Records.

Upcoming Interviews:

Due to the positive feedback on Daniel's end of the year performances at the House of Blues with Stevie Nicks, a second site has dedicated a page to Daniel. They will be posting an online interview within the next two weeks. The site is: http://www.geocities.com/SunsetStrip/Backstage/7910/steviemain.html

HOLA! online recently conducted an interview with Daniel in both English and Spanish. It will be in RealAudio format. The Spanish audio version is scheduled to go online this coming weekend with the English version to follow shortly.

Daniel and SAN RAFAEL 560 have also been featured and/or reviewed in several newspapers and magazines around the country such as "La Opinion", "El Nuevo Dia", "Toronto Star", "Drum" magazine, "Modern Drummer", and "Latin Beat" with many more to follow. Reviews are also being written right now for "LaRitmo.com" and "Elpuentelatino.com".


Danny Gottlieb

This is from Danny Gottlieb, in Zurich at the moment!

It's been great getting the letters and reading about the escapades! Sounds like all is going great! Yay!

I'm still juggling the road, Florida and New York, which has not been so bad-just too much travel! Mark Egan and I are here in Europe for 6 weeks, playing with two different groups - Kurt Weill vibes, and then Lew Soloff with Lou Marini on sax (from the Blues Brothers). Something like 40 gigs in total - back March 4. Boy are we running around like crazy!

Anyway - because of this I won't be at NAMM and won't get to see you, which is a drag!

Beth (Gottlieb) and I have been teaching, doing days of percussion, played at IAJE... Kevin's new Hot Sticks are now available to be sold (watch for a rave review in Modern Drummer in the next months)....

In anycase, E-mail and catch me up when things cool down, and have a great time at NAMM!!!!

Love and regards to you both!!!!


Joey Peters

I call this year the true Jubilee! The greatest part about this year has been the genuinely nice and positive people I've had the pleasure of playing with - in fact this whole year has been about working with great people and this makes playing music so much more fun and so much more about what it's all about!

I've been playing at a club in LA called the Mint, with Mark Seliger, (you might be familiar with his work as a photographer for Rolling Stone). Mark is not only a celebrity photographer but he's also a great singer of country music (in the vain of Jonny Cash / Hank Williams) and a great guy. Rami Jaffee (Wallflowers) put this band together about a month ago for a benefit for the LA hospice. It's now turned into a regular thing. The band includes Myself on drums, Roger Smith on Bass, Ben Peeler on Lap steel, Michael Duff (from Chalk Farm) on Guitar.

Each show has different Guests. Last month's show was great! Special guests included Sheryl Crow playing accordion, Mark Ford (Black Crows) on Guitar. Dave Immerglook on peddle steel (Counting Crows) played that night. Phil Cody saying, "I'm a little tired" did a set that was sooooo good. He rocked the house - the roof was blown off. I haven't heard a show like that in a Long time.

The show we just did last Friday guest starred the wonderful, humble and super talented Lenny Kravitz and Kenny Wayne Shepard. Testimony to Mark's likable personality and the talented friends who surround him - you never know who will show up.

Cracker is doing a tour that includes a Camper Van Beethoven reunion. Victor and Jonathan (Camper Van Beethoven) have their own band and I'll be playing drums with them along with Chris (King Missile) on bass and Greg Licher on guitar. We're doing a few weeks on the Cracker tour. I just got back from rehearsing in San Francisco and the band sounds great! Lots of cool guitar sounds. I'm really looking forward to playing some loud music.

Since Summer I've been drumming with a Fabulous woman named Barbara Cohen, you may know her from the band "Brother Sun, Sister Moon" (Virgin). She plays guitar and Mandolin and has the sweetest voice! We've started recording five songs over at my new studio. She hails from Minnesota and has one of those great voices - the kind they make up there. The band consists of myself on drums, Milo Decruz on bass (Jewel, Duncan Sheik) and Dave Falzone on Wurlitzer....dark and funky like a good chocolate bar, that's what we sound like.

I've been pretty busy in the drum session department. Did some crazy all night sessions with Rami Jaffee and a host of great players for another round of the Andy If sessions. Andy is a singer / songwriter from New York whose records are on an inde label. His lyrics are quirky and fun and you can access them via www.andyif.com. Ramie's producing this record and we did the first half in May last year so this was the follow up.

I worked with producer and good friend, Marvin Etizone, recently on a record - always great to work with him. Peter Himmelman, the hardest working man in show biz, continues to be a great friend. I've been up at Peter's new studio doing demos for a record, a few episodes of the show Fox Sports and songs with a great new singer he's producing, Crystal Mattison.

I have the pleasure of working with a great piano player and dear friend, David Morgen (check out his new Album on Blue Note, David Morgan Trio Live at the Blue Note, if you want to taste smoking jazz the way it should be - the real thing)! We started work to together in the spring in NY with a Woman singer by the name of Nashama Carlebach, daughter of the great singing Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, her CD will be out in February this year. You might remember I went to New York to record a historical album of the voice of Shlomo Carlebach. Well, it's out and called "Days Are Coming" available from Sameach Music.1.888.3.sameach. Truly beautiful. I'm really proud of it.

I've been working at my home studio, in Santa Monica, which keeps growing. With every new project, as producer or composer, I find there's just one more piece of electronics I need....What's been the most exciting has been writing and recording music for a film call "Nobody's Children," (first time writer / director Mark Anthony Gallozzo, produced by Cineville). I also music supervised this film about two brothers in the South and their difficult upbringing. The songs are primarily blues and country / rock based. It was a great opportunity to bring in some quality musicians - dirty harp, blues singers, etc., a lot of fun.

After completing this film I've been given a new script to work on written by the owner of Cineville. I'm in the process of writing and making demos for this soundtrack that are Latin / Blues in feel. They hope to shoot it later this winter and I hope to be recording it this spring.

Well, that's it for now.



Jon Dowling

Glad to hear you are doing so well as usual. Just to let you know for the newsletter update that my band Pinnacle is playing the NYC clubs at furious pace for 2000, and its on my website, Jon's Directory. Also, I am writing tunes for my next solo album "the Second time Around," featuring Bruce Hornsby, Will Lee, and Al Petrelli. Finally, I have an audition this week with Michel Camilo, so hopefully all goes well. Take care, Jon. :)


Ramon Yslas

Hey Pam .... Here's an update of what's going on with me: currently working with The Rippingtons. We are doing the Oasis Awards show on Jan. 28, 2000 in Dallas. We were nominated for two awards. Also working with Craig Chaquico.... we got a lot of shows in Feb. starting with the NAMM on Feb. 4 at the Bonaventure Hotel. Playing for the Carvin party.... the following week to San Francisco, and Arizona. In March, with Craig , we play in Alaska and Seattle... April will be a bit busy....east coast with Strunz and Farah for a short run....then back with the Rippingtons for another short run....that's all I know ..so far...talk to you in a bit......love, ramon


Tre' Balfour

Hey there guys, got your news letter. Pam, hope to see you @ Namm & El, looking forward to meeting you. Michael Bolton has two dates in Feb. and I've played on Boyz II Men's cd. It was one track but hey.....It's a track and that's cool w/ me. :) You guys take care.


Janelle Burdell

... This is going to be a very exciting year with the groundwork I have been laying taking off full throttle! Very exciting!

Presently, I am in the middle of production of the first ever--solo UDU CD!! LP and Mickey Hart have rallied and offered me up total support of this wonderful project! (Everyone loves the UDU Drums!)

... It's 2000! Can you believe it? Such an interesting time to be alive! It's time to shake things up a bit ... This is gonna be fun!! :)

much happiness,



Alex Alexander

Just a note to let you know I'm the VJ/Host of a new TV show called "Latino Music Xplosion". It's on Sundays at 9pm. Channel 39. I would like to play any Latin related videos of bands you know or can recommend.


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