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Ricardo Solis

It's All About Connections

A native of Lima, Peru, Ricardo Solis has a passion for world percussion.
But it wasn't always that way. Before coming to the United States, Ricardo was a rock and roll fan.

One day while living in the Los Angeles area, friend and musicologist, Silvio Alava, invited him to an Afro Cuban music and dance show at the University of California at Los Angeles. It changed his life.

The band was called Skins - after the animal skins that are used to cover the drums - and they were playing Rumba. At the same time Skins was playing onstage, members of an African Dance Troupe, who had just finished performing, were standing on the side watching and listening to Skins play. Suddenly Ricardo noticed that they had started to dance to the music. He was mesmerized by their movements and transformed by the rhythms of the music and decided right then and there that he wanted to learn everything about Latin music as well as about African rhythms, the source of all percussive sounds.

It so happened that his friend, the musicologist, was acquainted with Mike Cruz, the director of Skins, and introduced Ricardo to him. Mr. Cruz offered to teach Ricardo how to play Rumba.
And that is how his thirty-year love affair with world percussion began.

Through Mike Cruz, Ricardo met William "Bucky" Andrade, formerly with the Willy Colon Band. From Bucky, Ricardo learned about the rhythms of Salsa. Soon after, Ricardo was introduced to another percussionist named Bobby Matos, an expert at playing a Cuban instrument called the Chekere, a large gourd surrounded by a beaded net. Bobby also made these instruments and made one for Ricardo. He also invited him to a venue in Los Angeles called Malcolm X where he could practice playing the Chekere. Many Africans also went there to practice Djembe, and other types of African drumming. That was his first step into the world of African rhythms.

While studying at El Camino College in Torrance, CA, Ricardo played with a number of bands, including Rudy Calzado's Salsa Band, Peter Torrelli, a disco band, and the Afro-Cuban group Madera. After finishing his studies, he returned to New York City and took Bata classes with Luis Bauzo (thanks to an invitation from musician and percussionist Manny Rivera). Through Luis Bauzo he met an excellent percussionist named Eddie Montes. It was through Eddie Montes that Ricardo would eventually make the acquaintance of Andre Martinez.

In the meantime, Ricardo continued to expand his musical abilities as a percussionist, playing with a number of bands in New York City including the Orestes Vilato Group (Charanga), Vince Benedetto (Soft rock Chicago style music), the house band at Brother's Three in Sayreville, NJ, The Paulo Braca Sextet (Brazilian Jazz), Keith Lambert (R & B), and Paul Chelemon (Rock).

Ricardo finally met Andre Martinez when Eddie Montes invited him to a jam session on Dean Street in Brooklyn, NY where Andre lived. Andre was teaching Eddie how to play the trap drums. The two had met through an ad in the paper; Eddie was looking for someone to teach him drums and Andre got the job.

That same day Ricardo met two other great musicians - Jimmy Cruz and Jesse "Papo" Miranda and together with Eddie Montes and Andre Martinez formed the group El Monte. Ricardo played with El Monte for several years, creating a worldwide sound by playing an array of percussion instruments from around the globe.

"El Monte is where my craft came to a full circle given that this group played Afro, Cuban, Brazilian, rock, jazz, and avant-garde music." says Ricardo.

The band still plays together on and off and in the past has played background for theatrical plays, as well as several concert halls, the Pratt Institute, Columbia University, Brooklyn Art Museum, The Door, radio programs from the Nuyorican Poets Café, and for several years at the Atlantic Antic Street Festival in Brooklyn.

Ricardo has now been playing percussion with Andre Martinez for more than 25 years and is a percussionist in the avant-garde band Earth People. Ricardo continues to play with Andre because he places no limits on the capabilities of the musicians that play with him, instead stretching the boundaries of their imagination and talent.

Ricardo's interest in avant-garde music developed after meeting the master himself, Cecil Taylor. Andre lived in the same building as Cecil and would get together and talk about music, art, and life, occasionally play percussion instruments or simply relax with a glass of wine. Ricardo became the road manager for Cecil Taylor's New England Tour. Soon after that, Cecil was honored with the McCarthy Award. Ricardo was rewarded with a memorable musical experience.

Current Projects:

Ricardo is currently involved with the new CDs for Earth People and Morcilla. He is also an accomplished painter.     Visit his website to see some of his work in the series, Influence of Africa in Latin America, which translates Ricardo's musical experience to the canvas.

International Experience and Recordings:

Manuel Rada's Group
Name of CD: "Llamarada"
Recorded in Barcelona, Spain

New Wave Group
Name of CD: Traps
Recorded in Berlin, Germany

Erik Kepps Salsa Band
Name of CD: Alma Latina
Recorded in Munster, Germany

Grupo Maceo
Name of CD: Sortilegio
Recorded in Lima, Peru

Paulo Braca
Name of CD: Amazonas
Recorded in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Ellio Salcedo
Name of CD: Colo Jazz
Recorded in Bogota, Colombia

Kio Tanaka
Name of CD: Fruit Drinks
Recorded in Rio do Janeiro, Brazil

Earth People
Name of CD: Waking the Living
Recorded in New York, New York