A major jazz percussionist, Giovanni Hidalgo is also significant as an educator. He was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1963. Both his grandfather and father (the famous conga player Jose “Manengue” Hidalgo) were musicians. Hidalgo received a conga for his eighth birthday which his father made by hand. In 1980 he joined the Batcumbele Band. The following year they visited Cuba where Hidalgo met Jose Luis Quintana (Changuito) with whom he performed some stirring music. Hidalgo worked with Eddie Palmieri in the mid-1980s and was a member of Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nation Orchestra during 1988-92. In 1992 he led his first of five CDs, Villa Hidalgo. During 1992-96 he was a percussion professor at the Berklee College of Music. Since that time he has released several instructional DVDs.
In addition to working with his own group, Hidalgo has performed and in some cases recorded with Paul Simon, Jack Bruce, Freddie Hubbard, Art Blakey, Mickey Hart’s Planet Drum project, Michel Camilo, Paquito D’Rivera, Dave Valentin, Airto, Hilton Ruiz, Tito Puente, Flora Purim, Arturo Sandoval, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, McCoy Tyner, Alex Acuña, John Patitucci and Steve Turre. In 2001 he recorded with Candido and Patato Valdez as the Conga Kings. Having learned from the examples of the giants of past generations, Giovanni Hidalgo is today considered one of jazz’s and Latin music’s top congueros and has become a large influence on percussionists in the United States and Cuba.