My Life in the Key of E: A Memoir – the new self-released book from famed Latin-jazz percussionist Pete Escovedo – is a case study in sheer determination. Through much of his life, he overcame multiple personal and professional challenges and setbacks: growing up in a dysfunctional home, which eventually led to him and his younger brother, percussionist Coke Escovedo, being placed temporarily at the St. Vincent’s Home for Boys; surviving poverty as a teenager and young adult; mapping out a career as a musician on the bustling Bay Area music scene; getting coolly fired from Santana; witnessing the rise and collapse of the promising Latin-fusion band Azteca and later his nightclubs; and enduring the passings of such lifelong friends as percussion great Willie Bobo, pianist Ed Kelly and, most significant, Coke.
Through it all, Escovedo has proven victorious. Now 82, he’s considered a living legend in the pantheon of Latin percussionists, and he’s the patriarch of a distinguished American musical family that includes his sons, musicians Juan and Peter Michael, and of course his eldest daughter, the percussionist Sheila E., who became a pop-culture icon through her work with Prince. Escovedo spoke with JT about the book, touching upon several significant turning points in his extraordinary life. JOHN MURPH