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Drummer Steve Berrios Dead at 68

Co-founder of Fort Apache Band also played with dozens of others

The Fort Apache Band in 1996
The Fort Apache Band in 1996: Jerry Gonzalez, Larry Willis, Andy Gonzalez, John Stubblefield, Steve Berrios and Joe Ford (from left)
Steve Berrios
Steve Berrios

Steve Berrios, a drummer and percussionist most active in Latin jazz circles, died July 25, at age 68. Details regarding place and cause of death were unavailable.

A founding member of the Fort Apache Band, Berrios also worked with at various times with Mongo Santamaria, Kenny Kirkland, Randy Weston, Alphonse Mouzon, Hilton Ruiz, Pucho and his Latin Soul Brothers, Art Blakey, Joe Panama, Max Roach, Joe Chambers, Michael Brecker, Tito Puente, Chico O’Farrill, Larry Willis, Grover Washington Jr., Freddy Cole, the Mingus Big Band, Sonny Fortune, Ray Mantilla, Eddie Henderson, Willie Colon, Paquito D’Rivera and others.

Born in New York City Feb. 24, 1945, Berrios first played the trumpet, but in his teens, after he tried playing the drums that his father (also a professional drummer) kept at home, Berrios switched instruments. After playing with local dance bands for some time, Berrios was hired by Santamaria and played on the latter’s 1970s albums Up From the Roots, Afro-Indio and A La Carte.

Berrios was an original member of Jerry Gonzalez’s Fort Apache Band and recorded with that outfit in the ’80s and ’90s on albums such as The River Is Deep, Obatalá, Rumba Para Monk, Earthdance, Moliendo Café
Crossroads, Pensativo and Fire Dance, as well as the 2005 Blakey tribute Rumba Buhaina.

Berrios also recorded as a leader (as Steve Berrios and Son Bachéche), on albums such as 1995’s First World and 1997’s And Then Some, which was nominated for a Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Performance. He also released an instructional video in 1992, Latin Rhythms Applied to the Drum Set.

Berrios’ family has requested that anyone wishing to contribute to his funeral expenses please make a donation here. Donations can also be mailed to Jazz Foundation of America, 322 W. 48th St., New York, NY 10036.

Originally Published