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Jerry Gonzalez Remembers Steve Berrios

2.24.45 – 7.24.13

Steve Berrios
Steve Berrios (right) with Jerry Gonzalez, NYC, July 2013

Steve Berrios was a great drummer and a real Latin-jazz innovator. He knew how to adapt the Afro-Cuban to the jazz with such good taste, and how to translate the language of the batá drums for the American trap drum set. He was one of the few who could really swing and who understood what the swing was about. He had the essence of Art Blakey, Philly Joe Jones, Max Roach, Julito Collazo, Mongo Santamaría and Los Muñequitos de Matanzas. He was on the road with Art Blakey for many years, and he was in Max Roach’s M’Boom.

We met in the ’60s, when I was still at the High School of Music & Art and my brother Andy and I were playing with Monguito Santamaría. At that time Steve was playing with Mongo Santamaría’s band, and I remember doing a few gigs opposite them at the Village Gate and the Bottom Line. We would bump into each other at rumbas in the parks, concerts and “toques de santo,” and eventually we founded the Nuyorican Village. We started workshops there and I started a band called Hand Drum Control (which would later turn into Jerry González & the Fort Apache Band) with Steve on drums. When the Nuyorican Village closed, we moved to the Soundscape, where we continued our performances together.

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Originally Published