Frank Colon ["Manhattan Transfer", "Wayne Shorter"]

Frank Colon is not just "Latin percussionist"; he is a real game specialist on the most difficult exotic Brazilian, African and Cuban percussion instruments. Building on the tradition of this art, he managed to develop his own unique style game, which he dubbed the spectacular title "Techno-Primal Percussion. It is a great honor for our online magazine Cyber-Drum, that Frank agreed to give us an interview...


How did it happen that you started playing on drums?
I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. to me lucky to grow up in the country, in all styles of folk music in which percussion instruments play a dominant role! From an early childhood I was surrounded by the music of the Caribbean! Cuban music was very popular... son, danzun, cha-cha-cha (cha-cha-cha), bolero (bolero) ... we kids listened to calypso (calypso), we danced to the rhythms of the merengue (merenges) from Dominican Republic. Now, looking back, I can to say that we were very lucky, since the meringues played then only at dances... that music was never broadcast over the air in those days Puerto Rican radio - not like now. However, orchestras performing meringues were very popular and in demand, because this dance, during which dancing couples perform characteristic rotational movements of the hips, gave us the opportunity to "polish the buckles of our belts with girls' bodies!"

In Puerto Rico there were (and is) and their own rhythms - the bomb (bomba) and captivity (plena). AT these exotic rhythms are also based on specific percussion tools. Since the music of this style was, as it were, our local favorite, I recently discovered to my surprise that she gets everything more and more dissemination in Cuba through such collectives like "Irakere", "Santesis" and "Los Van Van". Despite the fact that even a man like Willie Colin recorded many songs in this style, real captivity can still be heard only in Puerto Rico.

Actually for playing percussion instruments I was pushed by our original Puerto Rican tradition of meeting New Year. You see, in our homeland it is customary to celebrate Christmas holidays to the sounds of a special kind of songs called aguinaldo. These songs are very rhythmic and swinging. Usually they performed on Spanish guitars and percussion. Percussion in this the case may be instruments such as guiro (guiro), bongos (bongos), congas (congas), maracas (maracas), claves (claves) and panderets (panderetas). The last instrument is such a special kind tambourine, traditionally used in the performance of captivity). Traditionally every resident takes part in the Christmas holidays performance of this music, everyone plays something. Even my father who is now 93 years old, a solid and respected person, district lawyer, is still famous for his frantic playing of the juiro during Christmas celebrations! From a very early age, I was constantly spinning around the drummers and sometimes they even let me try my hand at playing panderets, bongs and congas, which I later became learn to play, as they say, seriously.

Who rendered on you as a child the greatest influence in the musical plan?
I confess that they were Tito Puente, "El Gran Combo" (El Gran Combo), as well as "the Beatles". I remember, that, when I was still very young, I sat in front of the TV, looking to Tito's performances in New York - he played "live" on midday television shows. In another similar show, "El Show del Mediodha", on the second channel, the "native" group was "El Gran Combo". Today this team is known as "La Universidad de la Salsa" (salsa academy), but many of their hits were first heard in those television shows.

When I was a child, I went to a private school where teaching was conducted in English. For many my classmates English was their mother tongue. They took me to American (and British) popular music, so when America released the first album of the Beatles (Meet the Beatles), he hooked me for real! I fell in love with this new sound, with their songs, with their image; I liked absolutely everything about them. When I brought this record home, I made myself a pair of drumsticks out of old clothes hangers. With these homemade sticks, I pounded on the couch, listening to the Beatles over and over again.

Who was your first an instructor?
Well, soon after I started bang on the couch with sticks made from old hangers, I I asked my parents to buy me a drum set. They flatly refused to support my passion for drums! The parents stated that they will not tolerate the presence of this barbaric instrument in our home! But, since I did not let up in my desire to join the music, and my parents wanted me to be well educated cultured citizen, they wisely invited me to go learn to play the violin. No way! I replied (actually, I simply hated the thought that I, like the son of our neighbors, would wandering dejectedly down the street with this unfortunate violin case in hands!). In the end, after a long discussion, we came to compromise, and I started taking piano lessons. So So my first music teachers were Angelina and Rafael Figueroa from the world famous family of hereditary Puerto Rican classical musicians. As for drums and percussion, then, except for the one occasion when the great Julito Collazo taught me how to play Batu drums, I learned everything on my own.

How much time/effort did you spend studying when you were young playing drums?
As a teenager, I had absolutely no percussion. First of all, I never had my own drums because in the parental home, these instruments were under the strictest taboo. And about buying them myself with my pocket money, earned during school holidays was out of the question! However, I managed to play other people's drums and actually played in various rock and roll bands. I either borrowed drums from friends, or rented them. In general, in youth age I was much more than drumming, attracted to such activities like sports, theater and running after girls.

You are not could you tell us about some of your very first projects?
Let me combine the answer to this question with the answer to next since one of my first projects is also one of my very favorites. These are the times I was a member Ensemble Julito Collazo ("Julito Collazo's Afro-Cuban Drum Ensemble), with whom I first came to New York. We met Giulito in Washington, a year before our joint New York concert. He then performed in Washington at the Festival African diaspora, trying to stick to the roots. We immediately imbued with each other mutual sympathy and a few weeks after I went to New York for the weekend to take lessons from him on the sacred drums of Batu. At the time he was the undisputed master playing these drums, who fled to America from Cuba! And although with "islands of freedom" many serious drummers fled to us, Giulito was the most orthodox master of this very complex and mystical art. I'm incredibly lucky to be his last student.

After more than a year of study, Giulito offered me move to New York and, if desired, join his group. An important fact: rented an apartment in the same house with Giulito! Well... a week later, having collected my belongings, I moved to New York, taking with a wife and a cat. A new stage of unique learning has begun...

A year after my move to New York, I became one of guys worthy to go on stage with Giulito (he gave concerts once or twice a week). The morning after the concerts he would wake up early and begin preparing the drums for the ritual. In this we spent time preparing until lunch, which, by the way, quite a few drummers often came by. Having dinner, we are all together went to the place of the ritual action, where I should was to bring the drums, uncover them and all that ... For the first half a year that I spent in Giulito's group, I never hit a drum! My duty was to take care of the other drummers, and all I was allowed to play was Atchero (maracas) - they are in ensemble perform the function of the clave.

I didn't like it, because I practiced a lot every day and was quite savvy, to play on par with the others, but Giulito wouldn't let me play during rituals. One Sunday, when in my head suddenly the question began to swarm: what the hell am I here do?, Giulito got a call and was asked to find a replacement for the sick drummer to play on some holidays... and Giulito recommended me! Okay, I went there, sat down and started playing everything you have already learned. Pretty soon I realized that times are drastically have changed. What I learned in the course of classes was clearly not enough. It required the right position, the right posture, and also a special kind of "authoritarian weakness" - all this is completely necessary for playing drums during ritual spiritualistic sessions. Thus I entered the third phase of my training...

Over the next four years, I became one of the leading drummers in Giulito's ensemble, although our relationship with him have never been a standard teacher-student relationship. Partly, that is why I consider the period of study with Giulito one of the most significant events in my life that my education is not was limited only to the scope of involving in the execution of a number of the most conceptual, complex and interesting rhythms in the world on some of the most difficult percussion instruments to handle. I joined world, universal culture, learned to penetrate into the astral layers world, filled with spiritualistic music, into layers that control daily life of each of us. It can no longer be called "standard" training!

Are you working now?
Of course. I do a lot... these days it's completely it is impossible to work on the international music scene without virtuoso possession of the technique of his performing arts - and For this you need to constantly and a lot of exercise! I think in order to play with the best bands and artists in the world, you need to be able to work to the limit of their abilities and capabilities. And for "maintaining good shape" and the smooth growth of skill, as in sports, you need to exercise every day!

That's why I I like to practice for about two to three hours a day for six days a day. week. On Sundays, I give my neighbors a break from my occupations.

What does your practice usually look like?
It all depends on which instrument I practice. How as a rule, I devote the first hour to warm-up exercises - I play elementary exercises, following the speed and degree of muscular voltage. For the next hour and a half, I practice techniques which are either new to me, or I do not know them well enough, I also just play from the sheet. The last half hour (or hour ... if I still have a little time left ...) I already dedicate to the execution the actual music. At the same time, I try to experiment, use an instrument outside the box, play with records, invent various melodies on his percussion and things like that.

I I like to record myself during classes so that I can have them later the opportunity to hear exactly what I still need to work on and what specifically, my game at the moment is different from what I would wanted to hear it.

Are there any nuances in which, Do you think you're still not good enough?
Alas, I would not bad to pull up reading from a sheet, to learn equally freely use both hands, as well as develop better uncoordination. Since I made a name for myself as a jazz and pop performer, I very often have to work where reading from sheet is an absolutely necessary condition. Let's say working with "The Manhattan Transfer", I have to read a lot of sheet music material. Although, after reading the notes once, I usually remember everything by heart, and I no longer need the score before my eyes.

I once played classical music on tour in Brazil as part of an ensemble conducted by Wagner Tiso, a former artistic director Milton Nascimento. We've traveled all over major cities of Brazil, playing the music of Hector Villalobos in honor of centenary of his birth. This work required performers first of all, an extraordinary ability to read music from a sheet. Therefore, in preparing for these speeches, I, on the advice of my friend, trumpeter Lew Soloff, worked daily on reading with leaf, which I continue to do to this day.

Independence and decoordination has always been at the forefront for me, because in in my style of playing, I always strove to sound alone, like several percussionists at the same time. When I record in the studio, I play in such a way that allows you to significantly save studio time - after all, with such playing style does not need to impose a lot of doubles with individual percussion instruments - and producers love it the most! I can give a fresh example of using this approach on stage ... a few years ago I worked as "second percussionist" for Harry Belafonte, so then our main percussionist could not attend several concerts. So I had to such cases, to play both his own game and all his most significant, so to speak, "strategic", strikes ... here ... You probably already Imagine what followed? I stayed in that group sole percussionist.

Do you advertise in currently any manufacturer of drums tools?
I'm promoting TOCA percussion. These are various congas, bongs, timbales, djembe, Batu, tambourines, cowbells and many other percussion instruments. To my mind, these are the best percussion instruments in the world today! By sound quality and design, they are far ahead of the rest stamps! I also advertise Vic Firth hammers and sticks, cymbals and PAISTE gongs, KORG synthesizers, microphones and electronic triggers K&K Sound Systems, XL Percussion Protechtor cases, and drum plastics "REMO".

Do you use other than all of the above, any other equipment?
I I make my own shakers and berimbos (berimbau), as well as I often quote from my frequent trips to Rio de Janeiro some specific Brazilian "things". I also use the series "metal sound effects" made for me by Pete Engelhart and "Frederico Percussion. Sometimes I also include in my "kitchen" and a couple electronic pads brand "Dauz".

Are there currently any noticeable changes to your hardware? Actually In fact, what equipment I use depends on what kind of music I have to play. Say some groups need more electronics, others require more Brazilian percussion. AT my most common set of equipment includes bongs, congas, timbales, shakers, cuica, berimbau, as well as a rack with various sound effects and/or electronic pads. Depending on the what I have to play, my "kitchen" can also surdo drum, pandeiro, Batu drums, tambourines, roto-toms, talking drum, gongs and more.

What projects are you currently in? busy?
Most of the time I'm busy performing with "The Manhattan Transfer Band", "Wayne Shorter's band", "Ray Anderson's Alligatory Band", as well as with Harry Belafonte. In addition, in the past I released a solo album called "Frank Colón - Live at Vartan Jazz. Modern Drummer magazine awarded this album four stars.

Which of the musicians do you feel more comfortable with? to work?
Most of all I like to work, first of all turn, with musicians who do not have prejudices and stereotypes for music! I love working with musicians who, above all, they strive to fill the music they perform with love and freedom! Here are a few such people with whom I had the honor collaborations: Wayne Shorter, Airto Moreira, Flora Purim, Walter Booker, Ray Anderson, Julito Collazo, Buddy Williams, Tommy Campbell, Herbie Hancock, Milton Nascimento, Gilberto Gil, Tania Maria, Manolo Badrena, Jogo Bosco, Wayne Johnson, Richard Cummings, Kei Akage, Giovanni Hidalgo, George Benson, Will Calhoun, Yaron Gershovsky, Lew Soloff, Wagner Tiso, Robertinho Silva, Jamie Glaser, Larry Coryell, Shunzo Ono, Andrea Marcelli and many, many more... a complete list will not fit on this page.

What factors you are guided by when deciding whether to participate in next project?
From this point of view, throughout my professional career I have always aspired to participate in those projects that will enable me to fully express my musical personality and allow me to improve own performance skills. Because I love to travel, first of all I am interested in any tour to those points of our planet, in which I have not yet been! Also an important factor for my consent to participate in any project is the composition musicians in it.

Are there currently any noticeable changes in your technique?
I think so. I think since ever since Changuito and Giovanni popularized instruments such as congas, bongos and timbales, in the playing of these instruments appeared a wide variety of new technologies. To date the general concept of the main techniques has undergone strong changes, so the current "basics" mean much more a higher level than, say, some five years ago. Continuous improvement and development of playing technique, on the other hand hand, steadily makes us, "mature" performers, again "sit down at the school desk", so to speak. Which I think is great... it's that all these innovations bring freshness and newness to music!

Since I've been actively learning new techniques lately handwork, I definitely feel and hear that my game is now different from the previous one. I try to apply this approach to any percussion instruments that I own. As I continue actively engage, looking at how steadily growing around me the general skill level of percussionists, I, of course, cannot but to notice that today I dont play well enough on cuica and berimbau!

What makes the younger generation different drummers from your generation, and are there any differences in general?
In my opinion, drummers of a younger generation have more solid theoretical knowledge than we do. Many of them study in such serious higher musical educational institutions. institutions like Berkley, Julliard or Manhattan School of Music and technical point of view have an incredible level. I think this is just great!

If you were offered the opportunity live life again, would you live it differently? Would you change in In that case, any moments in your career?
Oh yes... I would have entered the conservatory and would have received a thorough musical education! I studied political science and law in college, My second major was psychology and anthropology. I was originally supposed to be, like my father, like everyone else. my uncles and aunts, become a lawyer and politician in Puerto Rico. My uncle Francisco even ran for governor from Authentic Sovereign Socialist Party representing the independent opposition in Puerto Rico. However, before going to law school, I already visited Atlanta, where he lost all summer holidays in a rock band with with my friends and, in general, since then I no longer had a way back.

Would you like to play any of the past projects?
Hardly... I like to move in music forward, open new horizons.

What about you Do you like to practice in your free time from drumming?
On In my spare time I devote myself to Buddhism and my hobby: diving with scuba diving, martial arts, and a little graphomaniac.

About thirteen years ago Wayne and Ana Shorter introduced me and my wife to Nam-myoho-renge-kyo Buddhism, and we have since do not miss the opportunity to sing psalms in the temple! Because I am leader of the Buddhist community in Manhattan, I have a lot of to work in the affairs of the Buddhist community.

You Do you do any other kind of art besides music? Painting, literature...?
I get high from doing martial arts arts... As a child, in Puerto Rico, I was engaged in boxing. Therefore, even now I box at least once a week in New York! I have also been practicing Tai Chi for over 25 years, in the middle in the eighties of the twentieth century, I studied for two years at the Academy Tai chi in Rio de Janeiro! In the second half of this summer I plan take private lessons in Krav-Mago (Israeli art self defense). In the autumn I will need to fly to Puerto Rico for PADI Master of Sports Diploma.

In recent Over the years, I have published a number of articles and interviews in Modern Drummer" and "Rhythm". He also wrote a book on tai chi chuan on Spanish, which I am currently trying to publish.

What Any advice for beginner drummers?
Not only for beginners, but in general for all drummers, I can advise how to you can learn more - as in ordinary music schools / colleges, and take private lessons from recognized masters. I also advise attend courses in business and marketing to be able to effectively create a promotion for yourself and sell your talent for as large as possible money. All this will only help you realize your dreams and aspirations. That, in fact, is the whole advice! Dreaming is not harmful, but at the same time, try to back up your dreams with hard work and reality look at things.

You can now remember and tell us any funny incident from your musical life?
Easy. I remember we once played in Copenhagen with a band Milton Nascimento ("Milton Nascimento's band"). Played drums Robertino Silva. I have, among other things, was a 36-inch "Paiste symphony gong" located in that case (the Montmartre) on stage behind me. Before the performance actually Milton, we, the same composition of musicians, had to warm up the audience as the "Wagner Tiso band", namely: we are for first they were supposed to play some Wagner music, and then on Milton himself entered the stage and began his three-hour show.

B at the very end of Wagner's work there is one stroke of the gong in dynamics fortissimo, just before the final crescendo. So. The scene was rather flimsy and trembled under us. So the gong swaying from a powerful blow, flew off the limiters. Well, here I am hit himself in it and immediately turned back to my percussion, to support the final orchestral crescendo. And then suddenly me how to slap on the ass with a gong that has flown off the coils! And just at that crucial moment, I held a Chinese tam-tam with one hand, resting one edge of it into the toe of my boot, all buried with his head in score. So this is the same Chinese there-there, when it hit me gong, thrown into the air, and he, having done a spectacular somersault, crashed in the middle of the stage exactly at the moment when the orchestra took last note.

When I went backstage and looked around the wounds inflicted on me by the enraged gong crowded around me countless Danish fans. They all asked in admiration: Could you at the next concert again arrange the same show?!!"
Article by David Callari