Willie Bobo was one of the great Latin percussionists of his time, a relentless swinger on the congas and timbales, a flamboyant showman onstage, and an engaging if modestly endowed singer. He also made serious inroads into the pop, R&B and straight jazz worlds, and he always said that his favorite song was Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Dindi." Growing up in Spanish Harlem, Bobo began on the bongos at age 14, only to find himself performing with Perez Prado a year later, studying with Mongo Santamaria while serving as his translator, and joining Tito Puente for a four-year stint at age 19. Mary Lou Williams gave Correa his nickname Bobo when they recorded together in the early '50s. After working with Cal Tjader, Herbie Mann and Santamaria with whom he recorded the evergreen Latin standard "Afro-Blue" -- Bobo stepped forward in 1963 with his first recording as a leader, with Clark Terry and Joe Farrell as sidemen. Recording for Verve in the mid-'60s, Bobo achieved his highest solo visibility with albums that enlivened pop hits of the day with Latin rhythms, spelled by sauntering originals like "Spanish Grease" and "Fried Neck Bones and Some Home Fries." In addition, Bobo played on innumerable sessions in New York, recording with artists like Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, Herbie Hancock, Wes Montgomery, Chico Hamilton and Sonny Stitt. In 1969, he moved to Los Angeles where he led jazz and Latin jazz combos, appeared on Bill Cosby's first comedy series (1969-1971) and short-lived 1976 variety show, and recorded on his own for Sussex, Blue Note and Columbia. One of Bobo's last appearances, only three months before his death from cancer, was at the 1983 Playboy Jazz Festival where he reunited with Santamaria for the first time in 15 years. ~ Richard S. Ginell
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