The young Cuban drummer named Armando Peraza first came to the United States in 1949. Within months he landed a house gig at Bop City - the San Francisco club where everybody who was anybody played when they hit the coast. Before the year was out he took the stage with the greatest names in jazz, from Billie Holiday to Charles Mingus, Dexter Gordon to Dizzy Gillespie. Peraza also managed to find time for his first recording session-with Charlie Parker.
He was instrumental in the spread of the music called Latin jazz with his work with George Shearing, Mongo Santamaria and Cal Tjader. His work with Santana brought his recognition to an even wider audience.
Born in Lawton Batista, Havana, Cuba on May 30, 1924, though this date cannot be confirmed because Mr. Peraza himself was unsure of his exact date of birth. Losing his father due to pneumonia at the age of 3 and his mother due to liver failure at the age of 7, Mr. Peraza was parceled out to other family members until the age of 23 when he set out on the streets to sell fruit on the streets. Later as a young man, Peraza took up boxing and played semipro baseball. He also taught himself to play the conga.
His musical break came in the form of the group Conjunto Kubavana who was looking for a conga player and Peraza slipped into the music business. He soon found himself play for the Black Diamonds along with percussionist Mongo Santamaria. He would eventually leave Cuba for New York City in 1949 where his conga and bongo playing would catch the ear of those on the hot music scene landing him gigs with Machito’s big band, Charlie Parker, Buddy Rich and a recording session with Slim Gaillard on “Bongo City.”
Mr. Peraza’s six-decade career would include performances and collaborations with the likes of George Shearing, Tito Puente, Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck, Cal Tjader, before delving into the rock and pop scenes with performances and collaborations with Eric Clapton, Linda Ronstadt, Frank Zappa, Aretha Franklin and Carlos Santana.
His discography includes recordings such as Rumba En El Patio with Conjunto Kubavana, Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite with Machito and His Orchestra with Charlie Parker, Laughing In Rhythm with Slim Gaillard and Wild Things. With George Shearing, Mr. Peraza would record more than twenty albums like George Shearing Caravan, Latin Escapade, Blue Chiffon, Beauty and the Beat, Mood Latino and Latin Rendezvous. He hopped on the Verve label with Cal Tjader to record Soul Sauce and Soul Bird: Wiffenpoof. Later, Mr. Peraza would record with Carlos Santana on such albums as Caravanserai, Illuminations, Amigos, Blues for Salvador, Viva Santana! and Spirits Dancing in the Flesh.
In January 2007, Mr. Peraz earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Voices of Latin Rock, earned an induction into the Smithsonian Institution’s Hall of Jazz Legends and the city of San Francisco has an official “Armando Peraza Day.”