2007 Grammy nominee percussionist Pernell Saturnino is continuing a prominent musical legacy established by his distinguished family in the exotic Caribbean island of Curacao. His grandmother, granduncle and aunt originated and developed the island's indigenous folkloric rhythm known as Tambú. Exposed to music while still a toddler, his uncle, who led a prominent folkloric group, took him to play in the group when he was 8 years old. He started playing guiro and within a month had learned to play most of the drum patterns from the group's percussionist. The first instrument he learned to play was the tambora, a drum from Venezuela. From there, he advanced to learn congas, the tambú (a traditional Curacaoan drum), the chapi (a hoe) and timbales.
Saturnino's impressive talents led to his joining Curacao’s best-known folkloric group, Nos Antias, with which he performed at festivals around the world. His exposure to other folkloric groups inspired him to learn about traditional rhythms from other countries, mostly by hanging out and exchanging knowledge with other musicians.
When he was 19, Mr. Saturnino began formal studies at the Foundation Institute of Music in Curacao. Hired as percussionist in a house band that performed international shows at a prominent hotel, he learned to play rhythms from such countries as Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, among others.
In 1988 he moved to Boston to attend the Berklee College of Music, where he studied with percussion masters Giovanni Hidalgo and Jesus Alfonso (Los Muñequitos de Matanzas), and performed with such renowned artists as Joe Zawinul, Hermeto Pascoal and Gilberto Gil. Saturnino also began performing with local artists, most notably Rebecca Paris and Danilo Perez. During his studies, he was honored as The most outstanding percussionist (1992), and received The Latin Percussion Award (1994).
Following his graduation from Berklee, he began working with saxophone/clarinet virtuoso Paquito D'Rivera both with The United Nation Orchestra (Live at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild ) , and in other group settings (Portraits of Cuba, Live at the Blue Note, The Clarinetist, Calle 54, Big Band Time with the WDR Orchestra , Island Story with The Caribbean Jazz Project and the new release Funk Tango). Mr. Saturnino has been performing and recording with Mr. D'Rivera for 11 years.
In 1996, Saturnino joined the David Sanchez Quintet (now Sextet) with which he continues to perform and record (Obsesion, Travesia, Melaza and Coral).
Recently Mr. Saturnino is working frequently with the US band of Dee Dee Bridgewater.
Mr. Saturnino--who has performed in festivals, concerts and in clubs throughout the U.S. , Canada , the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, China and Africa --is kept busy as an in-demand side-man, guest artist and clinician. Among highlights: The 1996 Olympic Arts Festival and the Lincoln Center Summer Jazz Festival with Wynton Marsalis, with whom he also recorded ( Sweet Release).
He has also recorded with Danilo Perez (Central Avenue and the soundtrack for the Hollywood feature, Huge Pool), as well as with Carlos Franzetti, Bebo Valdez, Antonio Hart (Here I stand), Juan Pablo Torres (Tromboneman), Richie Zellon (Café con Leche), Oscar Stagnaro, Curacaoan pianist Randal Corsen (Evolushon and new release Armonia), Curacaoan vocalist Izaline Calister (Soño di un muhé, Mariposa, Krioyo, Kanta helele), Chick Corea and Electric Band (To the Stars ), Donny McCaslin (Soar) and Diego Urcola (Viva).
Legendary in Curaçao for being a respected member of the New York jazz-scene for many years (playing with David Sánchez and Paquito d’Rivera) it was like a dream come true for Izaline when he moved to Holland. Due to his vast knowledge of traditional Curaçao-percussion, his specific style of chapi-playing and an uncanny sense of tempo and groove, Izaline sometimes refers to Saturnino as ‘dr. Beat’.