1997 Grammy Award winner and one of the most talented drummers in the world today, international recording artist Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez was born in Havana, Cuba in 1963 to a family rich with musical heritage deeply rooted in traditional Cuban music and well versed in American jazz currents.
His own talent became evident early on and at age 12, he was accepted into the prestigious Escuela Nacional de Arte, where he majored in drums and percussion. There he studied with the finest Cuban teachers, including Fausta Garcia Rivera, himself a student of Lawrence Atone and Henry Adler, Enrigue Pla, the drummer for the group breaking group Irake and Santiago Reiter, the most influential teacher of modern Cuban drums and percussion.
In 1980, Horacio joined Cuban pianist and composer Gonzalo Rubalcaba’s innovative group Proyecto and played, toured and recorded with the group for ten years. Although he’s continued to work and record with the best Cuban and international musicians, including Dizzy Gillespie’s United National Orchestra, it was with Rubalcaba the El Negro developed his distinct drumming style, the potent mixture of Afro Cuban and Jazz elements that has made him an artist of extraordinary power and musical versatility. This may be heard in full sonic glory on the recently re-issued Live in Havana.
El Negro moved to Rome in 1990 and soon became the energizing force in that city’s Jazz and Latin music circles, working and recording with Pino Danielle, Gary Bartz, Steve Turre, Gary Smulyan and Mike Stern, eventually forming his own band “Tercer Mundo”. During his stay in Rome he also chaired the Latin Drums Department at the Centro di Percussiono Timba and taught at the Universita Della Musica while also conducting many drum clinics throughout Italy.
Hernandez moved to New York in 1993 and immediately began to work with such celebrated musicians as Paquito D’Rivera, David Valentin, Jerry Gonzalez and the Fort Apache Band, the Ed Simon Trio, Kip Hanranhan, Papo Vasquez, Giovanni Hidalgo, Arturo Sandoval and Tito Puente.
Whether playing with jazz legends like McCoy Tyner or Michel Camilo, rock stars like Carlos Santana or Steve Winwood, or as member of renowned Latin ensembles like Tito Puente's Tropi-Jazz All Stars, El Negro has earned a strong reputation as one of the most powerful and versatile players in the current musical scene.
Early in 1997 Hernandez traveled to Orvieto, Italy to perform at the Umbria Jazz Festival and record with the band “Crisoul”. Led by trumpeter Roy Hargrove, this All-Star lineup combined the energies of Hargrove, Hernandez, Gary Bartz, Frank Lacey, David Sanchez, Changuito, Jon Benitez, Anga Diaz, Russel Malone and Chocho Valdes. Their debut record entitled “Habana” earned “Crisoul” a 1997 Grammy Award for Best Record in the “Latin Jazz” category.
During the same period Hernandez recorded the Michel Camilo release “Thru My Eyes” with Jon Patitucci and Antony Jackson. On this record, “El Negro’s” true essence is captured on the track “A Night in Tunisia”. Also during this time, Hernandez appeared with McCoy Tyner and his band in San Francisco and recorded and toured with Santata for their World Tour 1997.
In 1998 Hernandez set his sights on performing with “Latin Crossing” a stellar gathering of artists that feautured Steve Winwood, Arturo Sandoval and Tito Puente. “Latin Crossing toured all of the major Jazz Festivals throughout Europe that summer.
Hernandez soon after went on tour with Johon Patitucci Band. He has also been busy co-producing a new record with Kip Hanrahan entitled “Deep Rumba”. In 1998 and 1999 Hernandez found himself recording with an eclectic group of artists including Santana, Gabriella Anders, John Patitucci, Sergio George, Juan Carlos Formell, Joanne brackeen, Giovanni Hidalgo and others.
In addition, he is a member of the faculties of Drummer’s Collective and the New School in New York and regularly conducts clinics and workshops at the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Palo Alto, as well as for Pearl Drums and Ziidjian cymbals. He has been a participant in several NAMM shows, and was a featured drummer at the Percussive Arts Society’s International Convention in 1996. Early in 1998 Hernandez was voted first runner-up as the 1997 “Drummer of the Year” in Drum Magazine’s Annual Readers Poll.