I was disheartened to see a recent Facebook post about master percussionist Giovanni Hidalgo. It said he was having medical problems which have prevented him from performing for the last couple of years. The future of Latin jazz without contributions from Mañenguito (Hidalgo's nickname) would be unthinkable.
Giovanni Hidalgo was born in Puerto Rico, surrounded by his family of musicians, conga drums, bongos and timbales. With a solid foundation in Puerto Rican music, he traveled to Cuba and learned more from Changuito (José Luis Quintana, best known for his work with Los Van Van). In New York, Giovanni was mentored by Eddie Palmieri and Dizzy Gillespie.
He soon became known for his incredibly fast and expressive hands at the conga drums, and for his versatility with different styles of music and other percussion instruments.
He taught at Berklee College of Music in Boston, which later presented him with an honorary doctorate of music. He's steadily recorded as a bandleader and as a sideman or guest since 1992, and racked up a few Grammys in the process.
According to to his friends, Giovanni is battling diabetes and its complications.
On March 22, 2017 there will be a benefit concert for Giovanni at Lehman College in the Bronx, N.Y. Scheduled to appear are Eddie Palmieri, Sheila E, Paquito D'Rivera, and Ralph Irizarry. The organizers promise "many surprise guests".
If you are so moved, consider contributing to Giovanni's support fund.
Listen for some music from Giovanni Hidalgo's "Worldwide" album on Saturday Jazz Caliente this week.
Jazz Caliente airs Saturdays at 5:00 p.m. The program is hosted by Robin Lloyd and produced by KNKX Public Radio.