willie colon

A hero in Latin America and one of the major names in contemporary Latin music, Willie Colon has been a major bandleader, composer, producer, vocalist and trombonist since the early '60s. He began playing trumpet at 12, then switched to trombone at 14. Colon began music studies while he directed a 14-piece group The Latin Jazz All-Stars. His first professional group used a two-trombone frontline in homage to Mon Rivera and Barry Rogers. Colon signed with Fania at 17, and his debut album was El Malo. He quickly scored hits with the singles "Jazzy" and "I Wish I had a Watermelon." Vocalist Hector Lavoe, also a Puerto Rican, was Colon's lead vocalist and worked with him until the mid-'70s. Colon helped introduce non-Cuban musical influences and players into the Latin music and Latin jazz mainstream. His albums have been famous for their multi-cultural blends. Colon has drawn from African children's songs, Brazilian, Cuban, Caribbean and Panamanian numbers. He featured Panamanian cuatro (10-string) player Yomo Toro on the hit single "La Murga." Ntozake Shange later used the single "Che Che Cole" in her production of "for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf." It was adapted from a Ghanaian children's song. Colon's songs addressed everything from street crime to politics. He used the Puerto Rican "bomba" rhythm, jazz, even featured Sha Na Na guitarist Elliott Randall on one cut. Throughout the '70s and '80s, Colon expanded his musical options and experimented. He gave the reins of his band to Lavoe at one point, then brought Ruben Blades in to team with him. Colon wrote a salsa ballet for a New York television production in the late '70s. He began collaborating with the great vocalist Celia Cruz in the late '70s, and produced a pair of successful Blades albums. Colon won musician, producer, arranger and trombonist of the year in 1978 from Latin New York's readers poll, and repeated as Musician of The Year in 1981, while also winning Album of the Year for Fantasmas. Colon maintained his hectic pace during the '80s. He worked with Ismael Miranda, Lavoe, Cruz and Blades. Colon's '82 album with Blades Canciones del Solar de los Aburriodos won a Grammy. He visited Europe for the first time in the '80s, and formed a new band. Both Blades and Lavoe went their separate ways, while Colon continued his idiomatic fusions. He recorded songs by Jacques Brel, Carole King and Mark Knopfler, did a big band date, produced albums with soca and Haitian rhythms, recorded songs by Brazilian composers Caetano Veloso and Wally Salomao, and his own lyrics became more overtly political and satirical. Colon produced albums for Lavoe and Cruz in the late '80s, while also having an international club hit with the single "Set Fire To Me." Colon was one of several prominent Latin stars involved with David Byrne's controversial but hugely successful Latin music album. He viewed the conflict with a bemused attitude, freely admitting Byrne was no Latino or salsero master, but also acknowledging that neither he nor Celia Cruz had the clout to get on Warner Bros. at that point. Despite his involvement at every level of the music business and international stature, Colon doesn't have an album listed in the Schwann catalog. His numerous Fania releases are available from Latin music stores.



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