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Candido Camero/Carlos Valdes/Giovanni Hidalgo: The Conga Kings

Mike Perciaccante By

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These guys are the undisputed kings of conga. All three of the main players are the undisputed kings of Afro-Cuban drumming. They are Candido Camerera (the old master who can still belt them out with the best of them), Patato Valdes (the technician who is a master of unique combinations and rhythms) and Giovanni Hildalgo (the young gun, a child prodigy turned world-class musician).

This CD, which was recorded in a St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Manhattan and supervised by musical director Ray Santos, who had worked independently with each of the Kings. The CD was/is the brainchild and pet project of Chesky Records owner David Chesky who also served as the producer). The Conga Kings were recorded live with each player's drums fed directly into one microphone which was then digitized. Upon further production, it is possible to hear the individuality that each drummer personifies.

Backed-up by a veritable who's who of Latin musicians, The Conga Kings is more than an album about drumming. The music here is layered in such a way that it is possible to hear all of the players: the high-pitched (and sometimes piercing) flute supplied by Mauricio Smith, the bass of Guillermo Edghill, Nelson Gonzalez on tres and coro, John Benthel on second tres, Jose Francisco Valdes on claves, Herman Olivera Jr. on coro, Luis Rosa on coro and Joe Gonzalez on bongos.

Each piece is beautifully arranged to show off the mastery of one, two and even all three of the Kings, but the most moving and amazing offering on the disc is the final track, "The Conga King's Grand Finale" which showcases the talents of each of these wonderful drummers and attests to the appreciation and affinity that these men feel toward each other.

This Conga Kings recording is a testament to the genre.

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