About the Author:
Jose "El Canario" Alberto - Bandleader, Composer, Singer, Musician
(See Photos from January 30, 2003, Club Babalu, and See Photos from Copacabana, December 20, 2002)
Now Appearing, February 13 - 16, 2003, Chicago Hyatt Hotel, Second Annual World Salsa Congress
Interview by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 30, 2003
January 30, 2003, with Jose Alberto, world-renowned Bandleader, Composer, Singer, Musician, at Club Babalu, 323-327 West 44th Street, NY, NY 10036, 212.262.1111, over wine in the Club Babalu Restaurant, which serves an eclectic American and Latin American menu, which can be light enough for serious Salsa dancing, later on, at the Club, one interior doorway away. This is a very relaxing restaurant, and, on Latin Thursdays, one can hear the Club music swell, through the doorways and walls. Jose Alberto is extremely professional and charming. I have been a long-time admirer of his music, have danced many times to the ever-throbbing rhythms, and have heard him perform in San Juan, at Midsummer Night Swing (Lincoln Center), at the Old Copacabana, and at the New Copacabana. He sings, plays drums, whistles (thus "El Canario"), dances, leads the band, and composes and improvises some of his favorite music. Jose Alberto is the subject of this Inside Perspective.
Jose "El Canario" Alberto
REZ - Tell me about your background.
JA - I was born in the Dominican Republic, in Villa Consuelo. My parents brought me to Puerto Rico, where I studied in a Military Academy, and then we moved to NY, to Uptown Manhattan, where I went to George Washington High School. My first experience as a drummer was to play rock, and then to play with Latin Bands. I took two courses in El Barrio, studying percussion. I am a natural percussionist. In all my recordings, I coach myself. I sometimes get emotional onstage and grab the drums. (See Copacabana, December 20, 2002).
REZ - Are there musicians in your family?
JA - My mother was in big shows and on TV, dancing Salsa and Rhumba in Santo Domingo. My father returned to the Dominican Republic, and I have a brother and three sisters here, in the New York area, as well as my daughter, Samantha.
REZ - Tell me more about your background, and your first Bands and musical experiences.
JA - I sang professionally with Cesar Nicholas in the 1970's. I used to sing quite a bit. My first album, with Tito Rodriguez, Jr., in 1975, was "Cuires". I performed in 1977, on October 3, at the Corso Night Club, at 86th St. and Lexington, with the Tipica Orchestra. I made four albums with Tipica. We were the first Band to go to Cuba. We recorded, "Intercambio Cultural". The guests in that album were El Niño Rivera Changuito, Juan Pablo Torres, and Richard Edward. In 1980, I recorded on the first Salsa romantic album, "Noche Caliente". This was when Salsa romantic became popular. 1983, I recorded three albums with Sono Max, with my own orchestra.
In 1987, I was the first artist with RM Records to record "Sueño Contigo", part of a group of artists doing duets. I did a duet with Oscar De Leon. I was part of the recording, "100 Tito Puente". I also did a Latin tribute to the Beatles and produced for a singer from Curacao, called "Jose Alberto Presente A Boy Thode". I also produced "Los Hermanos Rosarios" with a Merengue Band, and, from Venezuela, I produced "Coco y Su Sabir".
REZ - Your music seems to have a tremendous Cuban feel to it, like my music by Cachao.
JA - Since 1996, as I keep on recording, I did a tribute to Machito, the famous Cuban musician, and others. (See Bio. in Jose Alberto's Website). I signed a contract with Riko Latino and did a CD with them, "Heredo".
REZ - Actually, I have both "Machito" and "Heredo" and listen to them all the time. They're my favorite two Salsa CD's.
JA - You will have to hear "Differente", my latest album, produced by my own Company and distributed by Universal.
REZ - Are all your songs in Spanish?
JA - I did a song in French, "Fatimata", about a jealous woman, who adores me and cares about me, as long as I am with her, and then, when I am not with her, she becomes very jealous. (See next interview with Jose Alberto, about the lyrics and inspiration for his songs).
REZ - Do you write your own lyrics?
JA - I use different composers and then invent the lyrics and add improvisations.
REZ - Who are your favorite musicians? Who do you listen to, when you have the time?
JA - I admire all of my friends. I especially like George Benson and Santana.
REZ - Do you go to Jazz Clubs?
JA - I go to SOB's, the Blue Note, and Birdland (See Birdland Review).
REZ - How do you choose your musicians?
JA - My musicians (listed on Jose Alberto's Website) have been with me awhile already. I even have a father and son in my Orchestra, Julio Cesar Carvajal, who's been with me for 18 years, and Cesar Carvajal, who played on timbales at 6 years old at Madison Square Garden. My musicians know me very well, and we work well together.
REZ - Yes, I remember that in San Juan, at the Salsa Congreso, you have kids performing onstage. Your support of these kids is remarkable.
REZ - Do you have time for any hobbies? You whistle, dance, sing, anything else?
JA - I love cooking. I'm a great chef. I cook anything, Latin style, and I also love to dress.
REZ - I know. Your clothes are gorgeous.
REZ - Let's talk about coming events and tours.
JA - I'll be at the Hyatt in Chicago, Salsa Congreso February 13 - February 16. In July, I'll be at the Salsa Congreso in San Juan, and then, later in the year, I'll be in Germany, in the Frankfurt area. On April 5, I'll be at Lehman College with Milly Quesada, a Merengue singer, and the old members of Tipica Orchestra will join me.
I'll also be in Miami next week and then, after Chicago, back to New York until March, then back to Miami, at the Calle Ocho, which will be a tribute to Miss Celia Cruz. Then, I'll be in Europe and, in August, on the Carnival Salsa Cruise, August 17 - 25, 2003, firstname.lastname@example.org, 718.499.6144.
REZ - Thanks again. I can't wait to hear the Band tonight (See Photos).