Sabu Martinez / July 14, 1930 - Jan 13, 1979

Happy birthday to the great left-handed conguero Louis "Sabu" Martinez, a star who burned out way too quick, much of it due to heroin addiction. NYC-born, he started playing professionally at the age of 11 after learning rhythm by playing tin cans.

After a stint in Puerto Rico he was back in NYC, replacing the Cu-bop OG Chano Pozo in the Dizzy Gillespie orchestra in '48 (he got his "Sabu" nickname from Diz) and joining the Benny Goodman band the following year. He worked with Art Blakey off-and-on from 1946-59, appearing on his ground-breaking Afro-percussion records and several Jazz Messengers albums. He cut his own Blue Note date (Palo Congo) in '57 and several more albums for a variety of labels. His 1960 Jazz Espagnole album, produced by the great Louie Ramirez, is an absolute bomb classic of Latin-jazz.

After another stint in PR, he moved to Sweden in '67, where he opened a percussion academy and played with many of the great European jazz artists, such as the Clarke-Boland big band, Eero Koisvistoinen, Peter Herbolzheimer and Americans Sahib Shihab, George Russell, Art Farmer and others. His funky, awesome Afro Temple album from '73 featured the burning tenor work of the great Bernt Rosengren, and the album was full of humor, protest, funk breaks and nasty tunes.

Sabu passed of a gastric ulcer in '79, leaving much material to ultimately be issued. An absolute powerhouse, he played with Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Harry Belafonte, Max Roach, Horace Silver, JJ Johnson, Arsenio Rodriguez, Tony Bennett, Tito Rodriguez, Miguelito Valdéz, Sammy Davis Jr and many more. His career covered bebop, big band jazz, exotica, broadway, film soundtracks, fusion and funk. He remains a titan of Latin-jazz and Cu-bop.

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