Cuba lost a great rumbero this week in the passing of Ricardo "Papin" Abreu.
The death of the 75-year-old drummer comes just one year after the band that he formed with his brothers (Luis, Alfredo and Jesus), Los Papines, celebrated their 45th anniversary by playing concerts throughout Cuba.
Their influence on jazz and Latin jazz musicians was celebrated when Los Papines were included in a tribute to legendary Cuban conga drummer Luciano "Chano" Pozo during the 1977 U.S./Cuba jazz exchange in Havana. They performed Pozo's most famous compositions "Manteca" and "Tin Tin Deo" with Pozo's former boss from the late 1940s: Dizzy Gillespie. The brothers were in fact from the same part of Havana as "Chano" Pozo.
According to their press bio, the Abreu brothers started as all budding drummers start: on pots, pans, spoons and table tops. But as you can see, they moved well beyond their rudimentary instruments.
I recently got an e-mail from timbalero Ramon Banda (formerly with Poncho Sanchez) noting Abreu's death. He wrote that he and his brother Tony were honored that Los Papines used one of their handmade chekeres for the performance noted above.
He adds that after a 1996 Papines performance in Santa Monica, he introduced the Abreu Brothers to bassist Al McKibbon, who was the anchor in Dizzy's band with Chano Pozo in the late 1940s.
The brothers were touched, to say the least.
Los Papines carried on after the death of brother Alfredo in 2001. There is no word on whether Ricardo's passing will mean the end of the legendary group. But there is a hopeful sign that they will continue: Jesus' daughter Yuliet Abreu Fernandez has been drumming and singing with the group.