Ralph Irizarry, recognized worldwide as an excellent percussionist, first fell in love with the timbal at an early age when his father coincidentally brought home a set received as payment for a debt. A self- taught musician, Irizarry has developed a highly efficient and personalized style of playing while leaving an enduring mark on the artists with whom he has collaborated. His love for the instrument evolved into a full-fledged passion that has fueled his career since 1970. Irizarry admits, without reservation, that this passion has been all consuming since he was a youngster, and is the same passion that he infuses now into his music.
Born in New York’s Spanish Harlem, Ralph Irizarry’s family first moved to Brooklyn and then briefly to Queens, before finally relocating in Puerto Rico in 1970. There, he spent three years immersed in music and gained the knowledge and experience that eventually granted him the opportunity to join Ponce’s La Terrífica, as well as sitting in with such prestigious aggregations as El Gran Combo and Sonora Ponceña.
In 1974, Ralph Irizarry returned to New York City to pursue a career as a professional musician. After playing and recording with local groups for almost four years, his big break finally came when Ray Barretto invited him to join his top-ranked orchestra and shortly afterward, they were in studio recording the first of six productions.
In April of 1983, Rubén Blades sought out Irizarry to join in the formation of Seís Del Solar. This association lasted for fourteen years and consisted of intense performing and traveling as well as the production of eight recordings. After Blades left and with his encouragement, the group continued performing and recorded two Latin jazz albums.
Ralph Irizarry has performed, recorded and toured with the likes of Bebo Valdés, Harry Belafonte, David Byrne, Celia Cruz, Paquito D’Rivera, Juan Luis Guerra, Earl Klug, Israel López “Cachao”, Wynton Marsalis, Paul Simon and many others. He has appeared on the Johnny Carson Show and the David Letterman Show, as well as Don Francisco’s Sábado Gigante and Raul Velasco’s Siempre en Domingo. Irizarry has been featured in the major motion film The Mambo Kings and documentaries such as Belafonte’s Routes of Rhythm, Cachao’s Como Mi Rítmo No Hay Dos and The Life of Rubén Blades.
In 1996, Ralph Irizarry created his own Latin jazz project, Timbalaye, a septet with a different instrumental format: Latin percussion instruments instead of the typical drum set, as well as a fresh innovative sound. Timbalaye’s repertoire combines contemporary jazz sounds with rhythmic elements from all over Latin America and Africa, as well as Cuba and Puerto Rico.
Timbalaye latest exciting release is entitled It’s Time!
SonCafé is Ralph Irizarry’s son and salsa ensemble structured in the typical conjunto fashion. The group is still making an impact on New York City’s Latin music scene. Evolved from his former ‘Son Criollo’ sextet, the eight-piece powerhouse is integrated by seasoned musicians and outstanding vocalists. SonCafé’s exciting novel sound and powerful delivery encompasses a blend of diverse influences pleasing to listening and dance audiences alike.
SonCafé currently has two CDs in the marketplace, the debut CD entitled Bailando con Azucar and the all medley’s CD Tributo. As well as a Live Performance DVD entitled En Grande y En Vivo!
Los Viejos de la Salsa
After producing and recording three projects on his own BKS label, veteran timbalero Ralph Irizarry returns to the arena with an absolute powerful aggregation and, of course, a new recorded product. The CD, entitled ‘Viejos pero sabrosos,’ packs 12 incredible tunes, 9 of which are original compositions, all arranged by the best arrangers you can find anywhere.
The band Los Viejos de la Salsa is made of seasoned musicians, like Eddie Montalvo, Elias Lopes, Reynaldo Jorge, Edy Martinez and a host of others, who have shared stages with Irizarry for over 40 years and have nothing to prove any longer, as they’ve kicked butt so many times in the past. Here, within this brand new aggregation, they sound like if they were playing exclusively for the love of music. And yes, they kick butt once again!
Bruce Polin of descarga.com says, “Viejos Pero Sabrosos is a relentless barrage of fist-in-the-air salsa. It’s a statement about salsa musicians transcending age/time and, like a fine wine, can actually distill into something greater than its younger, less seasoned counterparts. It’s homage to the players of the past (Reunión Celestial sings the praises of the Fania All Stars) and an affirmation of the potency of the elder generation (Como El VIno).”
Indeed, the concept behind the CD is to showcase and emphasize the continued level of excellence and experience achieved throughout the years by these veteran musicians. Their contributions have laid the foundation for younger generations who follow in their footsteps. Short of needing oxygen tanks, wheelchairs and canes, they deliver in an unparalleled fashioned. And, guess what? Like aging wine they’re better than ever!
“I’ve seen so many trends come and go; and what I want to achieve with Los Viejos de la Salsa is to maintain the traditions and roots of the music we originally fell in love with,” states Irizarry. “ Since record labels appear to be a thing of the past and (we) musicians continue to have the necessity and creative drive to produce recorded material, it is a true blessing to once again connect with the public and deliver what I believe is a highly dynamic project.”
By Pete Nater
|2007||Bailando Con Azucar||Soncafe||Executive Producer, Leader, Liner Notes, Producer, Timbales|
|2007||Borrowed Time||Steve Khan||Main Personnel, Timbales|
|2007||It’s Time||Ralph Irizarry||Claves, Group Member, Leader, Mixing, Primary Artist, Producer, Timbales|
|2007||The Magician||Sammy Figueroa||Guest Artist|
|2007||Tributo||Soncafe||Executive Producer, Leader, Liner Notes, Producer, Timbales|
|2007||¡Gracias Joe Cuba!||Nils Fischer||Quotation Author|
|2006||The Green Field||Steve Khan||Timbales|
|2005||Soncafé…Bailando con Azúcar||Ralph Irizarry||Primary Artist|
|2003||Hawaiian Style, Vol. 2||Composer|
|2003||Versos en el Cielo||Issac Delgado||Drums, Timbales|
|2002||La Salsa Es Mi Vida||Gerardo Rosales||Timbales|
|2002||Latin Jazz: La Combinación Perfecta||Timbales|
|2001||Cruz Control||Cruz Control||Composer|
|2000||Best Kept Secret||Ralph Irizarry||Claves, Primary Artist, Producer, Timbales|
|2000||En Vivo Desde el Carnegie Hall||Lucecita Benitez||Timba|
|2000||Latin Beat Magazine: Real Latin Jazz: Percussion, Piano & Strings||Performer, Primary Artist|
|2000||Salsa, Sweat & Soul: The Best of New York’s Latin Scene Today||Percussion, Primary Artist|
|1999||Live at Birdland: Cookin’ at Midtown||Primary Artist, Timbales|
|1999||Tropicana Nights||Paquito d’Rivera||Timbales|
|1998||Larry Harlow’s Latin Legends Band 1998||Larry Harlow||Timbales, Unknown Contributor Role|
|1998||Mis Ideas||Miles Peña||Timbales|
|1998||Ralph Irizarry & Timbalaye||Ralph Irizarry & Timbalaye||Claves, Composer, Mixing, Primary Artist, Producer, Timbales, Unknown Contributor Role|
|1998||Summer Solstice, Vol. 2||Timbales|
|1997||Latin Jazz Highlights: Messidor’s Finest, Vol. 5||Timbales|
|1997||Old Devil Moon||Carmen Lundy||Timbales|
|1996||Celebremos Navidad||Yomo Toro||Timbales|
|1996||New Spirits in Jazz||Timbales|
|1996||United Nations of Messidor||Timbales, Timpani|
|1996||World Christmas [Capitol]||Timbales|
|1995||A Testimonial Dinner: The Songs of XTC||Timbales|
|1995||Alternate Roots||Seis Del Solar||Member of Attributed Artist, Timbales|
|1994||Cuba… Mi Corazon Te Llama||Candi Sosa||Timbales|
|1994||United Rhythms of Messidor||Timbales|
|1993||United Artists of Messidor||Composer, Rap, Timbales|
|1992||Amor y Control||Rubén Blades y Son del Solar||Timbales|
|1992||Areito||Juan Luis Guerra y 440||Timbales|
|1992||Decision||Seis Del Solar||Composer, Percussion, Rap, Timbales|
|1991||Caminando||Rubén Blades y Son del Solar||Guest Artist, Timbales|
|1990||Midnight in San Juan||Earl Klugh||Percussion|
|1990||Routes of Rhythm, Vol. 1: Carnival of Cuba||Timbales|
|1990||Rubén Blades y Son del Solar…Live!||Rubén Blades||Guest Artist, Timbales|
|1988||Antecedente||Rubén Blades y Son del Solar||Guest Artist, Percussion, Timbales|
|1988||Do the Right Thing [Soundtrack]||Percussion|
|1988||Nothing But the Truth||Rubén Blades||Bata, Timbales|
|1986||Agua de Luna||Rubén Blades||Guest Artist, Timbales, Unknown Contributor Role|
|1985||Escenas||Rubén Blades||Guest Artist, Percussion, Timbales|
|1984||Buscando América||Rubén Blades||Guest Artist, Percussion, Timbales|
|1983||Tremendo Trio: Celia, Ray, Adalberto||Celia Cruz||Main Personnel, Timbales|
|1982||Rhythm of Life||Ray Barretto||Timbales|
|1980||Giant Force||Ray Barretto||Main Personnel, Timbales|
|1979||Rican/Struction||Ray Barretto||Cymbals, Drums (Bass), Drums (Snare), Floor Tom, Main Personnel, Timbales, Tma, Tom-Tom|
|Latin Jazz [Nascente]||Timbales|
|Ralph Irizarry & Timbalaye||Ralph Irizarry||Primary Artist|
|Viejos Pero Sabrosos||Ralph Irizarry||Composer, Lider, Primary Artist, Producer, Timbales|
|Yaounde||Samuel Torres||Soloist, Timbales|