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Manolo Badrena

Manolo BadrenaBorn in San Juan, the capital city of Puerto Rico, in March of 1952, Manolo Badrena has contributed his multifaceted musical personality (mostly as a percussionist) to over 100 recordings led by a wide range of prominent jazz, pop, Latin and world music artists, particularly after his career was catapulted via his participation in Weather Report's milestone album Heavy Weather, back in 1977.

It was called the percussion boom of the '70s, but considering the subject matter might have just as easily been the bang, wham, clonk or sizzle. It was simply the presence of percussionists in practically every rock and jazz band of note and it was the start of the glory days for Manolo Badrena, a percussionist from Puerto Rico. While Badrena often makes the short list of guys who banged on things and rattled others with foreign-sounding names that began making records after Airto Moreira got famous, he actually had a track record in the music business going back a bit further and involving jazz drummer and bandleader Art Blakey's experiments combining percussionists from varying ethnic backgrounds.

In the '70s, Badrena not only worked for several years with Weather Report, at that point one of the top modern jazz attractions, but also toured with the Rolling Stones as a supplemental percussionist. His credits on Zawinul albums such as Heavy Weather did more toward insuring ongoing employment then the wiggle of Mick Jagger's hips to a bongo, however. The association with so-called classic Weather Report led to sunny days with players such as Steve Khan and Spyro Gyra.

Badrena is also know for his 1983 collaborations with Bill Evans—the saxophonist, not the pianist—and a stint with eccentric pianist and composer Carla Bley that lasted somewhat longer. He has also performed and recorded with the Zawinul Syndicate and Trio Mundo.

Currently domiciled in Fair View, New Jersey, Badrena recently released his second CD as leader of Trio Mundo (Trio Mundo Rides Again, ZOHO, 2004), making his recorded debut on drum set, nylon-string guitar and assorted vocals, while handling the usual percussive arsenal.

Never mind that his recording trajectory as a bandleader can be traced all the way back to his self-titled 1979 debut (Manolo, A&M), in which a couple of cows contributed some of the most guttural moos ever put to vinyl.
Manolo's musical personality was properly described, once upon a time, by vibist/marimbero Dave Samuels: "He strikes me as a painter. He communicates very much the way he plays" Short bursts of strong ideas rather than long monologues ..."

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