Meet Pete Escovedo

Pete EscovedoWhat: Pete Escovedo & Sons, 25th Anniversary Benefit Concert for Bear Yuba Land Trust

When: 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday, August 23

Where: Historic North Star House, 12075 Auburn Road

Cost:  General Admission: $40 for Bear Yuba Land Trust Members (limited to 4), $45 for Not-Yet-Members; Children: $10 – at the door (ages 6-12, under 6 free); Gala Dinner with Admission: $120 for Bear Yuba Land Trust Members, $130 for Not-Yet-Members (Meat and Vegetarian options available)

“Pete was an early influence to me and countless young Chicano kids who were learning to play Cuban percussion instruments: We didn’t have to be Cuban or Puerto Rican to claim legitimacy in playing these rhythms. So there was a musical and cultural impact.”

– Felix Contreras, NPR

For more than 50 years, legendary percussionist Pete Escovedo has broken down barriers between Smooth Jazz, Salsa, Latin Jazz and contemporary music.

On Sunday, August 23, Pete Escovedo and Sons will perform new and old favorite Latin jazz songs during Bear Yuba Land Trust’s 25th Anniversary Celebration and Dance Party at the historic North Star House on Auburn Road, Grass Valley. It’s the biggest fundraiser of the year for the community-supported non-profit group committed to saving land, building trails and providing nature programming that gets people outdoors.

“The audience will be in our front room and we’ll have a really good time,” said the Grammy Award Nominee who turned 80 on July 13.

Escovedo is known worldwide for his live performances, session work and solo albums with artists such as: Tito Puente, Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, Sheila E., Prince, Mongo Santamaria, Bobby McFerrin, Cal Tjader, Woody Herman, Stephen Stills, Billy Cobham, Anita Baker, George Duke, Boz Scaggs, Andy Narell, Al Jarreau, Ray Obiedo, Dionne Warwick, Marlena Shaw, Barry White, Angela Bofill, Poncho Sanchez, Chick Corea, Dave Valentine, Najee and Arturo Sandoval.

Born on July 13, 1935, Escovedo was raised in Pittsburg, California. He grew up in a small house with seven brothers and sisters. Music was an everyday partPete Escovedo 3 of the Escovedo family and musicians regularly came to the house to play.

“My mom and dad really loved music,” said Escovedo.

In the 1950s, the San Francisco Bay Area’s Latin music scene was booming Escovedo’s Mexico-born father exposed him to the great Latin big bands of the day. As a young boy he would sit on the steps of nightclubs and watch musicians play. A boy from New York shared a listen to some Latin Jazz records.

“He had a great collection of records. The more I listened to it the more I liked it,” said Escovedo.

Music became his outlet. Escovedo’s first instrument was the saxophone. Soon he tried bongos, the first set made out of coffee cans and tape. He gained early experience working in a jazz combo with pianist Ed Kelly. Escovedo and his younger brother, Coke learned from a number of influential percussionists in the area and worked with pianist Carlos Frederico at the California Hotel. At 18, met and became friends with Tito Puente.

Together with his brothers Coke and Phil, they formed The Escovedo Brothers Latin Jazz Sextet. The brothers played in places like the Matador, Jazz Workshop, The Tropics and The Basin St. West.

Escovedo would move onto become a central figure in Latin Rock, fusion, and Latin Jazz, becoming known around the world for his high energy percussion work and top-notch bands. His work as a sideman with Carlos Santana, his leadership of the big band Azteca, his walk through fusion with Billy Cobham, and his role as a front man in the Pete Escovedo Latin Jazz Orchestra caught the attention of the world and left a serious impact across several musical worlds.

“All the places I’ve been, all the people I’ve performed with, it’s been a wonderful journey,” he said.

Beginning in 1972, Escovedo toured internationally with guitarist Carlos Santana, playing on the albums Moonflower, Oneness, and Inner Secrets. After four enjoyable years, he was ready to form his own orchestra.

“I really wanted to get back to what I really wanted to do. My own style of music and creating a name for myself.”

Escovedo and his brother, Coke founded the band Azteca and recorded two albums for Columbia, a self-titled album and Pyramid of the Moon.

Escovedo married his high school sweet heart and the couple raised four musically inclined children: Sheila E. (Prince), Juan, Peter Michael and Zina. Escovedo continues to travel, tour, perform and record with his four children.

“Music has been so much a part of our lives. That’s what we do,” said Escovedo who will be performing the Land Trust show with his two sons, Peter Michael on drums and Juan on percussion.