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Raul Rekow

In the early '70s, kaleidoscopic drum sounds showered the Mission District from the legendary drumming sessions at Dolores Park. It is here that Raul Rekow and Karl Perazzo came of age. Now as respected world class percussionists with the Santana band, the dynamic duo has put out a tour-de-force debut album they gives props to those roots and those days of youthful rumba abandon.

Their credentials are impeccable. Rekow is the Latin rocker who played and recorded with Malo and Sapo before joining Santana in the late '70s. Perazzo rose in the '80s with Sheila E's band as well as stints with Prince before joining Santana in the '90s. Both came under the tutelage of master drummer Armando Peraza with Santana and he taught them well. It's his influence that gave them authenticity but it's their virtuosity that opened by those beats to innovation.
From the contemporary stylings of the new Cuban school of rumberos -Rumba in the park-opens the date with a "guarapachangueda" as Rekow and Perazzo convey old school emotion over exhilarating carnival-driven beats.

Llegó mi guajira melts you with an infectious montuno by pianist Rebeca Mauleon-Santana and the nasally "soneo" voice of Perazzo. But it is the solos, breaks, and multilayered rhythmic collages, with no obvious technological seams, that makes this a pleasure to listen to as Raul and Karl handle all the vocal and drum parts.

This album signals a new generation of drum masters emerging in the Bay Area with Rekow and Perazzo in the lead pack. It's a Ph.D. diploma that pulls them off the list as supporting musicians and turns them into leaders. It also thanks those who planted the seeds that sprouted the beats that once rang freely in Dolores Park, like Armando Peraza, Mongo Santamaría, Francisco Aguabella, and Benny Velarde.
Except for a two-year hiatus at the end of the `80s, Raul Rekow has been an integral part of the Santana Band since 1976. Joining their ranks was a dream come true for the San Francisco native who, as a teenager, first witnessed Carlos and company onstage at the Cow Palace, appearing second to last on a mammoth bill of twenty acts. The life-changing experience inspired Raul to take up congas, and he soon began playing with Soul Sacrifice, a popular late `60s/early `70s Bay Area club band specializing in Santana covers. That led to his joining Malo, the Latin funk-rock outfit -- featuring Carlos' brother Jorge Santana on guitar-that had a huge crossover hit in 1972 with "Suavecito." A stint with Sapo, another Latin fusion act followed, and then came the call from the Santana office, asking Raul to jam with Carlos and Tom Coster. Soon after, Carlos ...(more)

With the latest Santana album "Supernatural" a major hit around the world and nominated for ten Grammys, it is hard to turn the radio on and not hear "Smooth" with that Latin American "cha cha cha" feel and Carlos' signature sound all day long. The fine conga playing comes courtesy of Raul Rekow who is clearly one of the outstanding exponents of the conga drum in the world today, and the leader of his generation. To this day I can still remember listening to the first songs on Santana's "Festival" (1977), the arrival of Raul Rekow was quite startling and incredibly inspiring. Since then he has become a mentor, teacher and friend. More than twenty years later his playing is as inventive and exciting as it ever was. This two-part article contains an interview I conducted with him and a transcription of one of his solos.

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