Candido Camero

Thousand Finger Man

by Patrick Jones


Born in the El Cerro barrio of Cuba in 1921, Candido Camero began his musical career playing popular eastern Cuban “Son” (the foundation of what we now call “Salsa”) music on bass, guitar and mandolin at an early age. In this initial period, Candido worked with legendary percussionists Luciano “Chano” Pozo and a young Romon “Mongo” Santamaria. Later, Candido switched his attention to the bongo and conga and developed a trailblazing technique that added a new rhythmic dimension to the instruments. In essence, Candido would keep a steady rhythm with one hand while improvising with the other. He is also credited with playing two, and sometimes three, congas simultaneously for the first time. Both of these innovations quickly earned Candido the attention of other great jazz, latin and R&B players. As a result, from his arrival in the United States in 1946 through the present, Candido has recorded on over 100 albums with such legends as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Taylor, Erroll Garner, Stan Kenton, Duke Ellington Charles Mingus, Machito, Ray Charles, Tito Puente, and many others. Candido’s music blends traditional Cuban rhythms with various American musical styles.

On the recent reissue of Candido’s 1970 release, Thousand Finger Man, we find the famed percussionist mining popular dance music for an exuberently energetic album of funky soul-grooves. The sound is big and bawdy and the obvious point is to get people on their feet to shake a tail feather. On this level, the record is a tremendous success and should be of value to current DJs ever in pursuit of a new groove as well as rare groove, retro-connoisseurs. While Joe Cain’s arrangements, particularly on horns, are occasionally cheesy (in a similar way to Herbie Hancock’s Warner Brothers releases from the same era), conjuring images of late-‘60s, early-‘70s television shows or action films, Candido’s improvisation will leave even the stiffest jaws on the floor. On “Tony’s Theme,” “Soul Limbo,” Come On Choo-Choo Train,” and “Jump Back” he employs three congo drums at once with blistering skill. The title track includes a propulsive mix of bongos and congas and the gospel-influenced “Hallelujah! I’m Coming Home” features Candido on bongos for a clearer, yet no less frenetic, sound. This is not an album to think too hard about. It is an album to put on when you are feeling up, dancy or like having a party. Viva Candido! Play on!

cover art

Candido Camero

Thousand Finger Man

(Blue Note)

Thousand Finger Man


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