Santana’s Karl Perazzo & Raul Rekow

Dennis Chambers: The Other Side of Santana’s Rhythm Section

Raul Rekow Karl Perazzo

Dennis Chambers, with two broken arms and a sprained ankle, is a rhythm section. Known more for getting his funk and fusion on, Chambers now finds himself as the kit-anchor to Santana’s mystical rhythmic gumbo. And despite any differences going into the gig, Dennis – who has worked with Don Alias, Mino Cinelu, Manolo Badrena, and Larry Vitangelo – knows as well as anybody about the power of listening.

Sharing the rhythm role comes easily to Dennis. “Oh yeah, it’s very easy,” the cigar-puffing Baltimore native explains, “because I like to think of myself as a very giving musician. When I come into a band or recording situation, it’s not about me. It’s about us. Which means you respect everyone there, and you give everybody room. When you’re playing with rhythm sections, whatever the configuration is, you have to listen. Whether you’re a drummer, percussionist, or a bass player.”

This time he has to listen to two burning percussionists at once. It’s actually the first time he’s ever been asked to do that. “It’s interesting to see two guys that work so well together,” he says. “There’s no ego or any problems between [Karl and Raul]. They’re fun to watch every night. Last night they broke into a solo, and they were just dealin’. They were having a good time over there.”

And is Dennis having a good time? He takes a drag from his cigar, “I haven’t hit that consistently hard, for that long a period of time, since P-Funk. It’s killin’, man. I’m havin’ a blast.”

Top 10

Rekow & Perazzo List Their Favorite Rhythm Sections

We asked Karl and Raul to discuss a few of their favorite rhythm sections. Here’s their Top 10 in alphabetical order.

Ray Baretto. “In the ’70s, with Orestes Vilato on timbales,” Rekow says. “Orestes took timbales to the next level, back then. On bongos was Johnny Martinez. They probably had more chops than the others at that time.”

Cachao. “His conga player back in the ’50s was Tata Guines,” Rekow says. “Changuito, Giovanni, myself, we all listened a lot to Tata Guines. On timbales was Guillermo Barreto, and on bongos was Yeyeito. They were so tasty, and had chops.”

Diga Rhythm Band. “Growing up in the early ’70s, this was one of the first things I heard, Zakir Hussein’s band,” Perazzo says. “I couldn’t even tell you how many people were in the band, maybe 20. That was like the hybrid of tabla with fusion. Oh my God, that was unbelievable.”

Pete & Coke Escovedo. “They were the local guys,” Rekow says. “Pete took a few of us under his wing, and would allow us to come and sit in when they were playing. That was some of the best schooling I ever had. From that opportunity I gained a lot of confidence.”

Dizzy Gillespie. “With Chano Pozo,” Rekow says. “That was the beginning of Cubop in the U.S. Another rhythm section was Chano Pozo’s band in Cuba. It was called Cojunto Azul, which means ’the blue band.’ It was Chano Pozo on congas and Mongo Santamaria on bongos.”

Eddie Palmieri. “In the ’60s he had Manny Oquendo on timbales, Tommy Lopez on congas, and Jose Mangual on bongos,” Rekow says. “In the ’80s, Endel Dueño played timbales, Anthony Carillo played bongos, and Giovanni Hildalgo played congas. He had so many great rhythm sections.”

Mongo Santamaria. “When he had Armando Peraza and Carmelo Garcia, who played the timbales, in the ’60s,” Rekow says. “They had so much fire, just between Armando and Mongo was enough, but Carmelo could actually steal the show from those guys.”

Santana. “Santana [with its original rhythm section] – Chepitó, Mike Carabello, and Michael Shrieve – was one of the first to bring that [Latin influence] to the forefront in rock,” Perazzo says. “As far as Santana rhythm sections, I always thought that ’80s lineup with Raul, Armando Peraza, Orestes Vilato, and Graham Lear was explosive and exciting.”

Tito Puente Orchestra. “Tito Puente is the Buddy Rich of the timbales,” Perazzo says. “He played music, not just patterns, on the timbales. He had always been a showman. A lot of people don’t have that anymore. It’s a lost art.”

Weather Report. “In the early 70s, with Airto, Alex Acuña, Manolo Badrena,” Perazzo says. “Alex’s fills were a little different than conventional fusion or jazz drummers of that era. Manolo and Airto brought a real energy to the table. It was unpredictable.”

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