Salute to Benny Velarde

Posted on Jul 5, 2011

Renowned timbalero Bayardo “Benny” Velarde was honored at Yoshi’s in Oakland before a packed house of friends, musicians, dancers and long time fans. Velarde, 81, a mainstay of the San Francisco Bay Area scene for more than five decades since his start with Cal Tjader is known as the leader of his own orchestra since the 70’s. The evening was organized as a benefit to help Benny pay his medical bills as a result of four operations to fight his recurring throat cancer. Benny has no medical insurance, a common occupational hazard that has plagued other fellow artists who work in music as a profession. At Yoshis, the music was sublime thanks to veteran trombonist Al Bent and his Quintenscencia Latin Jazz band primarily made up of Velarde alumni and Benny leading an all-star version of his long running Super Combo orchestra. Special guests included Orestes Vilato, Louie Romero, Roger Glenn, Monchy Esteves and Sal Nunez. The vibe was incredible at Yoshi’s as some of the audience were able to express their love and appreciation to Benny on stage for his years in show business. I had the honor of co-emceeing the event with KCSM’s own Jesse “Chuy” Varela. It was an unforgettable evening!