Ciao, Benny Velarde RIP

Posted on Sep 4, 2015

I received the news via Facebook that SF based Salsa/Latin Jazz pioneer Benny Velarde passed away early this week.  Benny who was a great timbalero, percussionist and bandleader for the Super Combo, one of the oldest and best loved S.F. Salsa bands in existence, carved his legacy on dance floors all over this area. He was also a key player with the legendary Cal Tjader Latin Jazz band in the 1950’s, recorded with Mongo Santamaria and Joe Loco among others, shared stages with master conguero Francisco Aquabella and collaborated with pianist/composer Lalo Schifrin on the extremely rare “La Clave” recording in 1973.  I remember dancing all night long to Velarde’s explosive Super Combo at old haunts such as El Senorial, The Reunion and Bimbo’s 365 Club.  His last recording “Viva Velarde” released in 2002 captured his Super Combo with an updated take on his classic sound featuring John Calloway, Sal Nunez, Anthony Blea and Ray Martinez of Azabache fame.  He was also a columnist and music critic for the Mission district newspaper El Bohemio for many years. Benny has been inactive for the last few years due to illness.  But his passing was sad and unexpected news.  It is indicative of the end of an era in SF Bay Area music.