Today: Masterclass at 1 p.m., concert at 7:30 p.m. Public welcome.
Kailash Mital Hall, Carleton University

Los Gringos will be playing with a master of Cuban percussion Wednesday night. And it all happened because of an accident of geography.

Triple-Grammy-award winner Changuito happened to be in Toronto, and was looking for Latin / Cuban jazz bands to play with. At the same time, the Carleton University jazz camp was sponsoring a concert by Ottawa Latin/Cuban/Brazilian jazz band Los Gringos.

They found each other, and the winner will be both the jazz camp students and Ottawa Latin jazz lovers, with both a concert and a percussion masterclass this Wednesday (August 11).

Los Gringos reunites last September. ©2009 Brett Delmage
Los Gringos reunites last September. ©2009 Brett Delmage

"I'm about to meet him on Wednesday and I'm really excited about it," said Los Gringos co-leader Mark Ferguson. "He wants to get out and play so it's going to be great."

From 1 to 3 p.m., Changuito will give a masterclass in Kailash Mital Theatre at Carleton University (open to the public; $15 admission at the door). Ferguson said the session will be interactive: "we're going to have as many conga drums as we can in the audience. He gets people playing patterns, so it should be really neat. He doesn't speak any English so it will all be done through a translator."

Then at 7:30 p.m. in the same hall, Los Gringos will start the concert alone for the first four songs, and then invite out Changuito. Tickets for the concert are $10 each and available at the door.

"He wanted to hear all the tunes first so he could figure out where he'd fit in, so I sent him recordings of everything and he emailed back through a translator what he thought would work well for him and what he didn't feel comfortable with. Of course, he likes playing on the Cuban stuff. Some of our stuff is Brazilian-influenced; he's not particularly interested in playing on that so we've stacked it so that the stuff that he wants to play on will be in the second half," Ferguson said. "I'm looking forward to it."

Changuito (Jose Luis Quintana) started playing professionally in Cuba in 1956, when he was only eight years old. In 1970, he joined the band Los Van Van (one of the most popular Cuban orchestras in the world). With this band, Changuito inaugurated the "songo," where the original combination of percussion instruments (timbales, cowbells, woodblocks, electronic drums and cymbals) and the technical displacement of hands displayed a distinctive and highly original touch.

He stayed with Los Van Van for 23 years, and was dubbed by Changuito by its lead singer, when the singer screamed in "Sandunguera": "Chango, el misterioso, rompe la paila! (Chango, the mysterious, break the timbale!)".

Since 1992, he has made solo appearances around the world, as well as touring with different orchestras. He has received three Grammy awards for collaborations, the first for his Habana album performed with Roy Hargrove's Crisol Band in 1997. His innovations on tumbadoras, timbales, and drum set have influenced countless drummers around the world.

More information about the concert is here. A map of the campus showing the hall is here.

– Alayne McGregor