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Sabater, Jimmy

Many would argue that the salsa genre was officially born when the song “Salsa y Bembé” by Jaime “Jimmy” Sabater, appeared on fellow Puerto Rican, Joe Cuba’s (Gilberto Miguel Calderon) album, “Stepping Out” in 1962. In any case, timbales musician, vocalist and songwriter, Sabater can be said to be a progenitor of the salsa genre and one of it best known proponents throughout a career that continues to this day.

Sabater was born on 11 April, 1936 in New York City of Puerto Rican parents originally from Ponce, Puerto Rico. His neighbors in the New York “barrio” were none other than Tito Puente, Luis Cruz, Willi Bobo, Monchito Muñoz and other prominent Latin musicians. In that great laboratory featuring talented artists from Cuba, Puerto Rico and other Latin American countries, in an atmosphere charged with the excitement of experimentation, Sabater dedicated himself to becoming a musician. He studied music, including voice and learned to play the piano and then the timbales.

In 1957, Sabater acheived perhaps his first great success as a vocalist with the song, “To Be With You”, written by Nick Jiménez (music) and Willie Torres (lyrics), which he recorded with Joe Cuba’s band. Sabater was an old friend of Cuba since they had met in 1951.

Sabater remained with the Joe Cuba band until 1979, and was a part of the bugalu (boogaloo; fusion of Latin rhythm and American R&B - rhythm and blues) fad during its heyday between 1966 and 1968. Sabater himself wrote several notable songs in that style: “Bang, Bang” and “Oh Yeah”, both of which appeared on the “Wanted, Dead or Alive” album and helped it sell over a million copies.

While Sabater also figured prominently on Cuba’s album of boleros: “The Velvet Voice of Jimmy Sabater” in 1967, he also recorded a number of solo albums following that. These included Solo in 1969, El Hijo de Teresa, the following year, To Be With You, in 1977 and Gusto in 1980.

Sabater has also appeared on dozens of other albums as either timables musician or vocalist, over the course of his prodigious career. These include: the Fania All-Stars Eddie Palmieri, the Cesta All-Stars, Jimmy Bosch and other productions featuring various artists.

Sabater’s most recent efforts was “Mo” with José Mangual, Jr. and his band, Son Boricua on the Cobo label in 2002 and with the Spanish Harlem Orchestra; recording “Un Gran Dia En El Barrio” in that same year.

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