Current band members:
- Rafael Ithier - musical director
- Charlie Aponte - vocals
- Jerry Rivas - vocals
- Papo Rosario - vocals
- Taty Maldonado - trumpet
- Victor Rodriguez - trumpet
- Moises Nogueras - trombone
- Freddie Miranda - saxaphone
- Eddie Perez - saxaphone
- Freddie Rivera - bass
- Miguel Torres - congas
- Kuki Santos - timbales
- Richie Bastar - bongos
- Willie Sotelo - piano
El Gran Combo:
A musical institution on their home island of Puerto Rico, they’ve been making music for nearly half a century. But don’t let those 40+ years fool you into thinking their salsa is in anyway staid or musty. Full of energy, with split-second rhythmic timing and playful lyrics, the ‘CEO of Salsa’ is at the top of its game.
From the Beginning:
Founded in 1962 by pianist and musical director Rafael Ithier (who’s still with the group), one of their first jobs was working as studio musicians for the live television show La Taverna India.
The original line-up included, along with Ithier, Eddie Perez, Hector Santos, Kito Velez, Martin Quinones, Miguel Cruz and Roberto Roena, who were soon joined by Andy Montanez and Pellin Rodriguez, two of the most famous salsa singers of the time.
First Album’s Brush with History :
In 1963, El Gran Combo released their first album, Acangana - but not in Puerto Rico, Three days after finishing the recording, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. The resulting emotional turmoil, born of the close ties between New York and Puerto Rico, revised the plans for the album. It was initially distributed with great success in Mexico, Panama and Venezuela, and only later in New York and Puerto Rico, where it went on to become gold.
El Gran Combo has recorded over 50 releases. Notable among them is El Gran Combo is Las Vegas(1978), both a success and a sigh of relief as it was recorded after the departure of Andy Montanez, Aqui no Se Sienta Nadie(1992) and Breaking the Ice – El Gran Combo en Alaska(2000) which earned them a Grammy nomination.
In 1982, the group celebrated their 25 year anniversary with a historic concert in Madison Square Garden.
University of Salsa:
Today, only Ithier and saxaphonist Eddie Perez remain from the original group. But the lineup of remarkable musicians that have performed with El Gran Combo reads like a Who’s Who of the salsa world, including such luminaries as Gilberto Santa Rosa. So it’s not surprising that their nickname is the “University of Salsa”