Giovanni Hidalgo Has Good Return with Humberto Ramirez


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Humberto Ramirez and Giovanni Hidalgo recently celebrated 20 years since their release of “Best Friends”. It also marked the return of Giovanni after a three-year absence from the stages.

“Best Friends; 20 Years Later”; the Concert

At the time of the original recording, the album was a project among two band leaders that happened to be best friends since childhood. Both grew up in Old San Juan and both were sons of father musicians. Both took music classes and both hanged out together.

Humberto Ramirez and Giovanni Hidalgo album "Best Friends".
Humberto Ramirez and Giovanni Hidalgo received great reviews for their 1999 album “Best Friends”.

“Best Friends” (1999) received great reviews when it was released. It was mostly an Humberto Ramirez-conceived project, with great songs and fantastic performances.

The concert was held at the Centro de Bellas Artes in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I think that it drew great interest for two reasons: first, it brought back together two well-respected Latin Jazz musicians, performing a great repertoire; and secondly, there was some expectation as to how Giovanni could perform after the 3-year absence, and with fewer fingers in his hands.

Giovanni Hidalgo’s absence from music was due to health conditions related to diabetes. He seems to have brought the condition under control, but it took its toll. Giovanni lost some fingers from his hands.

Besides my wife, daughter, brother-in-law, and me, those in attendance included music celebrities like Willie Rosario, Danny Rivera, Humberto Ramirez’s father, and Angel “Cachete” Maldonado.

So, needless to say, we had great expectations for the concert and wanted to perhaps get to hear a few new songs along the way.

Here’s a short interview done by local Puerto Rico TV with these artists.

“Best Friends” Concert Musicians

Humberto Ramirez and Giovanni Hidalgo don’t need much introduction. Humberto has become a master jazz man. He continues to evolve as a trumpet player and has had a great mind for producing Latin music projects for many years.

Giovanni Hidalgo is perhaps considered the best conga player in the world. Yet, we were curious to know if the loss of three fingers (two in one hand and one in the other) would affect his playing.

The other musicians rounding up the band were Albert Julian (drums), the well-known Oskar Cartaya (bass), and the master Edsel Gomez (piano).

I liked the show put out by Humberto, Giovanni, and the band. Giovanni continues to impress in the congas. His dedication to the instrument, practicing almost 8 hours a day starting a 5:30 am (as he told the audience in one of his many dialogues), brought him well-oiled to the show. His solos are still breathtaking.

Humberto was great on trumpet and having the band fine-tuned for the concert. Giovanni and he spent a considerable amount of time talking to the audience, telling us about how this project came together originally, and the idea of this 20-year celebration.

All in all, I enjoyed the combination of good music and good stories provided by Humberto and Giovanni.

One of my favorite moments of the evening was when Giovanni and Oskar improvised a musical “conversation” between conga and bass. What seemed to have been planned as a quick interlude, became an improvised jam of several minutes. Humberto just stepped back and let the two go at it.

New Music

Humberto did offer a change of pace by performing an instrumental bolero which will be part of his upcoming album with Danny Rivera, as announced there. Besides that, the music remained within the repertoire of the “Best Friends” album.

As Giovanni says in the interview above, there may be a “Best Friends 2” recording on the works.

Giovanni, “Live Long and Prosper”

Giovanni has approached his illness with a lot of spirituality. He shared his ups and downs, but mostly how his mindset is one of perseverance to continue to provide good music.

That’s why I wish Giovanni the old Mr. Spock saying…”live long and prosper”.

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  1. Barney says

    As an old conga player I have to say I have never seen hands like Giovanni in my life. Once in a lifetime there comes along somebody who just leaves you breathless and that is Mr. Hidalgo.

  2. The Power of Drums - Latino Music Cafe

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  3. […] his diabetes. Back in August, in a previous concert with Humberto Ramirez (you can read about it HERE), he played without the aid of a […]

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  5. […] I had the privilege of seeing Cachete recently at a concert in Puerto Rico. Fittingly, he went to see the return to the stage of his star “pupil”. Giovanni Hidalgo was joining Humberto Ramirez in a 20th-anniversary concert of their recording “Best Friends” (Note: Read the related blog HERE). […]

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