of the most respected conga drummers I have known,
Frankie Malabé was an innovator. Unfortunately,
he was also plagued by problems of substance abuse
until his death at age 53. So strong was was his
following that the music community united to raise
money for a liver transplant. He survived the
operation but his lifestyle ultimately did him
When I went to sell Charlie
Palmieri one of my
early bongos--one of the few using bronze
casting for hardware--Charlie brought them to
Frankie for testing. Before I got into serious
sound recording (around 1976), I would pick Frankie
up at the bus terminal in Manhattan and bring
him over to my house to do experimental recordings.
He was creative, musical, and well ahead of his
time. I very much regret that I've lost those
In the 1960s and 1970s, Frank performed and recorded
with Pete Terrace, Tito
Puente, Louie Ramirez, Willie Colon, The Allegre
All-Stars, Tito Rodriguez, Celia Cruz, Johnny
Pacheco, and Larry Harlow.
In his later years, Frankie was involved with
the Drummers Collective in New York City. Here
he introduced legions of non-Latins to Latin rhythms.
The book/cd package that he wrote with Bob Weiner,
"Afro-Cuban Rhythms for Drumset," stands
as one of the best primers and historical references
on the subject and contains excellent audio examples
of Frankie's unique touch on congas.