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Jose Mangual, Sr.
1924 - 1998

A very early photo of Mangual at my studio in the basement of my house in Maywood, NJ.

José Mangual was born in Puerto Rico on March 18, 1924, and came to New York at the age of 14 (just weeks from the day I was born).

In 1956, I first saw José Mangual play at a Monday night jam session at New York City's famous jazz club, Birdland. I remember being amazed at how so much music could come out of the small pair of bongos between his legs.  I also vividly remember the look of confidence on Mangual's face as he massaged every bit of music from those drums.  It was a look that I later got to know on a first hand basis, when he and I became friends.

My friendship with Mangual was one that was forged by a chance meeting in a Spanish Harlem after-hours club. He set a standard in bongo playing and was considered by many to have the greatest sound on the instrument. He played for years with the Machito Orchestra, a Latin dance band that had the opportunity to performed in jazz settings in the 1940's and 1950's with such  legends as Charlie Parker, Buddy Rich and Flip Phillips. Through this exposure to broader musical idioms, José Mangual, who was often referred to as Buyú by his close friends, left the Machito band to join Herbie Mann around 1961.  He also toured Africa with his favorite rhythm man, Carlos "Patato" Valdez, and went on to accompany Abbie Lane and Nancy Ames. 

A Christmas Eve long ago, José Mangual who
had who played guitar in addition to percussion, demonstrated a tune for Kenny Gomez in an
apartment on 116 Street.

 

Besides performing as a sideman with various singers, Mangual did quite a bit of recording work in New York. It was through working with Erroll that he traveled Europe and the States extensively, playing jazz for a broader audience than he had played before in his prior career. Mangual eventually came to work with piano great Erroll Gardner until the pianist's sudden death.The work with Erroll paid well, and everything associated with the job was first class. When Erroll died, there weren't any jobs of this caliber to replace the gig. Rather than work in musically inferior situations, Mangual started the Cheveré Social Club on 116th Street in NYC, where he would host card games of locals. I spent many nights "hanging out" with him there, absorbing as much as I could about what went into creating the brilliant music he was associated with.

I was so impressed with Mangual's musicianship that, in 1977, I produced his only solo recording, Buyú. The album enjoyed critical acclaim, without financial success.

Immediately prior to Mangual's death, Latin Percussion began working on the re-release of this recording which featured Mangual on bongos, Tito Puente on timbales, Carlos "Patato" Valdez on conga, Steve Gadd on drumset, Jimmy Knepper on trombone, and a host of other musical greats.

Mangual is survived by his six children: José Jr., Luis, Fifi, Sandy, Carmen, Georgie, his loving sister, Gloria, along with lots of grandchildren and great-grand children.

Though Jose Mangual Sr. is no longer among us, his spirit and legacy live on in our hearts and minds through his music.

Click here to learn more about José's career and to view photos from his Memorial Service.

Click here to see photos from his 74th Birthday Party.

 
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This shot may have been after a performance of his with Enroll Gardner in New York. Sometime in the 1970s

 

 

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José Mangual, Sr. in front of 70 East 116 St. in New York where he raised a family and where I first visited with him in the early 1960's. Photo circa 1974.

 

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José Mangual, José Mangual, Jr. (His dad called him Joe), Milton Cardona, Luis Romero and Luis Mangual at the Cheveré Social Club. Circa 1974

 

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José Mangual, Sr. at the Buyú recording at
Rosebud Recording Studio, 1977

 

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Through attending parties at my home, Eddie Montalvo became close to José Mangual. This party was my 58th birthday (Feb. 1996). José enjoyed my wife's Caribbean cuisine and a slow glass of red wine.

 

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Mangual enjoying a rest after feasting
on Vivianne's great cooking.

 

José Mangual and Paquito engage
in shop talk at my birthday party.

 

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José Mangual, Eddie Montalvo and Paquito D'Rivera

 

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José Mangual and a young Matthew Dillon Cohen
celebrate my birthday party at my house.

 

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Rolando Laserie, Luis Miranda, Orestes Vilato and
José Mangual rehearsing March, 1996 in Miami for a
Bebo Valdez concert in Miami, Florida.

 

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Mangual performing at the Bebo Valdez concert at
the Guzman Center in Miami, Florida. March, 1996.