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Mike Collazo

I know of no other timbale player that has worked with as many significant bands as Mike Collazo has. At the age of 14, Mike began studying with Ubaldo Nieto, the timbale player with the Machito Orchestra. Mike attended New York City High School, School of Industrial Design along with musicians, Orlando Marin and Joe Quijano. It was during this period that he introduced Orlando to Latin music. Probably the most famous alumnus of this high school is the singer Tony Bennett.

Upon graduating high school Mike attended Manhattan School of Music, long enough to learn how to read music. This skill gave him the opportunity to record many albums and jingles.

Mike's first big break came when he joint the band of Cuban singer Marcelino Guerra. At the age of 18 he joined the band of another great Cuban singer, Vicentico Valdez Band. He stayed with this band until he was drafted into the army at the age of 23.

Upon returning from the army, Mike performed with Eddie Palmieri's La Perfecta, one of my all-time favorite bands. One of the places they played was a downstairs club on 77th Street in New York by the name of Che José. I used to carry my newly developed cowbells in brown paper bags to this club for the musicians to evaluate. Mike remembers me from this era.

Early on in Mike's career he was told the timbale job for Tito Rodriguez would be coming to him, but he felt he had to decline it because he was too inexperienced.  In those days it was a very special event when a job opened up in one of these great bands since sidemen were accustomed to being in these bands for 10-15 years. Usually someone would have to die before any musical chair would open up. In the case of Tito Rodriguez, it was Papi Paganni, a great musician in Collaso's words, who had to leave due to personal problems and Mike took the job. He stayed with Tito Rodriguez for 5 years.

After the Tito Rodriguez band, Mike joined up with the RIcardo Rey band that was very popular in the 1970s. A solo of Mike's on the Agúsate album got him recognition as a soloist. His prior career called for his work to be that of a time keeper and not a soloist. Even until this day, he is known as far away as in the country of Colombia for his solo on this album. When I asked Eddie Montalvo to speak about Mike, his first thought was of this very album which he felt was one that defined an era in Latin music.

For the last 15 years, Mike has been a member of the New York charanga band, Orchestra Broadway. Another of my favorite bands.

On the personal side, Mike is a great father and grandfather and a gentleman at all times. He is always courteous and sensitive to others. My dear friend,  bass player Eddie 'Gua Gua' Rivera, said that his sister, who dated Mike confirmed his gentlemanly ways.

Eddie Palmieri's La Perfecta album with Mike Collazo.

I am delighted to have had to the chance to interview Mike and I hope you enjoy listening to him tell his story as much as I did.

Jimmy Delgado along with Mike, Jr. participated in the interview.