“Music has made me a more complete person, it’s part of who I am, I think I would be a miserable person without music, it’s a tremendous art, a language I feel very comfortable with”.
A well known percussionist, he is considered one of the most Swinging timbaleros in the world, possessing a particular style that has allowed him to leave a distinctive touch in the groups where he has participated, as far as the interpretation of the timbal is concerned.
Born to Puerto Rican parents in New York’s Harlem Latino, Ralph is a self-taught musician who learned the trade by listening to his brother’s records and the music of his idols in nightclubs, where he used to sneak in when he was 16.
His first experiences with professional Latin music took place in Puerto Rico, where he had the opportunity to share the stage with renowned bands such as La Terrífica, El Gran Combo, and La Sonora Ponceña, among others, for three years.
He then returns to New York where he begins to play with local groups. In 1978 he met the maestro Ray Barretto, with whom he began a fruitful and productive working relationship that would result in five extraordinary record productions.
This particular percussionist considers that music is an important part of his life, so much so that he has stated that “Music has made me a more complete person, it is part of who I am, I think I would be a miserable person without music, it is a tremendous art, a language with which I feel very comfortable”.
Ralph has recorded with important figures of the show, such as: David Byrne, Paul Simon, Harry Belafonte, Earl Klugh, Juan Luis Guerra, Cachao, Celia Cruz and Yomo Toro, although he is mostly recognized for his musical relationship with Ruben Blades and Seis del Solar, a group of which he was part for 13 years, recording and performing internationally.
His musical contributions have also been fundamental. Although he does not consider himself a composer, he has composed for some salsa singers.
He also wrote a rap that he sang on a record by Seis del Solar; the song is entitled “Entrégate”. In addition, in Timbalaye’s first recording, he wrote the lyrics for “Raza Cósmica”. He has also contributed to the group’s arrangements. He even participated in the recording of two Latin jazz albums made by Seis del Solar.
He is currently one of the most sought-after musicians and has continued to work on commercials and soundtracks for film and television.
His charisma allowed him to develop an unexpected career as an actor: he performed in The Mambo Kings playing the role of Pito Fernández.
He has also participated in films and documentaries, Cachao, Como Mi Ritmo No Hay Dos, with Andy García, The Roots of Rhythm with Harry Belafonte and The Life and Times of Rubén Blades.
In 1996 he participated with Tito Puente in the show Master Timbaleros, presented in New York. This historic concert was the culmination of 26 years of dedication, practice and love for music. Puente noted on that occasion:
“Ralph is a star of the future who has never forgotten his Latin roots. His group is a marvel.
This valuable percussionist began to feel the need to record something in his own style, taking care of what is his premise in his musical work: “I have always said that one should play with the same quality in front of 10 or 5,000 people.
When the sound is perfect, there is a lot of rapport and you kind of rise six inches off the floor when that happens. I think that’s called swinging with intensity.
Hence his next step was the founding of the group “Timbalaye”, a septet with a strong big band sound.
The group combines contemporary Latin jazz with various tropical rhythms: timba, songo and traditional Afro-Cuban rhythms, bomba, cha cha chá and son montuno.
Their innovative sound has allowed the group to perform weekly in New York. In October 1997, Ralph and company performed with >Batacumbele> in a historic concert at Hostos College.
Among their most recent projects is a recording at the Birdland for a compilation to be released by RCA Records.
Among its members are Oriente López from the Afro-Cuba group, Arturo Ortiz from Rubén Blades and Juan Carlos Salas from the famous Venezuelan group Guaco. Timbalaye is considered the most select band in Latin Jazz.
This talented percussionist considers that his priority is to know that the public will be satisfied with what they have heard: That is my mission, to bring joy to the people.