Growing up and listening to music, he played with various objects around the house. Taking things seriously at the age of 16, he started with bongos, then congas and then timbales, which is the instrument he is best known for.
Andreu y Los Jovenes Del Barrio, the band was led by his ex-wife, the American born singer JILLIAN (1962-2009) able to charm you in two languages, a great loss at a young age, another victim of the scourge of our time, cancer. Blending elements of Charanga, Jazz, Typical Latin, the group dominated radio stations for a decade.
Brooklyn-born composer Johnny Andreu, who from an early age was introduced to and kept in touch with Latin rhythm through family influences, received his musical training at U.C.L.A., the “University on the Corner of Lexington Avenue. When he was 18, Mario Lebran, a musician with Ricardo Ray and author of ‘Mambo Jazz’, helped him get into the music business. He has learned a lot by listening to his records and playing his instruments.
Lebran Andreu also encouraged him to audition for his first job as a percussionist working for “Mike y Su Rítmico”. From there he moved on to the Bobby Matos orchestra whose pianist Paquito Pastor said one day he named him Andrews after Andreu. You are Latin, you are an ‘Almendra'”. That’s how Johnny Andreu became Johnny Almendra.
In the late 1960s he teamed up with Johnny Colon, they performed at the Corso and the legendary Cheetah, and after a year, Almendra and Louie Bauzo left to form their own band, Tambo.
This group lasted about four years and later worked with Almendra Charanga ’76, Orquesta Broadway, and the Típica Novel. Playing with Típica Ideal, he met Milton Cardona, who became a lifelong friend.
One day Cardona invited Almendra to see Willie Colón at Casa Borinquén, and as it turned out, they were in need of a timbalero. They invited Almendra who stayed for eight years.
During 1977 and 1978, Willie Colón Rubén Blades recorded history-making albums. A large number of the best musicians of the time were brought together, including Héctor Lavoe, percussionist José Cándido Rodríguez, bassist Víctor Venegas and many others. This material was released in 1998 for the RMM label.
For International Salsa Magazine through www.SalsaGoogle.com it is a great pleasure to review an artist of the stature of Jhonny Almendra, catalogued as one of the greatest percussionists in the city of New York for his ability and skill still in the forefront of Latin Music.
Johnny Almendra, Los Jóvenes Del Barrio Reconfirmando “1997”
Todo el Mundo Necesita
Pasión Sin Freno
Everybody Plays the Fool
Cold and Darkness, The
Regina Carter – trombone
Ozzie Meléndez – trombone
Ronnie Bar – backing vocals
David O’Quendo – flute
Karen Joseph – flute
Kimson Plaut – accordion, piano, synthesizer
Oriente Lopez – flute, synthesizer, backing vocals
Ray Sepulveda – vocals
Tito Nieves – vocal
Robert Thomas – violin
Sam Bardfeld – violin
Al Bello – percussion
Andreu Johnny Almendra – percussion
Frank Seguinot – vocal
Miles Peña – vocal
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