Cover of Naranjo's album Dulce y Picante
|Born||September 14, 1941|
|Genres||Jazz, Latin, Bossa nova, Salsa|
|Occupations||Drummer, Arranger, Director, Percussionist|
|Instruments||Drums, Timbales, percussion|
|Years active||1959 - Present|
|Labels||Integra, Roberto Obeso & Federico Pacanins|
|Associated acts||El Trabuco Venezolano|
Alberto Naranjo [nah-rahn'-ho] (born September 14, 1941) is a musician. He was born in Caracas, Venezuela. His mother, the singer Graciela Naranjo, was a radio, film and television pioneer in her homeland. Largely self-taught, Alberto embarked on a similar musical course, becoming – like his mother – one of Venezuela's icons of contemporary popular music.
In his early years, Naranjo was influenced by diverse music genres such as jazz and classical, from Louis Armstrong to Duke Ellington; from Bud Powell to Thad Jones and Mel Lewis; from Béla Bartók to Claude Debussy, and specially, the music created by Tito Puente, one of the greatest all-time Latin jazz leaders. It is well know the fact that Puente revolucioned the role of the drums in stage performance, when he moved the drum kit and timbales from the back to the front of stage, highlighted it as a solo instrument, and demonstrated that a drummer can also be a gifted composer and arranger.
With Puente as his role model, Naranjo started professionally as a drummer in 1959, at age 18, playing with several local dance bands including Chucho Sanoja (1963–64), Los Melódicos (1965–66) and Porfi Jiménez (1966–67). A valuable sideman as well, he was adaptable to many different styles, being able to fit smoothly into the group in which he were playing. Later in the 1960s, he was focused exclusively in studio sessions becoming one of the sought after musicians in his country.
Since 1970, Naranjo remained busy and performed on countless recording sessions. He also toured extensively, became a member of the Radio Caracas Television orchestra, and backed up significant artists touring in Venezuela, between others Charles Aznavour, Vikki Carr, Eddie Fisher, Engelbert Humperdinck, Julio Iglesias, Tom Jones, the Nicholas Brothers, Eliana Pittman, The Platters, Tito Rodríguez, Ornella Vanoni and Pedro Vargas.
In 1977 Naranjo founded El Trabuco Venezolano, an orchestra in which he quickly achieved notable success as arranger and leader. The term trabuco comes from Venezuelan baseball slang, where it means an all-stars selection of players coming from different clubs, or bands, if is the case, in musical terms. The orchestra was created by Naranjo in response to the emergence of a plethora of salsa amateurish bands, which often offered pale imitations of foreign groups. Naranjo wanted to start a total musical movement, with all-round musicians and singers. El Trabuco had no specific commercial ambitions and was ideated to record and perform at cultural events in theaters and universities, and although Naranjo never intended to be a salsa interpreter, the band overlapped considerably with salsa music. But in his jazzy arrangements, Naranjo didn’t use the typical 'minor' percussion salsa instruments, like güiro, maracas and claves, and worked with a jazz drum set, congas, bongos, timbales, piano and bass in front of trumpets, trombones and saxophones, like old big bands ensembles, not at all common in salsa bands. Eventually, an electric guitar or a string section were added to the format. El Trabuco made five studio recordings and recorded two live albums with Cuban group Irakere. Notably, both groups performed on stage together several times.
In the late 1970s, Naranjo played drums with Tito Puente's orchestra during a salsa all-star concert tour that included Celia Cruz, Héctor Lavoe and Ray Barretto. Beside this, he became an active participant and collaborator in several local movements like jazz, Latin, bossa nova, rock, and Venezuelan genres, and emerged as a well-respected arranger.
Naranjo has made arrangements for the bands Conexion Latina and Guaco; pop-artist like Ilan Chester, Simón Díaz, Oscar D'León, Ricardo Montaner, María Rivas, Aldemaro Romero and Adalberto Santiago, between others, and also has played with jazz people such as Jeff Berlin, Dusko Goykovich, Danilo Pérez, Arturo Sandoval, Bobby Shew and Dave Valentin. The Trabuco and other bands that he has led have alternated with musicians like Estrellas de Areito, Larry Harlow, Eddie Palmieri, Son 14 and Chucho Valdés. In this period he also toured through Europe, Latin America and United States.
Since the 1990s, Naranjo has been an active participant in diverse artistic and musical outreach endeavors of Venezuela, not only as a player, but also as an historian, educator, and urban chronicler on radio, books and newspapers.