Eguie Castrillo

Egue Castrillo – Latin Percussion Course

When he was only an infant in Puerto Rico, Eguie would work out songs on the organ, delighting his family. With this in mind, Eguie’s parent’s next move seems almost inconceivable. Knowing that tranquil Christmas carols would yield place to spicy salsa, they bought him a set of timbales. From age seven, things were never the same for Eguie Castrillo, nor did his parents ever again enjoy the quiet afforded by the youth’s gentle rendering of “Silent Night”. It ought to be noted at the outset that even as a child, Eguie was beginning to demonstrate the qualities of a great bandleader: focusing attention on common goals and reconciling disparate personalities. The police began to show up at the Castrillo home, acting on the basis of noise complaints and bylaws. Things never got serious, however: Eguie adjusted his practice hours, a wise compromise-and he befriended the police!

At any rate, history is richer for the contributions of Eguie Castrillo, even if he rattled his neighborhood! At age eleven, he discovered the great Tito Puente and studied his every move, adopting the distinctive in-the-spotlight comportment of the master with his dramatic striking technique. The experienced finely honed Eguie’s technique and left an indelible impression. He also met Giovanni Hidalgo, who had revolutionized the role of congas in the early (and tremendously unsung) group Batacumbele. Although Batacumbele’s heyday was over by the time Eguie discovered Giovanni, the music was still in the air, and particularly the ethic of melding indigenous melodies/rhythms with modern instrumental lineups, a critical point for Eguie. Giovanni’s stunning conga work became Castrillo’s benchmark.

Influenced by Giovanni Hidalgo, Eguie Castrillo began learning congas, then bongos, before turning to other instruments such as bata. This branching out enabled him to voice properly the rhythms of the various Latin homelands: Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad, and so on.

In 1993, now successful in Puerto Rico, Eguie moved to New York, where he began a five-year tenure with virtuoso trumpet player Arturo Sandoval, who was fast becoming a favorite of the American musical press. Although a timbalero by trade, Eguie found himself increasingly in demand as a conga player. While touring, he met with many of the great musicians of our day, both Latin and pop, and, acting on a tip from Victor Mendoza, joined the faculty of Berklee School of Music in Boston. Aside from instructional duties, Eguie mounted a big band tribute to The Mambo Kings at the school. The experience led to the formation of the Eguie Castrillo Orchestra, a contemporary big band that nods to the days of the New York Palladium and the seemingly lost era of dance hall mambo/Latin jazz. In fact, Castrillo’s most recent album is aptly entitled Palladium Tradition. Castrillo maintains an ideal balance recording, teaching, and performing live with his 17-piece band.