Spanish Harlem Orchestra
Talented multi-percussionist George Delgado was born in the Bronx, New York on July 19, 1965. His Puerto Rican father introduced him to congas when he was four and by age six he was playing timbales as well. He added bongos as a teenager.
When George was fourteen his family moved to Puerto Rico, where George began performing with local groups. In 1978 he got his first big break playing timbales with Tito Rojas’ El Conjonto Borincano.
Returning to New York City in 1983, George quickly got busy playing with such artists as Kimy Solis, Tito Allen, Menique, Santiago Ceron, and Tipica 88. A stint with Manny Oquendo's Libre gained him recognition as a conguero. Since then George has gone on to play and record with artists including Celia Cruz, Tito Rojas, Manny Oquendo’s Libre, Steve Turre, Sonora Matancera, Oscar de Leon, Tony Vega, Eddie Palmieri, Tito Puente, and The Latin Giants.
In 2005 George released a solo CD called Mi Ritmo Llego (My Rhythm Is Here). “It’s based on my admiration for all the artists I’ve worked with,” says George. “It’s mainly a dancers’ album, in a hard-core salsa style. I did percussive stuff on it, but not to feature myself. One day I’d like to do a Latin jazz CD that showcases my playing a little more. Sometimes I think people have me labeled as just a salsa player. They don’t know the full range of percussive skills that I have.”
George credits that range to his multi-cultural background. “I had the best of all possible worlds,” he says. “I got involved in music when I was very young in New York City. I spent my teenage years in Puerto Rico being immersed in the music there. Then I moved back to New York, where I heard Jamaican reggae, Afro-Cuban music, Latin jazz, pop, and rock. So I captured every essential way of playing the instrument, with influences from both places. Along the way I was inspired by great artists like Jose Mangual Sr., Manny Oquendo, John Rodriguez, Jimmy Delgado, Eddie Montalvo, Nicky Marrero, Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, Orestes Vilato, and Yeyito Iglesias.
As a conguero, George favors LP’s 28” Salsa Model Congas for the deep, warm sound that they create. “I prefer wood drums for recording,” he says, “because of their more controlled overtones. I also like LP’s Original Fiberglass Congas for live gigs because of their increased projection and durability. Road drums have to take a beating.”
Besides congas, George is also skilled on bongos, timbales, bata drums, and all the traditional hand percussion. George is currently a member of the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, a Grammy-nominated group whose success has taken George all over the world. He also performs frequently with Mambo Legends (which evolved from the Tito Puente Orchestra). As an educator, he’s been teaching at East Harlem’s highly regarded Harbor Conservatory since 1992. He also conducts clinics and master classes, as well as teaching privately.