The Last Mambo King
Reflecting on LP, Orlando says, "I used to make cowbells in the fifties so I know that LP makes the best cowbells and percussion instruments."
The story of Orlando Marin is inextricably tied to the Hispanic struggle for pride of place in American society. In post-war New York he brought his music from the street corners to the living room, and his records, under the name of the Orlando Marin Orchestra, continue to sell today.
Although self-taught, Orlando was surrounded by musicians who gave him pointers including Joe Rodgriguez (Charlie Palmieri's drummer), Mike Collazo and Sabu Martinez. When he was a student, he took his conga to school, often playing between classes. This meant lugging his heavy bulky conga on the New York City subway system from his home in the Bronx to art school in Manhattan . Although he was considering becoming a cartoon illustrator, he was so overwhelmed by the mambo that he decided to change careers. "Eventually, I hustled a pair of timbales, and formed a small group in the Bronx. These musicians included such well-known players as Eddie Palmeri and Joe Quijano." They played stock Cuban arrangements, purchased from the local union office. Later, he enlisted arranger Hector Rivera (author of "Bang, Bang") and others.
During a two-year Army stint, Marin won a talent competition and was placed on the Ed Sullivan show. After his tour of duty, he resumed his own orchestra, recording eight albums. He had a hit in 1961 with Se Te Quemo La Casa ("Your House is Burning Down"). His subsequent bands have all enjoyed his timbale and vocal energy. Lately recordings have been scarce, a fact which bothers Marin, "I'd like to show people some excitement. Today they're selling ballads with cowbells behind them."
Marin received the Bobby Capo Lifetime Achievement Award, not only for his musical performance, but also for his "other life" in human resources, retraining workers who were victims of downsizing.
"Tito Puente was the first person to stand up and lead, and I was the second," Orlando says proudly of his dual role as timbalero and vocalist. Sometimes Marin will perform with a multiple-timbale setup. "But my typical setup," he notes, "is one set of timbales, because of small rooms and stages. But I do a lot on one pair of timbales!"
A delightful effect in ballads is Orlando's use of crotales (tiny thick orchestral cymbal discs), which he suspends from an LP Claw.