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Willie Colón

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Bronx, NY, USA (1950 – present)

Trombone player, composer, and bandleader, William Anthony Colón Román (born Apr 28, 1950 in Bronx, NY, USA) was one of the pioneers of Latin American music. Despite initial criticism, Colón’s album El Malo has become known as one of the first albums to feature the “New York Sound” that sparked a renewed interest in Latin music during the 1970s. Colón has been instrumental in the careers of such Latin musicians as Rubén Blades, who first sang with Colón’s band in 1975, and Celia Cruz, for whom Colón has produced such albums as Only They Could Have Done This Album in 1977 and the highly successful duet album Celia & Willie in 1981. Colón has also produced albums for Ismael Miranda, Sophy, Soledad Bravo, and the late Hector Lavoe, who sang with his band in the early ’70s. Inspired by the music of various cultures, Colón has recorded with such musicians as Puerto Rican cuatro player Yomo Toro and David Byrne. Colón’s composition “Che Che Coli,” adapted from a Ghanaian children’s song, was used by Ntozake Shange in the musical play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf. In addition to 11 Grammy nominations and one Grammy award, Colón has received a CHUBB fellowship from Yale University, the most prestigious award given by the Ivy League school. Colón ran for the United States Congress, representing New York’s 17th Congressional District, in 1992.

Starting to play the trumpet at the age of 12, Colón switched to the trombone two years later. Making his recording debut in 1967, for Al Santiago’s Futura label, Colón became a victim of misfortune when the label folded. Colón was much more successful when he signed with Johnny Pacheco’s Fania label.

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