Aguankó, the ensemble led by percussionist and composer Alberto Nacíf, is a talented group of Michigan based musicians who are steeped in the tradition of jazz infused Son-Salsa. In La Bicileta and Chiquita, for example, you might hear shades of Conjunto Libre or Eddie Palmieri’s La Perfecta Orchestra. And, like the Fort Apache Band, there are Afro-Cuban folkloric rhythms, as in the percussive Rumba Elemental. The overall feel on Elemental is relaxed; the Jazz is sophisticated, but accessible in essential ways. It’s graced with a driving funk and sabor that comes only from years of developing a musical sensibility that speaks from both the heart and soul of the band members. Top notch stuff, this. Very Highly Recommended. – elWatusi
“…we predict that the ensemble Aguankó will soon become one of your favorites. This elegant Latin jazz group is led by conguero Alberto Nacif, former host of WEMU’s “Cuban Fantasy” program which is now hosted by Marc Taras. Expect rave reviews and international attention for “Elemental” by Aguankó. WEMU is honored to be the first radio station on the planet to play this beautiful, inspirational Latin Music.” – WEMU NPR Radio station
Alberto Nacif (Congas, Latin Percussion, Bandleader)
Alberto Nacif was born in the isthmus state of Oaxaca on Mexico’s west coast where Cuban derived rhythms were part of everyday music. He began playing conga and bongo drums at a young age with local musicians in Mexico. He emmigrated to Detroit, Michigan as a teen, and became involved in that City’s Jazz, Disco and Latin music scene, playing in multiple venues, but found the Latin Jazz muse by playing with Saxophonist and composer Jimmy Stefanson’s “La Combinacion.” Alberto initially honed his percussion skills with conga/bongo master Armando Peraza (of Santana fame). Alberto is the consummate student of Afro-Cuban drum traditions, and has traveled to Cuba since 1982 to study and perform also studied Cuban percussion with Esteban Vega Bacallao “Cha-Cha,” Jesus Alfonso, Victoriano “Titi” Espinosa, Danilo Perez, of Los Munequitos De Matanzas, Tomas “Panga” Ramos of Cubanismo, and Manuel “Anga” Diaz, of Irakere, and Jose “Pepe” Espinosa of Afrocuban All-Stars and Aguanko.. He has performed nationally and internationally with Dizzy Gillespie, John Faddis, Arturo Sandoval, Jane Bunnett, Munequitos de Matanzas, and Frank Emilio Flynn.
He led the Latin Jazz group “Cubop” in the early 1990s, and co-led Tumbao Bravo for 10 years, until 2015, and has recorded with the Lunar Octet, Francisco Mora, Marcus Belgrave, Tumbao Bravo, and now with his group Aguanko.
Alberto has composed over 30 Latin Jazz pieces featured with Tumbao Bravo and Aguanko, critically acclaimed by radio hosts and in print media. These CDs of original compositions that have been featured on all the major jazz public radio stations throughout the U.S. Winner of the 2005, 2007 and 2013 Detroit Music Awards for Best Jazz Recording and Best World Music Band, Tumbao Bravo with Alberto performed at all the major Michigan jazz/music festivals including Detroit, Michigan, Lansing, Birmingham, Great Lakes Folk, Blissfest, Wheatland Dance and Ann Arbor. Alberto composed the title cut to Un Systema Para Todo, Tumbao Bravo’s 2009 release which was used as a soundtrack for the USA Network TV show, Burn Notice. Alberto has been a featured speaker and performer at the library program “The Rhythms of Cuba”, which has been presented at public libraries throughout southeastern Michigan. Other music performance venues include Chicago, Illinois, Toledo, Ohio, Duncan, Oklahoma,, Windsor, Ontario (Canada) and throughout Michigan.
Alberto was the originator and host of the Cuban Fantasy program on WEMU-FM for 10 years, the show continues to be popular with NPR listeners in the South East Michigan area.
Alberto was also on the board of directors at University Musical Society and was instrumental in hosting many Cuban music shows including Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Albita, El Canario, Arturo Sandoval, Afro Cuban All Stars, Jerry Gonzalez and Fort Apache, Buena Vista Social Club, Ibrahim Ferrer, Cubanismo! and Los Muñequitos de Matanzas.
Russ Miller (Saxophone, flautist)
Saxophonist, flautist, composer and arranger Russ Miller is currently an Associate Professor of Jazz Studies at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, where his duties include teaching jazz improvisation, jazz lab bands and jazz arranging and orchestration classes. His 30-year professional music career includes performances with Dizzy Gillespie, Buddy DeFranco, J.C. Heard, Rob McConnell, Jon Faddis, Joe Williams, Milt Hinton, Rosemary Clooney and Sammy Davis Jr. among others. In addition Russ has performed with his own group and with others at the Detroit International Jazz Festival, the Michigan Jazz Festival, Music on the Plaza in Grosse Pointe and at various local venues. Recorded performances include: J.C. Heard Orchestra – Some of This, Some of That (Hiroko Records), Bill Heid – Wet Streets (Savant Records), John Cooper Orchestra – Baecker Jazz Worship Service (Baecker Music Productions) and on Jeannine Miller’s recently released recording Two For The Road (PKO Records) which in addition to featuring Russ on sax and flute, features his arrangements of classic jazz standards for big band, woodwinds, brass, strings and jazz quartet.
Charlie Miller (trumpet and flugelhorn)
Charlie Miller has been performing professionally in the Metro Detroit area since 2011 and has played numerous styles and genres. Some playing credits include the Scott Gwinell Big Band, Paul Keller Big Band, RJ Spanglers Planet D Nonet, Aguanko, along with his own quartet and quintet. On top of being a performer, Charlie is also a private music teacher and is working towards a K-12 Music Teaching Certificate.
Rick Roe (piano)
Rick Roe won first place in the Great American Jazz Piano Competition in 1994, was twice a semifinalist in Thelonius Monk International Jazz Piano Competition, in 1993 and 1999, and has been a featured performer in the Jacksonville (Florida) Jazz, Savannah (Georgia) Onstage International Arts, Montreaux/Detroit Jazz, BiRickRoe(1)rmingham Jazz, Lansing Jazz, Flint Jazz, and Hawaii Jazz (with Frank Morgan) Festivals.
Mr. Roe has served as an educator/clinician at the University of Arizona, North Texas University, Michigan State University, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the University of Michigan, and the Montreaux/ Detroit Jazz Festival. He has given performances with Marcus Belgrave, Donald Walden, Rodney Whitaker, Frank Foster, Andrew Speight, Wycliffe Gordon, Gerald Cleaver, Victor Goines, Louis Smith, Randy Gelispie, Vincent York, Wendall Harrison, Dwight Adams, and many others. His recordings include “The Changeover” (1997), “Monk’s Modern Music” (1995), and “Sphere” (2005).
Patrick Prouty (Bass)
Patrick Prouty is a veteran bassist/composer from Detroit. In 1997, he earned the bass chair with legendary blues guitarist Johnnie Bassett. With Johnnie Bassett, Patrick toured the U.S., played his first gigs in Europe and got to work with pianist/organist Bill Heid. As Patrick’s profile as a bassist grew, he became interested in writing and arranging music. Along with his duties as a bassist, he began to write for many of the groups he was working with. He became the musical director of the Lucky Strike Swing Orchestra in 2001 and continues to write and arrange music for this eight piece group. In 2000, the Patrick Prouty Trio was formed as a vehicle to play Patrick’s own original music. The trio started working whenever Patrick was free from his duties as a sideman in the many groups he was playing with. With Bettye Lavette, Patrick toured relentlessly in the U.S. and made 24 European tours playing some of the most prestigious festivals all over the world including Bonaroo and the North Sea Jazz Festival.
In September of 2006, Patrick took his own working group, now a quartet, into Big Sky Studios in Ann Arbor to record nine of his original compositions. This session produced his first cd as a leader, The Charmed Life. Feeling the urge to lead his own group and play his own compositions, he left Bettye Lavette in October of 2007 to pursue his own career as a band leader. The Charmed Life was released in October of 2007 to rave reviews and won a Detroit Music Award for Best Jazz Recording in 2008. New American Daydream, Patrick’s fourth CD as a leader was released in November 2012 earned the Detroit Music Award for Best Jazz Recording.
Leonard King (Timbales, drum set)
Leonard King is a prolific Detroit based musician, a drummer, percussionist, arranger and composer who has extensive ties to the Detroit music community. He studied at Grinnell Brothers Studios, Lincoln Park, MI, and had his first professional performances with guitarist Ben Jones. He formed his first working group, The Jazz Sextet. Renamed Leonard King and the Soul Messengers in 1967, first recording at age 19 with this group. He then joined the Lyman Woodard Trio (later Organization). Performed with organist/pianist Woodard often for 35 years until his death in 2009., toured with vocalist Eddie Kendricks. He formed Strata Nova, working primarily in southeast Michigan, then also formed Proportioned Orchestra with bassist Rodney Whitaker. Hubie Crawford replaced Whitaker in 1992. Reformed in 2016 with Craig Kowalsky, Rocco Popielarski, and Sam Copperman. Formed the Visger Road Drum Band, then Oopapada with organist Chris Codish & guitarist Robert Tye. Member of saxophonist/flautist James Carter’s group. 1976-1980, and has been playing with Aguanko since early 2022. He was a radio host for 6 years for WDET, and has extensive knowledge of the history of Detroit musicians, locally, nationally and internationally. He joined Young Audiences of Michigan performing at schools, libraries, etc. and Omni Arts in Education performing at schools, libraries, etc. Received a Presidential Scholastic Award from Union Institute & University, and has a record company, Uuquipleu Records yoo-kee-ploo since 2000
e. Add Rico Rosario (Bongos, percussion) and photo
Rico was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, then lived in The Bronx, New Yor,k where his musical education took place. He is a versatile drummer, and Latin music percussionist. He currently lives in Toledo, Ohio
Chris Smith (trombone)
“Chris Smith really sounds terrific, and impressive. Sure footed trombone solos. Chris and I will someday discuss how he got up the nerve and audacity to begin one solo on an effortless High “F” that is *for real*. Living on the edge, of course, is the answer. As we all know, the edge is where it’s at. Plunger work by Chris is also outstanding. Very.” -J.J. Johnson, September, 1998
A trombonist fluent in many styles, Chris Smith is also an arranger and composer, multi-instrumentalist, bandleader, and educator. A second-generation jazz trombonist from New Orleans, Smith is one of those rare musicians who plays traditional and modern jazz equally well. He has an enormous collection of jazz trombone recordings, with a concentration on J.J. Johnson, Jack Teagarden and the virtually unknown Hollywood trombonist by the name of Abe Lincoln. In his improvised solos one can hear virtually the entire history of jazz trombone.
Coming up on the Southeast Michigan jazz scene in the 1990s, Smith quickly became one of the state’s top-call trombonists, and spent a lot of time on the road with the Detroit area’s great jazz artists. Chief among these must be the late, legendary trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, with whom Smith performed, recorded and toured since 1999. Chris also spent much time with James Dapogny’s Chicago Jazz Band, touring and recording from 1995 to the present. He has also been called upon to solidify the touring groups of New Orleans bandleaders Banu Gibson and Chris Clifton.
Former longtime lead trombonist of Ann Arbor’s Paul Keller Orchestra, Smith has also played lead trombone with the Christian McBride Big Band, the Detroit Jazz Festival Orchestra, the Basie Big Band under the direction of Dennis Wilson, the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, the Harry James Orchestra, and many other big bands, as well as the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Other top artists Smith has performed, toured, or recorded with include Wess Anderson, Dave Bennett, Dee Dee Bridgewater, James Dapogny, Nnenna Freelon, Curtis Fuller, Banu Gibson, Wycliffe Gordon, Jimmy Heath, Franz Jackson, Maria Muldaur, The Manhattan Transfer, Dennis Rowland, Steve Turre, Gerald Wilson, and many others.
Smith is informally known as an authority on jazz trombone legend J.J. Johnson, having transcribed his music, given Johnson-themed concerts, written several Johnson articles and reviews and interviewed him over the Internet. He was a consultant and major contributor to “The Musical World of J.J. Johnson by Louis Bourgois III and Joshua Berrett (1999, Scarecrow Press). His own 120-page discography of J.J. Johnson’s work as jazz trombonist, composer, and arranger lists every known recording with “Johnsonian” involvement.
Along with pianist James Dapogny, Chris co-leads Phil Ogilvie’s Rhythm Kings, (P.O.R.K.), a 10-piece band that plays jazz, dance, and popular music of the 1920s and 30s. Chris plays Sousaphone in P.O.R.K. but also occasionally trombone or even trumpet. P.O.R.K. can be heard every Sunday at the Zal Gaz Grotto in Ann Arbor from 5:00 till 8:00 p.m.
Smith’s academic degrees include a Bachelor of Music (Classical Performance) from Eastern Michigan University, and Master of Music (Improvisation) and Master of Arts (Musicology) degrees from the University of Michigan. He has taught music at Siena Heights University and the University of Michigan.