© Allen Spatz Photography

Dave Valentín


April 29, 1952—March 8, 2017

© Allen Spatz Photography
© Allen Spatz Photography


Enrique "Quique" Lucca


December 12, 1912—October 9, 2016



© Allen Spatz Photography
© Allen Spatz Photography


Ronald Armando Baró


January 24, 1956—June 30, 2016



© Allen Spatz Photography


Ray Rodriguez


September 26, 1948—April 17, 2016


© Allen Spatz Photography

Ismael "Pat" Quintana


June 3, 1937—April 16, 2016


© Allen Spatz Photography
© Allen Spatz Photography
© Allen Spatz Photography

Harry Adorno


May 31, 1962—November 26, 2015

© Allen Spatz Photography

Wayne Gorbea


Oct. 22, 1950—Sept. 15, 2015

© Allen Spatz Photography

Steven Vibert Pouchie


January 18, 1954—August 28, 2015

© Allen Spatz Photography

William “Willlie” Medina


April 15, 1936—February 22, 2015

© Allen Spatz Photography

Herman Badillo


August 21, 1929—December 3, 2014

© Allen Spatz Photography

Milton Cardona


November 21, 1945—September 19, 2014

© Allen Spatz Photography

 José Luis Feliciano Vega

July 3, 1935—April 17, 2014

Joey Pastrana, born in Santurce, Puerto Rico on August 22nd, 1942, died Febru-

ary 2nd, 2014.  “He was responsible for the strong movement of the Booglaoo in New York in the 60s,” says DJ and Viva La Música NY Style….Y Más® contributing writer José Calderón, “and for careers such as Ismael Miranda’s and Carlos Santos’.”  Released in 1967, Pastrana’sRumors” became an instant crossover hit.  A gifted timbalero, the internationally acclaimed vocalist was equally at home singing in Spanish and English.  He per-

sonified the New York Latin Sound. ◊◊◊





Trumpeter, vocalist, bandleader, arranger and compos-

er José Antonio Pabón, known in the Latin music world as Tony Pabón, died on January 21st, 2014.  Born on March 6th, 1939 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, he grew up in the Bronx and went on to become a member of the Pete Rodríguez Orchestra, one of the first bands to play Boogaloo in New York.  


Pabón was awarded four gold records for recordings

he did with Rodríguez.Pabón left Rodríguez’s  group

in 1970 and formed La Protesta. ◊◊◊

Gil Suarez (©Allen Spatz Photography)


By contributing writer José Calderón

Pianist Gil Suarez died September 13th, 2013  in New York City.  Born in New York of Puerto Rican parents, Suarez, former leader of the Hi-Latins and La Típica Ideal  orchestras, rejoined SonSublime.  A gifted composer and arranger, he recorded with and wrote for many notables including Johnny Pacheco, Ray Baretto, The Machito Orchestra, Orchestra Broadway and SonSublime.  He studied piano with renowned late Cuban pianist Luis Varona.  In his illustrious career, Suarez  traveled and performed in Europe and Africa, and all over the United States.

I met Gil Suarez  a couple of years ago and thankfully had the opportunity to tell him how much I admired his musical contributions.  I was shocked when he stated how much he admired me for my work.  A long-lasting friendship developed, and our correspondence via email made up for the fact that we did not see each other as often as we would have liked. He would fill in the blanks to many of my tumultuous messages with words of encouragement and worthy reminders.  I clearly remember our last email earlier this year, where he informed me not only of the arrival of his new grandchild, but also of his battle with cancer.  He seemed optimistic and motivated.  And he did fight a fierce battle, playing until the very end.

The most outstanding aspect of having known Gil Suarez  was not only conversing at liberty with him over many subject areas, but experiencing the sincere humility he displayed, despite the fact that he was a musical legend.  He leaves an unsurpassable legacy.  I thank the powers that be for granting me the chance to meet this great man, and will make sure to continue playing the music he left us, whether it be that of his own band or material from his many collaborations.

God rest your soul, Gil! ◊◊◊

By Jesse Herrero of Son Sublime

On Friday, September 13th, 2013 at around 11:30 p.m. we lost pianist, composer and arranger Gil Suarez.  He was seventy-nine years old.  He is and will always be an icon in the Latin music world, a gentle soul and a dearest friend of mine of forty years.  Gilbert Suarez died at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan.  On Tuesday, September 17th, he was laid to rest at Clover Leaf Memorial Park, in Woodbridge, N.J.

He was SonSublime’s pianist from 2002 - 2013.

In addition of being a musician, Gilbert Suarez was a retired examiner for the state compensation board of New York where he worked for thirty-six years, retiring in 1997.  He lived in Annadale, Staten Island, N.Y. since 1972.

Gil Suarez was a graduate of New York City’s Haaren High School.  He also served in the U.S. Army, from 1957 through 1959, as a specialist, stationed in Missouri.

Besides his son Dr. David Suarez and his daughter Lisa Suarez-Coluccio, survivors include his wife of forty-nine years, the former Roberta Hertz, and three brothers, Herman, Louis and Condo, a sister, Mary Logan, and four grandchildren.

"He was an awesome husband, father, grandfather and friend," said his son, Dr. David Suarez.  "He was kind, thoughtful, sincere, and had a great sense of humor and always put others before himself."

In his leisure time, he enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren.

Gil, my friend, you will be terribly missed by all. ◊◊◊

Producer Richard Marin died July 26, 2013. Marin  produced recordings for Orlando Marin (Fiesta Records), Louie Ramírez (Mercury), Manny Corchado (“Pow Wow,” Decca), Manny Roman with Tito Puente (Decca), Santos Colón (Fania) and “Boogaloo in Apartment 41” (Decca), “Machito Goes Memphis” (RCA) and “The Nitty Sexter” (RCA). A good friend of the late Tito Puente, Marin served in Korea and was given a funeral with military honors. ◊◊◊


Master percussionist Steve Berrios died July 24, 2013  in New York City. He was sixty-eight years old. Berrios performed with the bands of Tito Puente, Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach and Grover Washington, Jr.  He was a founding member of Jerry González’s Fort Apache Band. ◊◊◊

Kenneth Giordano (Willie's Steak House)


Kenneth Giordano, owner of Willie’s Steak House, an iconic Latin jazz establishment on Westchester Avenue in the Bronx, died at age seventy on July 15, 2013 at his home in North Carolina. Fulfilling his dream to bring Latin jazz to the Bronx, Giordano presented performances by legends who became regulars at Willie’s, including Dave Valentín, Johnny Pacheco, Willie Colón, Eddie Palmieri and the late Tito Puente. Willie Rodriguez & his Latin Jazz Group performed regularly and in more recent days, salsa acts including The Orlando Marin Orchestra, the late Luisito Ayala’s band and Los Hermanos De León began performing at Willie’s. Bill Cosby, the late Celia Cruz, Al Pacino and Marc Anthony  were among Giordano’s patrons. “Kenny,” as he was known by many, was loved and respected, even by competitors in the area, and will be sorely missed. His widow Janet plans to keep the restaurant and the entertainment going. ◊◊◊

Ibrahim González (©2011 Allen Spatz Photography)

Broadcaster, musician, photographer and community activist Ibrahim González died June 3, 2013  at age fifty-seven. Pianist, conguero, bandleader and composer González  was co-founder of Alianza Islamica, one of the country’s first Islamic-Latino organizations. Seen on Bronxnet TV, he was also a popular radio host and producer at WBAI. Bronx Borough President Ruben Díaz  characterized González as “a pillar in our community.” ◊◊◊

Pianist and arranger Gil López passed away at age 82, from heart surgery complications on April 3rd, 2013. “Born in East Harlem in 1929, Gil López would be drawn into music at an early age," says WKCR Radio’s Louis Laffitte. “A son of El Barrio, he along with teenage friend and singer Willie Torres, played with local group Papi y Su Rumberos. Torres would go on to sing with The Joe Cuba Sextet and López would go on, for a short time, to play piano with the legendary Tito Rodríguez. In 1949, as a member of Los Lobos Del Mambo, López appeared on Rodríguez's first hit 'Mango Del Monte.'


"He became a longtime member of the Tito Puente Orchestra. In the 1970's it was his close association with conguero, bandleader and Fania legend Ray Barretto that he will be best remembered for. He appears on the 1975 recording simply titled 'Barretto,' where his piano and arrangements helped score hits such as 'Guarare,' 'Ban Ban Quere' and 'Canto Abacua.' In more recent years, his arranging skills could be heard on recordings by Jimmy Bosch and his Grammy award winning close friend Oscar Hernández and his Spanish Harlem Orchestra." ◊◊◊




Luisito Ayala (©2012 Allen Spatz Photography)



(all biographical content obtained from


Lead vocalist and percussionist Luisito Ayala splashed onto the Latin music scene at the age of eighteen when he headed to Panama from his native Puerto Rico with mentor Roberto Roena and his Apollo Sound. He hit the ground running and never looked back, traveling the world with such legends as Rafael Cortijo y su Combo, The Tito Puente Orchestra, The Machito Orchestra, Joe Cuba, Larry Harlow, The Lebron Brothers, Eddie Palmieri, Carlos "Patato" Valdes, Kako, Bobby Valentín, Santiago Ceron, Ralphi Santi, the Ray Santos Orchestra, Orquesta Yambo, Orquesta Tambo, Borincuba, and Johnny López “El Bravo.”

Ayala was a regular in New York clubs with Cruz Control, Grupo Caribe, The Peter Theodore Orchestra, The Boys Harbor Conservatory of Music Orchestra, The Hank Lane Orchestra, Direct Latin Influence, and his own orchestra. Ayala also performed bomba y plena, the folkloric music of Puerto Rico, with various groups including the Familia Cepeda and Carambu.

For over forty years, Ayala performed with the hottest orchestras in Latin music. He was known internationally and featured regularly in New York's clubs and most elegant event venues.

As co-founder of Direct Latin Influence, Ayala helped bring Latin flavor to the world-renowned Rockefeller Center’s Rainbow Room, to the delight of its ballroom dance crowd. DLI ended its six year run with the honor of performing at The Rainbow Room's final evening. After the Rainbow Room, Ayala and DLI became regulars at the Edison Ballroom at 48th & Broadway in New York City.

Ayala played every major club and venue in New York City, including the Copacabana, the Blue Note, Latin Quarter, SOB’s, Joe’s Pub, El Corso, Tavern on the Green, the Waldorf Astoria, Cipriani’s Wall Street, The Yale Club, BB King’s, and the Hilton Hotel.

Some of the festivals & other events where Luisito Ayala performed:

Tempo-Latino, one of the largest Latin festivals in Europe, held in Vic-Fezensac, in the south of France

La Feria de Cali, one of the largest festivals in Latin America

Festival del Callao in Lima Peru

Ravinia Jazz Festival, Chicago

Detroit International Jazz Festival

Musikfest, a ten-day annual festival in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

The Hollywood Bowl, with the Palladium Big Three Orchestra

Lincoln Center’s Midsummer Night Swing

Puerto Rican Day Parade, New York City

Thank you, Luisito, for your contributions to our music, to the dancers, to the musicians you learned from, worked with and mentored, and for the doors you opened.

And that smile, oh, that smile, and that contagious sense of humor, and happiness and energy that infected us all while in your presence. A consummate artist, hard-working professional, a classy gentlemen, and all around phenomenal, humble human being.

Father and friend – you will be missed, but never forgotten. Sonero de siempre. Un negrito de sociedad con un cache inigualable y inolvidable. We love you Luisito! ◊◊◊




I first met Luisito over thirty-five years ago, when Louie Bauzó brought him to a rehearsal with Tambo. Since then, we have been friends and have performed together in at least eight different bands. He had a smile that would light up any room, and a musical magnetism that lit up every stage. It was a privilege to perform with him for the past ten years in Direct Latin Influence. His sudden death was a shock to all of us. Now, that great band up in heaven has a great sonero to join them. I will miss you, Luisito. ◊◊◊




I, like so many others, am heartbroken over the untimely passing of Luisito Ayala on December 11, 2012. The term “sonero” is often thrown about carelessly. Luisito Ayala was a true, extraordinary and underrated sonero; a gentleman, a class act, a shining spirit, and on a personal level, a friend for many years, one who always believed in me. (Sometimes, I think it hurts that much more when we lose someone who believes in us). I never dreamt, when he stopped by The Nile one Friday last October, that it would be the last time I‘d ever see him. When we spoke that evening, he was brimming with energy, ideas, plans and optimism.

It is because of individuals like Luisito Ayala that I remain in this business. I dedicate this issue and every issue of Viva La Música NY Style® to his memory.

May Luisito Ayala rest in peace, and may his family, friends and associates be granted comfort. ◊◊◊





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