Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez
You could study salsa, the Cuban music Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez (henceforth referred to as “Negro”) heard as a youth, and you could work out many of the typical conga, timbale, and bell parts. Similarly, you could spend years exploring its drumset cousin songo, but nothing can prepare you for the myriad of rhythms and tones Negro elicits second-nature from his drumkit. The man demonstrates drums respond readily to a gliding, graceful and confident touch.
Negro’s liquid smooth style confounds us. How does he slip from the ancient 6/8 Afro feel to common 4/4 time—meanwhile adjusting clavé variations underscoring each? All we can say is it feels good and calls up numerous folkloric rhythms. (Best case scenario, we’ll go home and find we’ve gained a little of his magic by osmosis). With Negro there’s this tight adherence to the sacred clavé, yet an embracing looseness that relaxes fellow musicians, with whom he tours relentlessly, and that warms audiences everywhere. This may be the key to how Negro is in such demand with the greats, including Santana, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Michel Camilo, Roy Hargrove, Italuba, the late Jack Bruce.
His hands drop gracefully and summon larger-than-life sounds. His legs lift and the ground begins rumbling. A little Santeria afoot, perhaps?