Octogenarian Cuban musician Candido Camero, who celebrates a birthday with a return engagement in downtown Miami, works today at the same job he has had for the past 65 years: A-list conga player and innovator. He needs no resumé. But if he did, it would read something like this: Previous employers Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Machito, Ray Charles, Tito Puente, Quincy Jones, Charles Mingus, Lionel Hampton, the Fania All-Stars, Dinah Washington, Joe Williams, Tony Bennett, Chico O'Farrill, Sonny Rollins, and Celia Cruz, among others.
In 1983, Shep Pettibone remixed Camero's version of "Jingo," written by African master percussionist Babatunde Olatunji. It became a hit for the Latin/disco label Salsoul, which also released Camero's "Dancin' and Prancin'" in 1979. But like Mongo Santamaria, another Cuban who kept the skins singing past his big eight-oh, Candido Camero is really about the relaxed, easy, big-smile approach to mesmerizing, searing Afro-Cuban jazz. Andres Solar