Basic Background Info
Raúl Pineda Roque was born with musical history in his veins--his grandfather was the saxophonist Nefer MilnÈs. He brought little Raúl along to Tropicana rehearsals. Even though his grandson was a mere five years old in 1976, Nefer could already sense amazing musical potential within him. It was he who enrolled Raúl Pineda and his older brother, L·zaro, in the Marianao Garcia Caturla Conservatory and then the El Vedado Cervantes Conservatory four years later.
These conservatories only offered a strict classical curriculum. Raúl Pineda claims that he, 'never saw a drum set during the years [he] spent there.' Instead, he applied the classical snare techniques he was learning to practice pads. Due to a lack of other drum kit accessories, Raúl Pineda developed 'the velocity of [his] manual technique to a high degreeÖthatís what the Cuban drumming school is all about.' Despite whatever attempts the schools may have made to ensure the purity of influence on Raúl Pineda, he was exposed to jazz and rumba on the sizzling rooftops of Havana.
When he came of age, Raúl Pineda was forced into compulsory military service. Fortunately, he joined the military band and was able to avoid active duty. After he was discharged, Raúl Pineda joined musical forces with Carlos Alfonso's Grupo in 1990 and remained part of the act for the next seven years. Then in 1998, Raúl Pineda was recruited by Chucho Valdes for his quartet's first Blue Note release. The record was called Bele Bele en La Habana, and it sold over 16,000 copies in the first week. When Chucho extended the invitation to be a permanent member of the touring quartet, Raúl Pineda eagerly accepted. Over the next three and half years, Raúl Pineda toured with Chucho Valdes and his band. While he was touring and playing the major jazz festivals, Raúl Pineda also offered his services as a clinician and brought his Afro-Cuban rhythm styles to students all over the world.
In 2000, Raúl Pineda returned to Cuba to work as a studio musician for seven months. On being a studio musician in Cuba, Raúl Pineda says, 'the most interesting thing is that you don't know what's coming whenever you're asked to come to the studio. This generates a high level of creativity.'
By April 2001, Raúl Pineda had defected to the United States and set up a home in Long Beach, California. Currently, Raúl Pineda wears many hats as a studio musician, an independent musician, a teacher at California State University, a clinician for drummers of all proficiencies who seek his unique Afro-Cuban and rumba influenced beats, and co-leader of the Afro-Cuban Latin Jazz Project. Of the ACLJP he says, 'We are motivated by the spiritual need of importing the type of Cuban jazz personified by certain groups that deeply influenced us in the past, such as Grupo Proyecto, Afrocuba, Opus 13, etc.'
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