Home Books Musician, Bandleader, Musical Director, Producer, Author Quique Talavera Dies at 76

Musician, Bandleader, Musical Director, Producer, Author Quique Talavera Dies at 76

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Enrique “Quique” Talavera had a long and varied career as a percussionist, composer, arranger, bandleader, musical director, and, recently, an author.
He was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico. When he was thirteen, Talavera’s parents gave him a set of toy drums as a gift, which sparked his interest in percussion. Later, he managed to earn enough money from his paper route to buy himself a set of timbales.
Talavera’s initial influences were the orchestras of Lito Peña, Mario Ortiz, Tito Puente, and Rafael Cortijo. However, a performance by the singer and bandleader Tito Rodríguez at the Escambron Hotel and Beach Club inspired him to pursue a career as a professional musician. 
In 1964, at sixteen, Talavera joined Pito Suarez’s orchestra. He also appeared on various television shows as the house drummer and studied music theory and piano. 
In 1972, Talavera established an orchestra and served as an accompanist for the famous singer Sophy. Moreover, he worked with the musical director Pedro Rivera-Toledo to create compositions for renowned singers Lucesita Benitez and Danny Rivera. He also arranged recordings for the global group Flor de Loto (1975-1978) and the TV show Show de Carmita (1976-1978)
Talavera’s career as a musical director skyrocketed after he performed with singer Sophy at Club Caribe and toured worldwide with José Luis Rodríguez, “El Puma,” and his orchestra.
In 1982, Talavera returned to Puerto Rico, worked with the internationally renowned Julio Angel and Trio Los Condes, and served as the musical director for the house band at Club Caribe. He accompanied many well-known artists there, such as Marco Antonio Muñiz, Iris Chacon, The Fifth Dimension, Chita Rivera, and Danny Rivera. Talavera also arranged music for various performers and groups, including the Puerto Rico Symphonic Orchestra, Armando Manzanero, Chucho Avellanet, Ednita Nazario, and the Trio Borinquén
In 2021, I spoke with Talavera and asked what prompted him to put pen to paper. He replied, “On multiple occasions, some friends and fellow musicians have told me that it is necessary to document this era since the new generations have no idea what those times were like, where there were more jobs in music than there were musicians available to do them.”
Talavera explained, “In 1959, with the arrival of Fidel Castro to power, Havana ceased to be a tourist destination for North Americans, and, from 1960 to 1980, Puerto Rico became the “Entertainment Capital of the Caribbean.” This metamorphosis could only be compared to what was happening in Las Vegas. During this period, artists such as Liza Minnelli, Tom Jones, Sammy Davis, Danny Rivera, Chucho Avellante, Iris Chacon, the Fifth Dimension, Frank “Machito” Grillo, Tito Puente, and the Temptations often performed at various hotels and nightclubs. Live orchestras often backed these performances, and a typical day during that era might consist of live music by the pool in the afternoons, dinner and a show at El San Juan’s Tropicoro, and dancing to live music at Armando’s Hideaway in Condado until 6 AM.
Talavera’s book contains more than 400 historical photographs depicting hotels, nightclubs, lounges, and private establishments, many of which no longer exist. He also documents the artists, musical directors, producers, arrangers, and recording studios. He includes first-hand insights into the musician’s union, radio and television broadcasting, festivals and publicity, and the emergence of urban music in the 90s.
Metamorfosis Musical Del Puerto Rico also documents the histories of hotels, such as the El Escambron Beach Club, The Hotel Americana, The Caribe Hilton, The Hotel Cerromar, The Condado Beach Vanderbilt, The Hotel Dorado Beach, El Conquistador, El Convento, La Concha, the Mayaguez Hilton Resort, The Hotel Normandie, The Sheraton, and The Marriot, among many others.
And nightclubs and lounges, such as The Hipocampo, El Josco, El Sombrero, Monte Casino, Tres Palmas, Club Caborrojeño, San Juan 2000, Collage, Lomas del Sol, Tropicana, Ochos Puertas, Granada Lounge, La Rue, and Club del Campo.
In his work, Talavera discusses the establishment of the jazz scene. He notes that the 1960s marked the start of the jazz boom, with musicians like Charlie Rodrigues, a Portuguese saxophonist who co-founded the San Juan Jazz Workshop, moving to Puerto Rico and organizing events to promote the genre as well as other artists who contributed to developing and popularizing jazz on the island. Also, the establishment of the Puerto Rico Heineken Jazz Festival in 1991.
During the 1970s, Puerto Rico’s music scene underwent substantial changes. Large venues, stadiums, and outdoor locations became the norm for musical performances, and traditional singers and crooners gradually lost popularity. Sadly, rising crime rates led to a decrease in the number of musical events. Additionally, many individuals turned to alternative forms of entertainment, such as cable television and videos.
The book concludes with a hopeful message for the current and future generations of musicians. Talavera regrets seeing performers on TV shows who are not being paid. He encourages musicians to form a union and stresses the strength in unity. Talavera also reminds us that times have changed, but there will always be opportunities for disciplined, professional, and persevering artists.
Today, Quique Talavera is the musical director for the Carolina Musical Band, and his orchestra is highly sought-after for conventions and special events.
“Metamorfosis Musical Del Puerto Rico” highlights a glorious but often overlooked era in the island’s history. I highly recommend it.
UPDATE: On June 3, 2024 Maestro Quique Talavera transitioned. At the time of his death, he was musically active and about to release an English edition of his groundbreaking book, “Metamorfosis Musical Del Puerto Rico—Del 1959 Al Presente.” His death marks the end of a critical period in the history of Puerto Rican music.
SOURCES
El Adoquin Times – Fallece Un Gran Musico Puertorriqueño (June 4, 2024).
Mangual, Rudy – Puerto Rico’s Drum Master, Quique Talavera (Latin Beat Magazine, February 2007, Volume 17, Number 1)
Wilbert Sostre – Boricua Jazz: La Historia del Jazz Puertorriqueño Desde Rafael Hernández a Miguel Zenón (Spanish, Edition, 2020).
Talavera, Quique – Metamorfosis Musical De Puerto Rico Del 1959 Al Presente (Spanish Edition, 2020)
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