Pete Escovedo Plays a Birthday Bash at Yoshi’s

Even after all theses years, Mr. E at 82 remains a great Latin force.


Pete Escovedo celebrates his 82nd birthday with Bay Area gigs. Photo courtesy Pete Escovedo

Courtesy Pete Escovedo

Pete Escovedo has been a Los Angeles resident for most of the 21st  century, but his heart and soul are inextricably tied to the East Bay, where he was born and became a hero of Latin music. The percussionist made his mark in the mid-1950s, playing his first professional gig opening for the Count Basie Orchestra at the California Hotel’s Gold Room, a leading venue for top black acts.

Hailing from a Mexican-American family, Escovedo has always treated music as a familial endeavor. His siblings Coke and Phil (on percussion and bass, respectively) joined him in the Escovedo Brothers Latin Jazz Band in the 1950s and early ’60s, and the orchestra he brings to Yoshi’s on July 14-15 to celebrate his 82nd  birthday features several of his children, including percussionist Juan Escovedo and vocalist Peter Michael Escovedo. He’s also celebrating the release of a new album, Back to the Bay, a smoking, R&B-laced project that combines longtime Bay Area collaborators like bassist Marc van Wageningen, guitarist Ray Obiedo, and saxophonist Melecio Magdaluyo, with top-shelf LA players like saxophonist/flutist Justo Almario and R&B great Bobby Caldwell (one of several guest vocalists).

The album art doesn’t feature one of Escovedo’s canvases, but Escovedo has become an accomplished painter, and he opens a new exhibition at Oakland’s Sanchez Contemporary art gallery on July 11 (he also performs with his band at Angelica’s in Redwood City on July 13, his actual birthday). What’s made Escovedo such an enduring musician is that he absorbed all the sounds around him. While he fell in love with Afro-Cuban rhythms listening to Francisco Aguabella, Cal Tjader, and his legendary conguero Mongo Santamaria, Escovedo draws on his experience playing Latin rock with Santana and Azteca, as well as East Bay funk, gospel, and soul. The sound is trademark Mr. E, as in excellent.

July 14-15, Yoshi’s, 510 Embarcadero West, $29-$75, 510-238-9200,

This report was originally published in our sister publication, the East Bay Monthly.

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