Luis Conte

percussionist Luis ContePercussion great Luis Conte’s new album, Marimbula, is a trio disc featuring bassist Jimmy Johnson and guitarist Barry Coates. Conte describes the music as a unique mixture of ideas. “It’s a marriage of traditional percussion in every style,” he says. “Marimbula is an instrument–a bass kalimba. On the title track, I play the role of the bass with the marimbula while Jimmy Johnson plays the melody of the song. I sing on that particular song, too. It’s a traditional form of music from Changui, Cuba.”

One of the most in-demand percussionists in the world today, Conte has been fitting in the recording of Marimbula while doing his usual globetrotting and sessions with such artists as Beck and James Taylor, as well as playing on movie soundtracks such as Hairspray, Transformers, Rush Hour 3, and Superbad.

Since recording his last solo disc in 2001, Conte was inspired to do another, but couldn’t come up with the right direction. Then he ran into an old friend. “Barry Coates and I were in a band twenty-something years ago,” Conte says, “and I recently bumped into him. You usually run into someone and the rap is, ‘Man, you sound great,’ ‘Yeah, so do you. We should get together and play.’ But Barry meant it. I went over to his house, and it was, ‘We should get a bass player.’ So we invited Jimmy, and when we played, I knew I wanted to record this group. Advertisement

“I have a studio in my house,” Luis continues, “so we began working on ideas and collaborating on the music. Barry and I went through some stuff I had written, and he showed me things he had written, and we put these ideas together. Barry would sit behind the board and run Pro Tools and play electric guitar, and Jimmy Johnson would record direct. I played something live in the room–a shaker, bongo, whatever. Then I had the studio to myself to add more percussion.”

For more on Conte, check out his Web site,


Robyn Flans