Saying Goodbye to the Jazz Rumbero
Rest in Peace, Long John Oliva
Published on LatinoLA: June 24, 2004
Juan "Long John" Oliva, an admired Cuban percusionist living in Los Angeles, died Sunday night in his sleep of an apparent heart attack. What a tragedy as Juan was a young man and appeared to be in good shape, proving once again that there's no assurance of anything in life, enjoy each day as if it might be your last, onde day it'll be exactly that.
Born in Havana, Cuba, Long John Oliva attended the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory where he received training in the polyrhhthmic traditions of the Afro-Cuban heritage. During his woodshed period, Long John also studied with legendary master drummers Tata Guines and
The Mariel boat lift took Long John to Puerto Rico where he performed with the island's most progressive Jazz and dance ensembles Zaperoko and Batacumbele. Once landed in the United States, John Oliva joined the Pan American band of the late great Latin legend Willie Bobo (who promptly baptized him "Long John").
After Willie Bobo passed away, Long John joined the guitar duo Strunz and Farah with whom John recorded and toured worldwide for almost seven years. Long John Oliva has also toured and recorded with Arturo Sandoval, Jackson Browne and Kenny Loggins.
Long John is a master of the Cuban liturgical drums known as Batas and many critics consider him the finest Tumbador on the West Coast.
If there is a better conga player in town than Long John Oliva, I'll eat my practice pad.- John Payne, L. A. Weekly
Oliva is a Conga wizard turned concert master.- Music Connection
Long John Oliva is Jazz with sugar.- La Opinion
Long John Oliva: jazz rumbero - Entrevista
Latin Beat Magazine, Nov, 2002
Born in Havana, Cuba, Juan "Long John" Oliva was raised in Belen, surrounded by the sounds of traditional Afro-Cuban music and its rhythms. His father, master percussionist Pancho Quinto, started his son's percussion training at the young age of three. By the time he was 15, Oliva was already studying with two of Cuba's greatest master percussionists--Tata Guines and Changuito, as well as attending the "Conservatorio de la Havana Amadeo Roldan." During his studies at
the conservatory he discovered the world of jazz music, which changed his outlook on music forever. He was greatly influenced by the music of Charlie Parker, Herbie Hancock and John Coltrane. Cuban jazz- influenced bands such as the Cuban Jazz Ensemble and Irakere further
fueled his appetite for jazz music.
In 1980, anxious to play, Oliva relocated to New York City to pursue his music career, performing with the groups of "Orlando Rios Puntilla" and "Nueva Generacion." Next he ventured to the island of Puerto Rico, where he joined the historical progressive ensemble "Batacumbele" with Puerto Rican percussionists Cachete Maldonado and Giovanni Hidalgo. While in Puerto Rico, he also co-
founded another very important cultural musical ensemble called "Zaperoko."
By 1986, Oliva found himself in California performing with the late great Latin jazz legend Willie Bobo. It was Bobo who baptized Oliva "Long John," for his ability to play lengthy conga solos. After
the passing of Willie Bobo, Oliva continued his career, performing with bands such as Strunz and Farah, Arturo Sandoval, Jackson Browne and Kenny Loggins. In the city of Los Angeles he brought his percussive talents and savvy to salsa bands, Latin jazz ensembles and eclectic groups such as "Mango Bang." Currently, Oliva leads his own group, the "AC Jazz Project" (from Los Angeles), which blends contemporary jazz forms with Afro-Cuban rhythms. They are presently touring and promoting their latest CD recording, Lucumi.
(Long John Oliva plays Toca Percussion and Paiste cymbals).
COPYRIGHT 2002 Latin Beat Magazine