Pete Escovedo

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Standout Latin/jazz session musician and, with brother Coke, co-founder of Azteca; father of Sheila E.
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Live from Stern Grove Festival
Pete Escovedo has been a major force in Latin music since the late '60s, and his versatility has resulted in success in several areas of music, from Latin jazz and salsa to rock and Latin pop. Growing up in Oakland, California, Escovedo was surrounded by music throughout his childhood. His father sang with some Latin big bands. Pete played the saxophone in high school and soon switched to vibes. When pianist Ed Kelly needed a percussionist, Escovedo found his calling. He and his younger brother, the late Coke Escovedo, both developed quickly as percussionists and became greatly in demand for gigs in Northern California. With their youngest brother Phil Escovedo playing bass, the Escovedo Brothers Latin Jazz Sextet was formed. The group broke up in 1967 when Carlos Santana hired both Pete and Coke for his Latin rock group. After touring with Santana for the next three years (he has rejoined him a few times since), Pete and Coke founded the 14-piece Latin big band Azteca, recording two albums for Columbia. When the band grew to 24 members, it became too expensive to keep together, although the music was quite impressive. Since that time, Pete has performed in a countless number of settings including with such notables as Herbie Hancock, Woody Herman, Cal Tjader, and Tito Puente, among many others. He started using his daughter Sheila E. in the mid-'70s when she was still a teenager; they first recorded together in 1976 with Billy Cobham and have worked together many times since. Since Azteca, Escovedo has also frequently led his own Latin jazz band, sometimes also including his other children Juan, Peter Michael, and Zina. Pete Escovedo has recorded as a leader for Fantasy (co-leading dates with Sheila E.) and Concord (including their Crossover, Picante, and Vista subsidiaries). He kicked off 2013 with the large band Live from Stern Grove. While his two sons are in the lineup, so are luminaries such as pianist Joe Rotondi, and trumpeters Louis Fasman and Mario Gonzales. The set also includes guest performances from Sheila E., saxophonist Dave Koz, guitarist Ray Obiedo, and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval. Escovedo toured and played residencies for most of the next three years. When he did return to the studio, it was to apply his Latin jazz vision to everything from Bay area classics to vintage soul tunes. To that end, he enlisted singers such as Sy Smith, Howard Hewett, Bobby Caldwell (on a salsa read of his vintage hit "What Won't You Do for Love"), and others to work on Back to the Bay. After its release in the late spring/early summer of 2018, the set entered the jazz album charts at number 25.