• Latin Jazz Legend Pete Escovedo, Sheila E’s dad, taking it back to the Bay

    By Dr. Alan Carlos Hernandez on May 6, 2018

    SAN FRANCISCO (Herald de Paris) —  Legendary Latin Jazz Percussionist Pete Escovedo is releasing a new album entitled Back to the Bay!

    Produced and Arranged by son Peter Michael Escovedo, back to the Bay is a collection of ten “Old School” Soul & R&B hits from the late 70’s and early 80’s, re-arranged and transformed into an explosion of Latin Jazz articulated through a fourteen-piece Latin Jazz Orchestra.

    In the late 70’s the San Francisco Bay Area was thriving with musicians combining multiple genres of music, including R&B, Jazz, Folk, and Latin, melting them into what is now referred to as “the Bay Area Sound.” The sound included legendary acts like Santana, Tower of Power, Sly and the Family Stone, Graham Central Station, The Doobie Brothers, as well as Pete’s own group Azteca.

    Back to the Bay encompasses the feel of that “Bay Area Sound” and is meant to be played from top to bottom just like it was done back in the day. Pete said, “Great songs, great arrangements and great musicians make the perfect ingredients for this amazing musical experience”.

    Pete is the father of musicians Sheila Escovedo (Sheila E.), Peter Michael Escovedo, and Juan Escovedo; and dancer, manager and promoter Zina Escovedo. His brothers are fellow recording artists Alejandro EscovedoCoke Escovedo, Javier Escovedo (The Zeros), Bobby Escovedo, and Mario Escovedo (The Dragons).

    He is the biological grandfather of Nicole Richie, daughter of son Peter Michael Escoveo. Mr. E, or “Pops” 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. As a young boy he would sit on the steps of nightclubs and watch musicians play. Music became his outlet. When he was 15 years old he began to also sketch and paint on wood or cardboard. Anything he could get his hands on, he would start to draw.

    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.

    Sheila E. with her father, Pete Escovedo

    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 AztecaEscovedo has also frequently led his own Latin jazz band, sometimes also including his other children JuanPeter Michael, and ZinaPete Escovedo has recorded as a leader for Fantasy (co-leading dates with Sheila E.) and Concord (including their Crossover, Picante, and Vista subsidiaries).

    He has performed in a countless number of settings including with such notables as Herbie HancockWoody HermanCal Tjader, and Tito Puente, among many others.

    Pete did not know that his love for music and art combined would change his life forever. He is known for his dynamic, soulful, and utterly unique live performances, solo albums, session work, and fine-art paintings.

    Escovedo describes the ups and downs of his extraordinary life and career, starting with his early years navigating family disconnection and poverty. He then artfully narrates his more than six decades as a devoted family-man nurturing his musical progeny, while he also chronicles key moments in his own groundbreaking musical career. And along the way, he provides a fascinating depiction of his collaborative adventures with some of the very best in musical history.

    It’s a thoughtful and revealing look into the life of a musical icon, as well as a vulnerable exploration of the private questions, yearnings, costs, and victories that can accompany the passionate pursuit of an artist’s dreams.

    He’s still actively performing, recording, and painting, and he has no plans to stop any time soon.

    Herald de Paris Senior Editor Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez has known Pete since 1976 and was the first to interview Pete and his Daughter Shelia when she was just 14, at KFRC Radio in San Francisco.

    AC: Coming from a traditional Latino family what steered you towards music, and wasn’t music a career risk at the time? Isn’t being a musician a tough way to make a living and eventually raise a family?

    PE: No Matter where you come from, being a Musician is a hard road to travel. Raising a family at a young age and not knowing if you are going to be successful makes it even harder.

    AC: When did you realize that you could play, what did you listen to, who did you listen to and does those sounds still inform your musical palette?

    PE: I didn’t realize I could play until I landed my first real gig. I was 18 yrs. old. I had been listening to jazz but found that Latin music mixed in with jazz made it more interesting for me. And it still does.

    AC: You one of Oakland’s favorite Sons, what is about Oakland that made it such a soulful, funky, occasionally artistic dangerous place?

    PE: Oakland was and is, a great place to be brought up in. A hub for all styles of music and so many great musicians who are now famous because of that. The Bay Man. It’s where it’s at.

    AC: You where one of the major players when the whole Latin Rock scene happened to the bay area, how would you define the genre of Latin Rock?

    PE: My Brother Coke and I were playing at a Club in San Francisco, when Carlos Santana and members of his band came by. He invited us to their rehearsal on the mission. We would hang out with them and jam all night. That is when we first heard Latin Rock. It was a great time for all; Santana, Malo, Sapo, and Azteca.

    AC: Tell us the experience of touring with Santana for those years, what was the good and bad? How did that experience move you forward as an artist?

    PE: It was an incredible experience for me as I got to travel all over the world. And to play with a Band that was making History. It was a step up the ladder. Learning how and what to do in the Business.

    AC: What was the vision of the band Azteca, I know you had lots of offered but signed with Colombia because they had Santana?

    PE: Yes, After Coke and I came home from a long tour with Santana, Coke and I wanted to start our own band. It became Azteca, A band dedicated to writing and playing good music. All of this was my Brother Coke’s ideas. We signed with Columbia because Coke had wanted it that way.

    AC: People still talk about and listen to Azteca, what caused the project to shut down? Didn’t you have the Who’s’ Who of jazz cats playing with you?

    PE: Yes, we had the best musicians in the Bay Area But because of bad management and drugs, the band folded.

    AC: At one point you brought Sheila into the band. What was it about Shelia, that made you know she had major rock star potential?

    PE: We always knew She was special. Nothing but God given Talent.

    AC: Throughout the years you have been in and out of the nightclub business, why nightclubs and which were some of your favorite joints?

    PE: Before I became a Musician, one of my dreams was to own a Club. Every one of the clubs was a labor of love for the music and the musicians. I truly enjoyed it. My favorite was Mister E’s in Berkeley.

    A real Jazz Club.

    AC: Tell us about your art, you are a renowned artist, what kind of training have you had, what kind of subjects do you do, where can people see some of your incredible work?

    PE: My Art has become full circle. I started painting at an early age. I had a scholarship, a job, and a future in the art world, but gave it up to play music. Now I have had my art in gallery’s and in The Blackhawk Museum in Danville. Also, in every room at the Cupertino Hotel in Cupertino CA.

    I will be showing my work at Sanchez Contemporary Art at 20th & Telegraph in Oakland CA. July 11 until June 11, 2018. You can view my art on my website www.peteescovedo.com

    AC: Tell about your experiences with Prince? Did at any time did you feel that Sheila’s involvement with him?

    PE: Meeting and knowing Prince was truly a Blessing. He was a special kind of person and musician. Very, Very, talented. And yet a lonely person who devoted his entire life to performing his music. Sheila made her own choices and her own career.

    I was lucky enough to perform with Him and to Record at Paisley Park.

    AC: Speaking of stories, you have just written a book, “Life in the Key of E”, tell us about the book and why critics are saying it is a fantastic read?

    PE: I thought it was about time that I write my story. Everyone has a story, Mine is about life as a musician, The ups and downs of the business. Raising a Family and the struggles along the way. A story to leave my grandchildren and great grandchildren. Letting them know who their grandfather is.

    AC: You just turned 80 and not slowing down a bit, how do you react when Jerry Garcia used to say what a long strange trip it’s been, has it been a strange trip it’s been, do you think it has been harder for you because you have been a Latin/Jazz artist?

    PE: Yes, I would say it has been harder because of the style of music that I love and chose to play. Latin Jazz. Will I sell a million? I don’t think so. Will I fill a stadium? I don’t think so. But the music remains true even when I am gone. At 82 I have done what I started out to do.

    I have performed all over the world. I have recorded Albums and cd’s. I have performed with some of the Greatest Musicians on the planet. And now People are buying my art work. Most of all I have a Loving Family. It has been a remarkable journey and I have been truly Blessed.

    AC: Tell us about the Back to the Bay Album? What is the vision for this project? Who is on it, what kind of tunes?

    PE: I have gone Back to The Bay with songs from the old school days. But with a Latin Jazz twist. Guest Artist include Bobby Caldwell, Howard Hewitt, Sy Smith, Sheila E, Juan E, Peter Michael E.

    AC: You still tour with your Family can you tell us about your touring schedule and what can people expect when they come to a show?

    PE: Yes, we will be touring this summer. Check my website for dates and venues. Expect to see and hear the E family at its best.

    AC: Is there any band you always wanted to be in? Someone you wanted to work with?

    PE: I had the pleasure of working with Tito Puente, Billy Cobham, Stephen Stills, Santana, Prince, Azteca, Sheila E. George Duke, Woody Herman, Herbie Hancock, and the list goes on. So, the answer is NO.

    AC: Any regrets?

    PE: Still looking to win a Grammy.

    AC: What are some things still on your bucket list?

    PE: To perform in Cuba and Montreux

    AC: In teams of legacy, when it’s all said and done, how would you like History to remember you?

    PE: As a Great Father who put Family First And fulfilled His Destiny.

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