José "Cochise" Claussell
José "Cochise" Claussell
One of ten siblings, mother Aurora Claussell-Roman was devoted to listening to and collecting music. Afro-Caribbean records by artists including Benny Moré, Casino De La Playa, Orquesta Aragon, Machito, Cortijo, Eddie Palmieri, Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez et al, created a circus of rhythms and melodies with a diverse selection of recordings, serving an essential part of his nurturing, a ritual eventually inspiring the entire family to religiously collect, listen to, and regard music as sacred.
As a child beating on everything he got his hands on, creating his first drum set from empty one-gallon paint cans, using refrigerator shelves for cymbals. At seven he asked his brother Larry, a drummer and bandleader in the 1960's-70's, for lessons, and at school after initially being given the trombone and trumpet to play, soon nagged his music teacher to assign him the drums ―something he took to naturally― and the stimulating effects of sound produced drove aspirations to become a musician, so by the age of nine he began to perform with seasoned rock and funk bands from the neighbourhood.
After his brother gave him the debut album by Carlos Santana, he completely changed musical direction, all the Afro-Caribbean music that his mother played took on a new and profound meaning, and whilst listening intensively to any record he could, he took instruction on Tumbadoras (Congas) from José Bermudez, the percussionist in his brother's band. His first professional gig at the tender age of 13 was as stage manager/percussionist with the Rafael Batista Orchestra, a Merengue band that also played Salsa music, the orchestra alternated between the bigger names of the era, such as Tito Puente, Tipica 73, Ray Barretto and so on, during this period he met many sidemen who went on to become legends, teaching him Afro Puerto-Rican and Cuban folklore in addition to helping develop his drumming within a professional context.
In Afro-Caribbean music the artist that stood out was Eddie Palmieri. His sound, music, sidemen and execution were all rooted in swing and natural funk, and like James Brown, took the artform to a political level, voicing the many racial and socio-economic imbalances the latin community were experiencing, as well as the emotional depth reached spiritually through the art of music. So in 1989 his dream to perform alongside him was realized when he got the call to sit in for the great Anthony Carrillo on bongo at the Puerto Rican Day Parade. He continued playing drummer/timbalero under various configurations of Palmieri's group, has travelled lots and participated in eleven records. Three nominated for Grammy's: "Palmas" (1994), "Arete" (1995), and winning the Grammy Award for Best Salsa Album in 2000 for "Masterpiece" (the historical collaboration between Eddie Palmieri and Tito Puente).
He's also performed live with notables including Nuyorican Soul, Louie Vega, La India, Larry Harlow, Lalo Rodriguez, Hilton Ruiz, Grace Jones, Donald Harrison, Marvin Santiago, Conrad Herwig, Dave Samuels, Randy Weston, Carlos "Patato" Valdez, Daniel Santos,Nestor Sanchez, Charlie Sepulveda, Jephté Guillaume, Pete "El Conde" Rodriguez, Victor Manuelle, Chico Hamilton, John Santos and the Kindembo/Machete Ensemble, Chuck Mangione, Nitin Sawhney and Monday Michiru.
Currently, he's putting the finishing touches on the music for his solo recording entitled "Restless Natives!", and also collaborating with Berkeley School Of Music piano professor Matt Jenson on a project called "Rebel Tumbao, the music of Bob Marley in a Latin Vibration".