Jazz artist Francisco Aguabella dies at 84

Career included stints with Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente

Latin jazz artist Francisco Aguabella, a master of the congas and bata drums, died May 7 at his home in Los Angeles after a yearlong battle with cancer. He was 84.

In a career that spanned six decades, the Cuban native traveled the world and performed and recorded with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Frank Sinatra, Perez Prado, Eddie Palmieri, Lalo Schifrin, Peggy Lee, Nancy Wilson, Carlos Santana, Three Dog Night, Paul Simon and the Doors.

Aguabella's style was rich with powerful, spiritual Afro-Cuban traditional rhythms. He led his own ensemble for more than a decade and performed throughout the year until his health declined rapidly.

Aguabella taught Afro-Cuban drumming at UCLA under the Department of Ethnomusicology. He is featured in the 1995 documentary, "Sworn to the Drum" directed by Les Blank.

Aguabella left Cuba in the 1950s to perform with Katherine Dunham in the 1954 Shelley Winters film "Mambo," which was filmed in Italy. After touring with Dunham, he came to the U.S. and performed and toured with Lee for seven years.

Survivors include his children Mario, Martica, Menina and Marco. Services will be held at 1 p.m. Friday at Holy Cross Cemetery & Mortuary in Culver City.
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