All About Jazz

Home » Musicians » Big Black

Big Black

Big Black - congas, percussion

The master musician, percussionist and hand drummer, known as Big Black, was born Daniel Ray in Georgia in 1934, and grew up as a child in the Carolinas. Big Black first heard drum and percussion rhythms while listening to a radio broadcast from Cuba and was mesmerized by the sounds of congas and bongos. He started playing percussion in Miami in the 50's and performed with various salsa and calypso bands until he moved to New York in the 60's. He got connected with various Bebop artists and bands there and soon was a regular percussionist for Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard and Randy Weston. He was dubbed “The king of Congas” and is highly regarded institute of the African culture in Harlem.

He began tapping out his own rhythms with his hands and feet, while lying on his back on the front porch or tapping on the kitchen table, creating musical passages this way, for nine years, until at last he acquired his first drum. Relocating to Miami in the ‘50’s and working at odd jobs, until he could purchase his first set of bongos, he was self taught, but was inspired by his older brother, and other musicians during the Calypso era. He moved on to the congas and created a style of his own, compatible with all genres of music, in particular jazz.

The Calypso era, found Big Black working with Lord Fish Ray, and Johnny” Slick” Engraham, his true mentors. He often performed with Calypso Eddy and Sam Rolle receiving national recognition, “Calypsomania” had captured the nation, according to Time Magazine, as the popular medium.

Read more

Tags

Album Review
Read more articles

Albums

Album Mid Century Modern by Doug MacDonald

Mid Century Modern

Self Produced
2021

buy
Album Ethnic Fusion by Big Black

Ethnic Fusion

Mutable Music
2004

buy

Watch

Shop Amazon

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.