Sabu was recognized as a virtuoso percussionist at a young age. Playing for the major Latin and be-bop names as a teenager, it was not long before he teamed up with top jazz artists and created astounding Afro-Latin jazz. With his own group he recorded the two wildest exotica records ever. and he continued working for great stars in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Eventually he moved to Sweden, where he led a conga school, resumed making records, and contributed to top Latin, big band, pop, jazz, fusion, and funk groups.
Louis Sabu Martinez was born July 14th, 1930 in New York City's El Barrio (Spanish Harlem). As a youth he got into all sorts of trouble but also banged on cans in a street band. His professional career began at age 11, when he began playing Latin percussion for renowned mambo and jazz bands, touring. In 1944 he returned from Puerto Rico to New York, where he continued to play in famous bands and develop his technique.
Sabu claimed the Lecuona Cuban Boys as major influences as well as the legendary Chano Pozo. In 1948 Sabu replaced Pozo in Dizzy Gillespie's last big band; the baton of Afro-Cuban jazz drumming literally was passed to Sabu. He joined Benny Goodman the following year. Other mentors were his friends Art Blakey, with whom he was associated from 1949 to 1958, Arsenio Rodriguez, and Candido. He did his famous “Palo Congo,” session in 1957 with Arsenio. He was a member of the original Joe Loco Trio, which recorded the first mambo in America. He performed in Broadway's House of Flowers and with other luminaries such as Xavier Cugat, Tony Bennett, and Sammy Davis, Jr.