Frank Colón is a specialist in Latin-Caribbean, Brazilian and Asian percussion instruments including
congas, bongos, timbales, bata drums, shekere, cuica, berimbau, and tabla drums, among others. Born in Georgetown, Washington, D.C, he grew up in Puerto Rico from between the ages of 7 to 18 years old. He started his musical journey at a very early age, studying piano with the Figueroa family, Puerto Rico’s
internationally acclaimed classicalmusic family. In high school he actively participated in various sports (winning regional and national medals in track and basketball!) and theatrical
Graduating high school, he went back to Washington, D.C. to study Political Science at The American University. During that time, he did extensive personal research in the field of ethnomusicology while also playing with local bands.
Moving to New York, Frank began his musical career with a five-year stint in Julito Collazo's Afro-Cuban drum ensemble. On NYC's jazz scene, he began performing with Walter Booker, Chet Baker, Jaco Pastorious, Michel Camilo and African master drummer, Babatunde Olatunji. He went on to perform and record with Gato Barbieri, Harry Belafonte, Weather Report, Tania Maria, Flora Purim, and Airto Moreira.
Traveling to Rio de Janeiro, Frank became an instant hot commodity! On a record session with the well-known Brazilian vocal band, MPB4, he introduced the Afro-Caribbean shekere into Brazilian music. Since then, this instrument has become essential to the instrumental arsenal of every modern contemporary percussionist!
During three years in Milton Nascimento's band, Frank toured all over Europe and Brazil, and recorded on many albums. At the Montreaux Music Festival in Switzerland, he recorded two “Live” masterpieces, one with Wagner Tiso’s band and the other with Milton Nascimento’s band. In Rio de Janeiro, Frank also performed and/or recorded with Gilberto Gil, João Bosco, Chico Buarque de Holanda, Cesar Camargo Mariano, Ney Matogrosso, Elba Ramalho, Marina, RPM and Robertinho Silva. Frank also took part in the 100-year anniversary celebration of the Brazilian classical composer, Heitor Villa Lobos, touring all of the state capitals in Brazil.
Frank’s other collaborations in performances, TV specials, DVDs and/or CD recordings include Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, George Clinton, Gato Barbieri, Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige, George Benson, Paquito D'Rivera, Larry Coryell, Billy Taylor, Azymuth, Dianne Reeves, Thalia, Nestor Torres, Mickey Hart, Michael Wolff, Samir Chatterjee, and Gilles Peterson among many others.
On request from the US State Dept. and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Frank has participated in the “Jazz Ambassadors” program, touring through Russia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyztan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova. He has also been a “special featured guest” of the "Viva Bossa Nova" music festival in Moscow every year since the festival’s inception in 2014.
Frank has also performed extensively on film soundtracks written and produced by composer/violinist Michael Galasso. He also appears in the musical documentary movie “Calle 54”, directed by Oscar-winner Fernando Trueba. His two albums as a leader are: “Frank Colón -Live at Vartanjazz” and “Latin Wonder”, both of which have received very good critical reviews. He is also featured as principal soloist in a DVD with the Kremlin Chamber Orchestra from Moscow, in a symphony commissioned for him entitled “Adoracion al Ritmo.”
Frank is now living in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where he is actively producing and recording for international music projects as well as for Brazilian TV. He has recently been trouping Brazil with Latin Grammy winner, saxophonist Leo Gandelman, as well as with Bossa Nova Legends, João Donato, Marcos Valle, Toninho Horta, and Roberto Menescal.
Besides show performances, Frank has been conducting percussion clinics and workshops all over the world. His workshops not only explain and demonstrate the technical aspects of drumming but also emphasize the possibilities of extending communication and cultural exchange between all people through the universal language of music.
Photographs by Margo Colón