|The musical style of Alfonso Joseph A.k.A Alfonso El Panameno is a
unique and thus far an unclassified style; but it is simple enough
to define. The music, instrumentation and genre are a combination
of symphonic and Latin. The lyrics are Christian and biblically based
themes. So, you can either decide for yourself or leave it to the
industry pundits to categorize this musical style. Whatever you do,
let it not fall away into the obscurity of "other". It is
not deserving of such a fate.
So how did this unusual musical combination come
about? The Latin influence comes from Alfonso's cultural roots.
Alfonso was born in the Republic of Panamá, and is bilingual in
English and Spanish. He migrated to America where he spent most
of his life, and became an American citizen.
His musical career began in the mid-nineteen fifties, learning and
playing guitar with many Puerto Rican groups, 'conjuntos'. Thanks
to the patience and support of the Puerto Rican community, Alfonso
developed his skill on the guitar. He also acquired knowledge and
experience in the diverse rhythmic variations of Puerto Rican music.
At the suggestion of a friend, he replaced the guitar strings with
electronic strings and used the guitar as a bass, playing only the
last four strings. With this convention, he became a bass player.
Soon after, a group of his Puerto Rican musician friends pitched
in and bought him a Fender bass guitar and an Ampeg bass amplifier.
Alfonso was one of handful of bass players at that time, who introduced
and popularized the bass guitar in the Latin, Jazz, Latin/Jazz and
In the sixties, Alfonso performed at the Palladium and in the late
sixties and early seventies he performed at Roseland, two of New
York City's most famous ballrooms and dance halls. In the late sixties/early
seventies, he also played bass at Birdland, where all the Jazz and
Latin-Jazz greats performed.
As a bass player and vocalist, he accompanied, recorded and performed
with some of the most popular and prominent bandleaders and musicians
during the heyday of Latin music and Latin-Jazz. Historians and
fans of this era as well as the older generation of Latinos, will
remember most of these artists.... Arsenio Rodriguez, Candido, Celia
Cruz, Tito Puente, Machito, Johnny Pacheco, Yomo Toro, Cachao, Miguelito
Valdez, Doc Cheetham, Alfredo "Chocolate" Armentero, Mauricio
Smith, Richie Ray and Marcelino Guerra to name a few.
Arsenio Rodriguez was a tres guitarist and earned renown as a master
of Afro-Cuban music and in particular is regarded by many as the
originator of a Latin style called the "son montuno".
Arsenio personally taught Alfonso the intricate techniques of Cuban
bass rhythms and syncopation. Alfonso performed with Arsenio at
Carnegie Hall and recorded with Arsenio on Ansonia Records ("Arsenio
Rodriguez y Su Conjunto", Vol.2) and Tico Records ("Arsenio
Dice... Arsenio Says").
Candido, the great Cuban Latin-Jazz percussionist, also personally
coached and trained Alfonso on Cuban bass rhythms and syncopation.
Alfonso recorded with Candido as vocalist, with Tito Puente conducting
and playing vibes and timbales and Cachao on bass, (Tico Records,
"Candido's Latin McGuffas Dust").
The symphonic influence comes from
his education and experience. Alfonso has had more than 15 years
of private and formal academic training on double bass, bass guitar,
voice, harmony, theory, composition, orchestration and arranging.
He attended Hartnett Music Studios and Lyn Oliver Studios in New
York City, and studied double bass with private tutors as well as
attending jazz workshops. He has performed with symphonies and chamber
orchestras in New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut.... Center
Symphony Orchestra, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and Connecticut
Festival Orchestra, respectively, to name a few.
After the death of his mentor, Arsenio Rodriguez, Alfonso partially
retreated from performing and relocated to the Litchfield hills
of northwestern Connecticut, dedicating most of his time to composing
and orchestrating. In this undertaking, he conceived the vision
of employing his knowledge, skills and technique as acquired from
Latin and Classical music into one form. He spent hours, weeks and
months which turned into years, diligently writing and rewriting
orchestrations to produce many works, some of which are recorded
on his first album, "Divine Intervention".
The Christian influence has more to do with who
Alfonso is as apart from what he does. Like many of us who question
and shed the religious upbringing imposed by our parents, so also
did Alfonso as an adult. Disappointed with himself and his life,
Alfonso turned away from his religious roots, and became an agnostic.
That philosophy brought no positive change to his life, except to
dull the sin consciousness.
The loss of family, friends and jobs sent him on a sinful path to
what appeared to be destruction. Only God knows when to intercede
to rescue the desperate! Without fail and right on time, God sent
believers into Alfonso's life who testified of the life changing
power of Jesus Christ. Through the miraculous healing of a dying
friend, Alfonso eventually experienced a spiritual awakening and
recommitted himself to walk with the Lord and in His ways for the
rest of his life.
With this conversion, Alfonso dedicated his talents and time to
composing music that brings forth the message of God's love and
teachings. He also is an avid and perpetual student of the Bible
and ministers the Word as the Lord leads.
Alfonso is married and has a large family. Several
of his children, Othoniel, Josue`-Caleb and Raquel-Maria, helped
him perform the vocals to his debut album, "Divine Intervention".
These works were composed more than thirty years ago when it was
Alfonso's intention to sing them with the voice of his youth. Now
his children are singing them with the voices of their youth.
It is Alfonso's hope that you will be edified by his music and that
the Lord will minister to you as you listen to it. God bless you!
Your comments and questions are welcome. Please
feel free to contact Alfonso at:
Barabbas Publishing, LLC
P.O. Box 422
Pine Brook, NJ 07058