Music & Dance
Ann Arbor, Michigan
In Afro-Cuban music, tumbao refers to the basic rhythm played on the tumbadoras and the bass. Bravo means excellence. Tumbao Bravo, the band, was formed in 2004 by conga player Alberto Nacif and reedman Paul VornHagen.
Alberto Nacif was born in the isthmus state of Oaxaca in Mexico where Cuban-derived rhythms were part of the everyday music. He learned to play conga and bongo drums at a young age with local musicians before immigrating to Michigan, where he joined nationally-noted Jimmy Stefanson’s La Combinacion, a group made up of Cuban, Puerto Rican and American musicians.
At 18, Alberto met Santana’s Cuban-born conga/bongo master Armando Peraza prior to a concert the band was to perform at Cobo Hall. Peraza then surprised Alberto by coming to his show in Ferndale the next night and the two became quick friends. Over the years, Alberto travelled to Peraza’s home in California, honing his skills under Peraza’s tutelage.
In 1983, Alberto made his first trip to Cuba where he studied Cuban percussion with the legendary Esteban Vega "Cha-Cha" Bacallao, Jesus Alfonso, Danilo Perez (Los Munequitos De Matanzas), Tomas "Panga" Ramos (Cubanismo) and Manuel "Anga" Diaz (Irakere). He has performed with Dizzy Gillespie, John Faddis, Jane Bunnett, Munequitos de Matanzas, and Frank Emilio Flynn. Alberto also founded the Cuban Fantasy program which aired on Ypsilanti’s WEMU from 1992-2002, and he continues to make one or two trips to Cuba each year.
In 2003 Alberto met Paul VornHagen at Ann Arbor’s famed Firefly Club. A longtime Ann Arbor-area jazz musician, Paul discovered Latin jazz early on in his career. He didn't dive into the deep end of the Latin-jazz pool until he got to know Alberto. They each had regularly sat in with Los Gatos at the Firefly until one day, Alberto suggested they form their own group.
In February of 2004, Paul visited Havana, Cuba where he performed as a guest artist with members of the Buena Vista Social Club, Cubanismo and Irakere at jazz clubs. He was honored to perform at the Afro-Cuban All-Stars’ Ibrahim Ferrer’s 78th birthday party.
VornHagen (saxes, flute, piccolo) and Nacif (congas and guiro) are joined by Sven Anderson (piano and guitar), Bob Mojica (trumpet and flugelhorn), and, alternating on bass throughout the weekend, John Barron and Patrick Prouty.
The group won a 2005 Detroit Music Award for Outstanding Jazz Recording for its debut, “Montuno Salad," and another in 2007 for Outstanding World Music Recording for its second release, "Amigos: From Our Hands."