Ignacio Berroa has been recognized as one of the greatest drummers of our time. A leading innovator in the blending of Afro-Cuban and American jazz styles, his artful drumming has supported a wide spectrum of the very top names in jazz, including Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Wynton Marsalis, Freddie Hubbard, Charlie Haden, and Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Ignacio has led his own Grammy-nominated group for over 20 years, and has performed at nearly all the major jazz festivals, concert halls, and clubs internationally. He has consistently been on the cutting edge of the jazz and Latin jazz scene for nearly 40 years, and has been an integral influence on its shape and development.
His incredible artistry on the drums has garnered critical praise across the world, with the L. A. Times writing, “Ignacio Berroa may be the strongest and most versatile drummer Gillespie has hired in years.” Modern Drummer wrote, “Like a Cuban Roy Haynes, Ignacio’s drumming sizzles, sparks, and pops, easily flowing from Rumba to Swing.”He was included on the 2011 Blue Note Records Compilation CD, “Jazz Drumming Legends,” which features some of the most renowned drummers in jazz history. Jazz icon Dizzy Gillespie defined Ignacio as, “... the only Latin drummer in the world, in the history of American music, that intimately knows both worlds: his native Afro–Cuban music as well as Jazz...”
Born in Havana, Cuba, on July 8, 1953, Berroa began his musical education at age eleven, at the National School of Arts and subsequently at Havana’s famed National Conservatory. He began his professional career in 1972, and, by 1975, had become Cuba’s most sought after drummer. Yearning to go to the center of his musical passion — American jazz music — he left his country in 1980 during the Mariel boatlift and settled in New York City. The move proved instrumental in fostering his career, as he soon met the legendary Cuban musician Mario Bauza, who introduced him to jazz titan Dizzy Gillespie. In1981— no more than a year after his relocation — the great Gillespie invited Ignacio to join his quartet, creating a musical association that would last until Gillespie’s death in 1993. Ignacio took part in all the important bands Gillespie assembled during that decade, including The Dizzy Gillespie 70th Anniversary Big Band, The Dizzy Gillespie All Stars Big Band and the Grammy Award-winning United Nations Orchestra.
Ignited by his association with Dizzy Gillespie, Ignacio’s career took off, leading to performances and recordings with a multitude of the top jazz artists in the world — a virtual “who’s who” of jazz stars, including McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea, Freddie Hubbard, Clark Terry, Lou Donaldson, Jackie McLean, Jimmy Heath, James Moody, Michel Brecker, Wynton Marsalis, Jon Faddis, Slide Hampton, Milt Jackson, Jaco Pastorius, Charlie Haden, Mario Bauzá, Tito Puente, Lalo Schifrin, Danilo Perez, Eliane Elias, Michel Camilo, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Chico Buarque, Joao Bosco, Ivan Lins, Lenny Andrade, Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, WDR Big Band, and the BBC Big Band.
In 2007, Ignacio formed his own quartet, and, on his very first recording as a leader, Codes, received a Grammy nomination, as well as the Danish Music Award for “Best International Jazz Album.” In 2014, he released the critically acclaimed Heritage and Passion, and, in May of 2017, Straight Ahead from Havana, an album featuring popular Cuban standards from the early/mid 1900’s arranged for modern piano trio. Ignacio has performed with his group worldwide, including such venues as Jazz at Lincoln Center, Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, Chicago Latin Jazz Festival, Lisinski Concert Hall (Zagreb, Croatia), Porgy and Bess Jazz Club (Vienna, Austria), Bratislava Jazz Festival, Chicago Midwest Clinic, Fitton Center for the Arts, Indiana University, Izzy Asper Jazz Series (Calgary, Ca) and the Ellington Jazz Series, (Yale University).
Ignacio has also shared his talent and immense knowledge as an author and renowned educator, having presented numerous clinics, master classes, and residencies at many of the most prestigious universities and institutions in the US and abroad. He has made his mark in the educational field with the popular instructional video, “Mastering the Art of Afro–Cuban Drumming,” as well as his drum technique books, “Groovin’ in Clave” and “A New Way of Groovin’.” Most recently, his multimedia presentation, “Afro-Cuban Jazz & Beyond,” has been presented at such institutions as the Juilliard School of Music, Jazz at Lincoln Center, Harvard University, Georgetown University, University of Miami, Indiana University, Chicago Jazz Center and North Texas University.
Today, Ignacio remains on the forefront of the jazz and Afro-Cuban jazz music scene, lending his talents to the greatest artists of our time, leading his own acclaimed bands, and spreading his unique knowledge and insight across the world as an educator.