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Ralph Irizarry
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Artist Biography

Everything you need to know in one spot.

  • Band/Affiliation: Timbalaye
  • Birthday: July 18
  • Country: United States

You can't beat sheer talent and natural gifts for getting yourself noticed, and dazzling New York-based percussionist Ralph has an overabundance of both. Ralph Irizarry, recognized worldwide as a top percussionist, first fell in love with the timbale at an early age when his father brought home a set received as payment for a debt. A self-taught musician, Irizarry has developed a highly efficient and personalized style of playing while leaving an enduring mark on the artists with whom he has collaborated. His love for the instrument evolved into a full-fledged passion that has fueled his career since 1970. Irizarry admits, without reservation, that this passion has been all consuming since he was a youngster, and is the same passion that he infuses now into his music.

Born in New York's Spanish Harlem, Ralph Irizarry's family first moved to Brooklyn and then briefly to Queens, before finally relocating in Puerto Rico in 1970. There, he spent three years immersed in music and gained the knowledge and experience that eventually granted him the opportunity to join Ponce's La Terrrifica, as well as sitting in with such prestigious aggregations as El Gran Combo and Sonora Poncena.

In 1974, Ralph Irizarry returned to New York City to pursue a career as a professional musician. After playing with local groups for almost four years, his break finally came when Ray Barretto invited him to join his top-rated orchestra. Shortly afterward they were in studio recording the first of six productions. In April of 1983, Ruben Blades sought out Irizarry to join in the formation of Seis Del Solar. This association lasted for fourteen years and consisted of intense performing and traveling as well as the production of eight recordings. After Blades left and with his encouragement, the group continued performing and recorded two Latin jazz albums.

These days, Ralph is a much sought-after studio musician who has played on countless jingles, film, and television scores. In addition, he has performed, recorded, and toured with the likes of Harry Belafonte, David Byrne, Celia Cruz, Paquito D'Rivera, Juan Luis Guerra, Earl Klug, Israel Lopez "Cachao," Wynton Marsalis, Paul Simon and many others. Irizarry has also appeared on the Johnny Carson Show and the David Letterman Show, as well as Don Francisco's Sabado Gigante and Raul Velasco's Siempre en Domingo. Irizarry has been featured in the major motion film The Mambo Kings and documentaries such as Belafonte's Routes of Rhythm, Cachao's Como Mi Ritmo No Hay Dos and The Life of Ruben Blades.

In 1996, Ralph Irizarry created his own Latin jazz project --Timbalaye-- a septet with a different instrumental format: Latin percussion instruments instead of the typical drum set, as well as a fresh innovative sound. Timbale's repertoire combines cotemporary jazz sounds with rhythmic elements from all over Latin America and Africa, as well as Cuba and Puerto Rico. Two years after the group's inception, their first release, "Ralph Irizarry and Timbales," hit the market to critics' acclaim. "Best Kept Secret," their second, produced equal results in 2000, and "Its Time" was released in 2003.

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