For over 50 years, Martin Cohen has taken hundreds of thousands of photos of some of the greatest musicians in the world of Latin and jazz music. Whether the subject is Dizzy Gillespie, Carlos Santana, Celia Cruz, or Tito Puente, his photography is both an invaluable archive of music history and a symbol of his devotion to the music.
This week, the New York Times published a great article and sampling of these photos, chronicling one man’s relationship to the lens and the artists. So great is the body of work that a new US Postage stamp, to be issued later this year commemorating Latin music legends, will bear a photo he took of Tito Puente in the 1980s.
As so often happens, the love of the music inspired Martin to form a company based around the musical instruments used in the music’s creation; a company that’s flourished since its origin in the 1960s; a company by the name of Latin Percussion — also known informally as LP.
To me, even more fascinating than Martin’s exploits as a photographer or his work as founder of LP, is the fact that the instruments he created actually affected and influenced the music he loves. LP instruments are actually woven into the fabric of jazz and Latin music history.
The opportunity to become a maker of percussion instruments presented itself in the early 1960s when a trade embargo with Cuba caused a drought in quality bongos. A mechanical engineer by trade, Martin fashioned his own set, which came to be prized by musicians everywhere, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, besides offering hundreds of quality percussion instruments, LP strives to educate budding drummers everywhere via their websites like Congahead, about which Martin writes:
“I began this website in order to share my good fortune in knowing many of the world’s finest percussionists and instrumentalists. I wanted to share the images, recordings, interviews, and movies I made of these legendary musicians. Within Congahead you will find many exciting sound clips, movies, photos and interviews from my personal collection.”
To further illustrate, here’s a clinic in precision — a percussion solo by Leo Di Angilla using LP Classic Accents Congas, LP Karl Perazzo Timbales and LP Caxixi: