Victor Orlando – Percussionist ExtraordinaireCommunity News, Entertainment — By Buddy Sampson on June 5, 2014 at 7:26 pm
By Buddy Sampson
In music, drums and percussion have always been dominant instruments, capable of setting the mood of a piece and capturing an audience at the same time. They make us dance, they inspire passion and they express a world beat that no other instrument can duplicate. Percussionists add spice and flavor to any composition and there have been many excellent ones. When you speak of the greats, you have to include Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaría, Airto Moreira, Alex Acuňa, Jose Areas, Pete Escoveda and Sheila E, among others. But there’s another percussionist, also in the conversation with the greats, Victor Orlando.
Victor Orlando, of Dallas, Texas, has graced the stage, or recorded with many of the legendary performers of our time, including Chaka Khan, Yarbrough & Peoples, Teena Marie, Buddy Miles, Billy Preston, Bobby Womack, LL Cool J, 2Pac and The Gap Band among others. “It was awesome for me,“ said Orlando of playing with The Gap Band. “I was actually out with Yarbrough & Peoples, I was on tour with them and they were on tour with Charlie Wilson and The Gap Band as part of a package. Charlie asked me to play with them and I ended up playing in both groups. It was just an experience playing with the Gap Band, especially with all the hits they had at that time. It was a thrill.” You’ve heard Victor on the iconic composition “Outstanding,” and on Roger and Zapp’s smash hit “Computer Love.” He also performed on The Gap Band’s later projects as well. As an actor, he guested in the movie “Black Dynamite,” and was in two short films, “Queen Victoria’s Wedding,” and “$40 Million.” He is much more than a percussionist, he’s a comedian, songwriter, producer and director and also was the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award in percussion from the Los Angeles Music Awards.
As with many percussionists, Victor’s first instrument was drums. He admired artists like Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and Billy Cobham. “I switched over to percussion and was just kind of playing them and enjoying it and until Santana came out,” he reflected. “He had all these percussion guys, like (Jose) Chepito Areas, Mike Shrieve and all those guys, Mike Carabello, but those were the guys that when I saw them on stage at Woodstock, I said ‘wow’ there’s the congas, they’re up front and they’re sounding great!” Later, he listened to percussionists like Ray Barretto, Tito Puente and Giovanni Hidalgo. “Giovanni right now is almost considered the king of congas,” said Orlando. “He plays so fast, he plays so melodic and he plays so rhythmic.”
Victor started playing while he was in high school, then later migrated to Los Angeles. After being spotted in a local club, he was recruited to tour in a band that went to Canada. “Coming up to L.A. was one thing, but now I’m getting ready to go to Canada, another whole country,” he said. When he returned, he did a stint with legendary drummer Buddy Miles. “That was one of my first major gigs,” he reflected. He did a number of uncredited albums and projects, including Billy Preston, The Gap Band and 2Pac. “I would get, ‘we’ll correct it on the next shipment,’” he laughed. “I’ve been in the business long enough; there’s ain’t no next shipment. It’s already been done.” Yes, there are bad moments in his career, but Victor considers one of his proudest moments to be introduced at a concert arena by Charlie Wilson in his hometown of Dallas. “You can’t beat that,” he said “to be presented in your own hometown that you haven’t been to in years and to come back and Charlie Wilson’s calling your name. Wow!”
Orlando has plenty of wow left in his career. He recently put on a concert at the Celebrity Theatre in Los Angeles in May the “I Appreciate U Concert and Fundraiser for the movie ‘Switch’,” a successful show that spotlighted his versatility, as a bandleader, host and comedian. “I had almost died in December,” said Victor Orlando. “I was throwing an ‘Appreciate You’ concert for the people that wished me well and who wished me to get well during that time.” The concert featured inspiring performances by several industry veterans, including Victoria Theodore and Rob Bacon of the Arsenio Hall show, Wayne Vaughn, Stacy Lamont Sydnor, Ty Griffin, T Lopez, Ronee Martin, Danielle Mims, Crystal Starr, Ray Carrion, Tex Nakamura, Segun Olawadele, Te “Cheetah” Lopez, Rocky Padilla, Belinda Skinner, Ray Poncin and Tanvir Chowdhury. Of special mention were outstanding performances by Jacnique Harris-Love and Myra Washington, an exciting young singer that electrifies audiences wherever she performs. Additionally, the event set out to raise funds for pre-production of a movie, “Switch” that Victor is producing. He served as MC on the event and showcased his flair for comedy, with a spot on impression of Richard Pryor. “I like playing around with voices,” he laughed.
One of the wonderful aspects of Victor’s show was that the music featured genres from all around the globe. Orlando orchestrated a night of musical versatility, with Latin jazz, Funk, classical, R&B and Middle Eastern among choices to satisfy almost every musical pallet. Victor Orlando stresses that with today’s emphasis on technology, there’s still a lot of room for live music. “Music is supposed to move you,” he said. “There’s human element in that music that makes you move. And the only way to really feel that is by playing live.”
Victor Orlando has a critically acclaimed CD, “N Da House,” which features his group Fun-Ja-La. “The meaning of Fun-Ja-LA is Funk, Jazz and Latin, “ he explained. “You take the k out of funk, you have ‘fun.’ You take off the two zs you have ‘Ja’ and you take the ‘tin’ off Latin and you have ‘La.’Fun-Ja-La.” Nominated for an NAACP Image Award, and a Grammy Award, the CD features a composition, “Argentía” that can be heard in the film “For The Love of Money,” starring Edward Furlong and James Caan.
Victor Orlando’s accomplishments, versatility, drive and sensational playing, has placed him on the fast track to huge musical and entertainment success. When asked to describe himself, he had a few words to say. “I give 175% with anything I do,” he said. “You don’t half do it. God gave me certain abilities and I want to give that back to people.” His attitude is why he’s destined to be mentioned among the great percussionists.
Want to follow Victor Orlando? His CD can be found on ITunes, CD Baby and most online music stores.