Sammy FigueroaBusco Tu Recuerdo (Searching For A Memory) Ashé Records

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Ashé Records is excited to announce the release of Searching For A Memory (Busco Tu Recuerdo), a remarkable Latin jazz album by the legendary GRAMMY-nominated percussionist Sammy Figueroa, featuring GRAMMY-winning Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba and the dynamic Latin GRAMMY-winning Cuban vocalist Aymée Nuviola.  Produced by multiple GRAMMY-nominated producer, Rachel Faro, Figueroa’s first album in nearly a decade is dedicated to the memory and music of his father, the late romantic singer Charlie Figueroa.

“My father Charlie Figueroa was a singer of romantic boleros back in the 1950’s, one of the best, whose records still sell to this day.  But he passed away as a young man, when I was just a little boy, a victim of his ‘bohemian lifestyle’.  But those who knew him, from Eddie Palmieri and Yomo Toro to Charlie’s sister, my Aunt Blanca, all say that I look like him, that I have the same sense of humor and that I inherited his musical talent,” reflected Figueroa.

Charlie’s greatest hit single was “Busco Tu Recuerdo”, in which he sings of searching for the memory of his loved one only to discover that there is no memory, only a dream.  This parallels Sammy’s experience – he never really knew his dad – when he searches for a memory of his father all he finds is a dream.

Joining Sammy on Searching For A Memory are two musical greats: pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba and vocalist Aymée Nuviola. Their unique bond and emotional outpouring that came to the fore during the recording of the album is deeply embedded in the music. Here, the classic melodies of Charlie’s most famous boleros have been transformed into modern Latin jazz arrangements with elements of son montuno, cha-cha, plena/bomba, mariachi, samba, rumba, and just great clave-based Latin jazz.

Half  of the collection is instrumental while the remaining half is punctuated by the high-flying and emotionally charged vocals of Nuviola and Sammy himself, who rediscovered his own voice during the making of this album. He shines on the title track, which was one of his father’s most prominent hits.

Guest artists and contributing arrangers on Searching For A Memory include MacArthur Genius Puerto Rican saxophonist Miguel Zenon, trumpet player and multiple GRAMMY winning arranger John Daversa, the brilliant Cuban saxophonist Felipe LaMoglia, Cuban flutist Magalys Herrera, Puerto Rican bassist Ricardo Rodriguez and Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Munir Hossn.

On Searching For A Memory, Sammy Figueroa turns buried emotions into gorgeous musical expression. With the support of his musical family, the process gave Sammy the strength and joy to forgive his father and heal from his chaotic childhood. For this reason, he dedicates this album not just to Charlie Figueroa, but to all children who grow up without fathers.


“Charlie’s kid.”  That’s what Eddie Palmieri calls me.  My father Charlie Figueroa was a singer of romantic boleros back in the 1950’s, one of the best, whose records still sell to this day.  But he passed away when I was just a little boy, a victim of his ‘bohemian lifestyle’.  But those who knew him, from Eddie and Yomo Toro to Charlie’s sister, my Aunt Blanca, all say that I look like him, that I have the same sense of humor and that I inherited his musical talent.

As a little boy I tried to imagine my father, searching for his memory.  But because I never knew him all I had was a dream, just like the lyrics in his song “Busco Tu Recuerdo”.  For many years I didn’t want to acknowledge him or pay him tribute: the sense of abandonment was too painful.  But, at the urging of my producer, Rachel Faro, I decided to create an album of his songs but presented with my own modern Latin jazz perspective.

With the generous support of Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Aymée Nuviola and other great artists this album has gone beyond my wildest dreams, including finding my own voice as a singer. We assembled a core band with an array of incredible special guests and arrangers, including alto saxophonist Miguel Zenon, trumpet master John DaVersa, Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Munir Hossn and Cuban flautist Magela Herrera and together embarked on one of the greatest musical experiences of my life.

This album embodies my dream of transforming Charlie’s romantic and often bitter ballads into my own world of sophisticated Latin jazz.  I’m sure that Charlie’s spirit is somewhere up there smiling and enjoying the music, with the pride of the father he could have been in a different world and time. 
– Sammy Figueroa, as told to Rachel Faro


Carlos Fabriciano Figueroa Rosario
, or Charlie Figueroa, was born in Santurce, Puerto Rico on November 4, 1921.  His first recordings, in Puerto Rico for RCA Victor, were made in December 1940, when he was only 19 years old, in a duo with his sister Carmen as Los Hermanos Figueroa and in a duo with Rafaelito Castro with Conjunto Tipico Ladi, directed by Ladislao ‘Ladi’ Martinez.  (It’s worth mentioning that Tito Rodriguez started his recording career a year earlier, in November 1939, with the same group!)  He also recorded traditional Puerto Rican music with Odilio Gonzalez and El Conjunto America.

Soon Charlie became a singer with the popular Rafael Muñoz Orchestra, at the Escambron Beach Club.  As World War II approached he was drafted into the army, but he never did leave Puerto Rico for the front.  It seems that the local officers decided he should stay and entertain the troops stationed on the island – especially because the officers’ local girlfriends loved Charlie’s singing talents and good looks!

After the war ended Charlie headed to New York, singing with many different groups and orchestras and becoming a mainstay at the Tropicana Nightclub in the Bronx.  It was there that he was first seen and heard by the Colombian empresario Antonio ‘Toño’ Fuentes, the founder and owner of Discos Fuentes, which changed his life forever.

Sr. Fuentes not only negotiated with RCA to take over the rights to Charlie’s previous recordings he also signed Charlie to his own label, producing over fifty recordings, many with the popular group La Sonora Malecón Club and many with songs by Colombia’s great songwriter José Palomino Barros.  Barros’ compositions such as “El Ultimo Suspiro’, ‘No Pises En Mi Camino’ and especially ‘Busco Tu Recuerdo’, Charlie’s greatest hit, became the heart of Charlie’s repertoire.

Charlie Figueroa has often been compared to Daniel Santos, another great Puerto Rican singer of boleros, and it is possible that Fuentes was hoping to take advantage of Santos’ popularity by releasing Charlie’s recordings in the same style.  Certainly, Charlie was capable of singing in many styles and there are those who feel that Charlie’s singing even surpasses Santos in expression, tone, and phrasing.  But of course, Daniel Santos’ career spanned many decades while Charlie Figueroa was a flame blown out too soon.

Traveling between New York and Colombia throughout the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, Charlie Figueroa became a star, recording hit records and appearing in all the great clubs of Latin America.   However, according to his sister Blanca, throughout his recording and touring, all that Charlie did was ‘sing and drink, drink and sing’.  In his twenties he was advised to stop drinking by his doctor but, hopelessly addicted, he ignored this advice and continued his nocturnal lifestyle.  At his last recording he was so ill he could not stand and just a few days later, two weeks before his 34th birthday, on October 25, 1955, he succumbed to cirrhosis of the liver.

Although Charlie Figueroa did not attain superstar fame in Puerto Rico or even in New York City where he developed most of his career, in Latin American countries like Colombia, Venezuela, Perú, Ecuador, Panamá and Costa Rica, Charlie reached a high level of popularity which remains to this day.  In October 2016 the Costa Rican writer and music lover Mario Zaldivar Rivera, paid tribute to Charlie in his program “Eres Inolvidable” through Radio Sinfonola de Costa Rica.   There are numerous ‘biografias’ and ‘homenajes’ to Charlie on YouTube and Charlie Figueroa’s recordings, constantly reconfigured and released as new compilations by Discos Fuentes, are still available on all streaming platforms and on CD and even vinyl, his warm voice and emotional delivery always invoking nostalgia and romance. 

Charlie Figueroa, through his wonderful voice, is truly ‘El Inolvidable’ – the unforgettable one.  And now, his son, the famed percussionist Sammy Figueroa, pays homage to the father who abandoned him as a child and yet bequeathed him a grand musical talent.


Love and magic.  That’s what this recording was all about.  It’s one thing to have a dream and it’s another to see it fulfilled.  Once we had the studio, the engineer, the musicians, the arrangements and the schedule there wasn’t much to do but stay out of the way and let these ferociously talented, highly inspired people do their thing.

Without exception, everyone was inspired by Sammy and his story.  Sammy has a way of magnetizing people – his talent, his wicked humor and most of all his kindness allows his fellow musicians to be free to create, to learn and to flow.

We built a shrine to Charlie in the studio – with yellow flowers (his favorite color), a glass of whiskey and a candle that burned throughout the production.  We all felt as if his spirit was with us.

During the production there was a strong feeling of a musical family.  It was a great honor to work with artists like Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Aymée Nuviola, Miguel Zenon and John DaVersa, with the great engineer and beloved friend Carlos Alvarez, all within the walls of the legendary Criteria Studios.

And most of all, the healing, joy and resolution this brought to Sammy, my life partner, was the greatest gift of all. — Rachel Faro

The Songs:

1. Como Arrullo De Palmas (Like the Whispering Palms)  5:42
(composed by Ernesto Lecuona, arrangement by Gonzalo Rubalcaba)

This classic Cuban song invokes his nostalgia for the beauty of Charlie’s native Puerto Rico. The leaves of the palm trees whisper like a lullaby in the tropical breezes.

Vocals by Aymée Nuviola

Special guest: Miguel Zenon, alto sax

2. Tú Serás Mía (You Will Be Mine) 6:38
(composed by Pedro Flores, arrangement by John Daversa)
When we invited John DaVersa, the multiple Grammy-winning trumpetist and arranger, to participate on this project we hardly expected that he would come up with this dynamic mariachi-influenced arrangement.  But I guess that’s what you get when you invite someone from Southern California to your party!

Special guest: John Daversa, trumpet

3. Madrigal 5:00
 (composed by Rafael Hernandez, arrangement by Gonzalo Rubalcaba)
An exquisite performance of this breathlessly romantic ballad by Aymée Nuviola and Gonzalo Rubalcaba.
Vocals by Aymée Nuviola

4. Busco Tu Recuerdo (excerpt) 00:39
Charlie Figueroa’s original recording.

5. Busco Tu Recuerdo (Searching For A Memory) 7:43
(composed by José Palomino Barros, arrangement by Felipe LaMoglia)
This song was Charlie’s biggest hit.  It speaks of searching for a memory of a lost love — but there is no memory – it’s just a dream.  Sammy says, “I relate to this as I too tried to find a memory — that of the father I never knew – left only with a dream.  Most importantly, late in the recording of the album I was finally ready to acknowledge my biggest inheritance from Charley: I rediscovered my own voice as a singer!”

Vocals by Sammy Figueroa

6. Plegaria De Amor (A Prayer of Love) 6:25
(composed by José Palomino Barros, arrangement by Gonzalo Rubalcaba)
This simple arrangement reflects the peaceful prayer of Charlie’s song.

7. Culpa Al Destino (The Fault of Fate) 2:45
(composed by José Palomino Barros, arrangement by Gonzalo Rubalcaba)
When Aymée first heard Charlie Figueroa’s old recordings she called Sammy and insisted on being part of the album.  As a singer she feels the same reckless romanticism that Charlie’s voice invokes and as an artist she has a real commitment to the tradition of romantic boleros.  Here she gives a delightful performance of a classic ballad.
Vocals by Aymée Nuviola

8. Añoranzas (Longing) 10:14
(composed by Pedro Flores, arrangement by Ricardo Rodriguez)

In this song Charlie sang of his nostalgia for his homeland of Puerto Rico.  This recording is populated by Puerto Rican players: alto sax player Miguel Zenon, bassist and arranger Ricky Rodriguez and Sammy himself on various percussion.  The arrangement pays tribute to this nostalgia with touches of bomba and plena, a danzon introduction and extended solos by both maestros, Gonzalo Rubalcaba and Miguel Zenon.
Special guest Miguel Zenon, alto sax

9. Margie 3:55
(composed by Pedro Flores, arrangement by Munir Hossn)
And now for something completely different!  Sammy invited Munir Hossn, the extraordinary Brazilian multi-instrumentalist, to join us on this recording and he transformed this romantic bolero into a samba!  According to Sammy’s Aunt Blanca, there was a beautiful tall blonde woman named Margie who came to all of Charlie’s shows and then stayed by his side in the hospital at the end of his days.
Special guests: Munir Hossn, guitar & percussion; Magalys Herrera, flute

10. El Ultimo Suspiro (The Last Breath) 7:49
(composed by José Palomino Barros, arrangement by Ricardo Rodriguez)
This was one of the last songs that Charlie recorded in his brief life.  Aymée Nuviola gives her heart and soul to her interpretation, which encourages one to sing even when one loses faith, to sing even when hope is gone.
Vocals by Aymée Nuviola & Sammy Figueroa

11. No Llores Mas (Don’t Cry Anymore) (excerpt) 1:27
(composed by Placido Acevedo)

Original recording by Charlie Figueroa This excerpt features the voice of Charlie Figueroa himself, as if he is singing to the little boy — “don’t cry anymore, I love you”.  This brings the album to a close with a healing message, a sense of closure and acceptance

About Sammy:

SAMMY FIGUEROA has long been regarded as one of the world’s great musicians. As one of the music’s leading percussionists he has played on countless records and is well-known for his versatility in a multitude of musical styles. Besides playing with some of the world’s greatest pop stars, such as David Bowie, Chaka Khan and Mariah Carey, Sammy has also played with a multitude of distinguished jazz artists including Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Quincy Jones, George Benson, and many, many more. 

When Sammy plays percussion he tells a story, creating a playful conversation with other musicians and taking the listener on a musical journey . As one of the world’s greatest congueros he is currently considered to be the most likely candidate to inherit the mantles of Mongo Santamaria and Ray Barretto. 

Sammy Figueroa was born in the Bronx and raised in Puerto Rico, the son of romantic singer Charlie Figueroa. After many years as New York’s number one percussionist, in 2001 Sammy relocated to South Florida. It was there that Sammy discovered a rich treasure trove of amazing Latin jazz virtuosos from Cuba, Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia and Argentina, and was inspired to find his voice as a solo artist. Putting a band together with the best players in town Sammy Figueroa and His Latin Jazz Explosion debuted at the Hollywood Jazz Festival and since then he has never looked back. 

“Figueroa proves to have a distinguishing technique and voice of his own, making him the leading percussionist in Latin jazz today”
                                          – AllAboutJazz

    Sammy’s first album, “…and Sammy Walked In“, included a title track written in his honor by Michel Camillo. Three more albums followed: “The Magician”“Urban Nature” and “Imaginary World”.   All three of these albums are notable for brilliant compositions and arrangements by Venezuelan composer/musicians Silvano Monasterios on piano and Gabriel Vivas on bass. “And Sammy Walked In” and “The Magician” have both been honored with Grammy® Nominations for Best Latin Jazz Album.

    Additionally, Sammy released “Talisman” in 2014, a collaboration with Brazilian singer Glaucia Nasser, which unites Latin jazz with Brazilian song and in 2015 “Memory of Water” where Sammy plays the eclectic and celestial-sounding Hangpan, a steel-drum type instrument with a beautiful sonorous and healing sound.  This album reflects another side of Sammy: his passionate interest in spirituality, alternative science and unusual instruments.   All of Sammy’s albums have been produced or co-produced with the award-winning world music producer Rachel Faro, his longtime partner and producer. 

    In addition to his own albums, Sammy has also co-produced several important jazz and world music albums with Rachel Faro. Notable productions include two albums with the phenomenal Cuban a cappella group Vocal Sampling (Sire/Elektra), ‘Celebremos Navidad‘ with Fania cuatro hero Yomo Toro (Ashé Records) and the spectacular Cuban jazz album Cuarto Espacio featuring Ernan Lopez-Nussa.

    From 2010 to 2013, Sammy toured the world with the great saxophone master Sonny Rollins. Sammy also appears on Sonny Rollins’ albums, the Grammy® Nominated ‘Road Shows Vol. 2’, ‘Road Shows Vol. 3’ and the recently released ‘Holding The Stage, Road Shows Vol. 4’.  

    Sammy’s most recent album, “Searching For A Memory“, to be released July 14, 2023, is a tribute to the romantic boleros sung by his father, Charlie Figueroa.  Funded by a Creative Residency Grant from the Jazz Road initiative at SouthArts, the album features the great Cuban pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba as player and musical director and the sensational Cuban singer Aymée Nuviola, with guest appearances by Puerto Rican saxophonist Miguel Zenon, trumpets John Daversa, Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Munir Hossn and Cuban flautist Magela Herrera.  The classic ballads are transformed into exciting Latin jazz with flavors of son, samba, cha-cha, plena/bomba and damson.

    In addition to his two Grammy® Nominations for Best Latin Jazz, Sammy has been honored with numerous awards. These include two NARAS Awards for Percussionist of the Year, two Drummie Awards for Best Hand Percussion and the Jazz Journalists Association Award for Best Percussionist.  

    Sammy appears in several important books on music and its legends. His relationship with Miles Davis is described at length both in Miles’ own words in his autobiography entitled “Miles” and in “The Last Miles: The Music of Miles Davis From 1980-1991” by George Cole.  Sammy appears in the definitive biography of Sonny Rollins, “Saxophone Colossus” by Aidan Levy, in addition to an interview in “Beyond The Notes“, a film on Sonny Rollins.  Anecdotes about Sammy abound in Paquito D’Rivera’s amusing book “My Sax Life”. Sammy has also been included in The Grove Dictionary of Jazz.

    Photo credits: Daniel Azoulay