Photo: Eddie "La Bala" Perez
A portion of the ashes of the late saxophone player and founding member of El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, Eddie “La Bala” Perez, will be scattered later this week in front of a bar he frequented in a town in the northern part of the island.
Juan “Kike” Aviles, a friend of Perez, told Efe on Thursday that the ashes will be scattered on Friday at the La Cueva del Gato bar in Toa Baja, where Eddie regularly went along with his wife, Enid Collazo.
“His widow wanted part of Eddie’s ashes to be scattered at this place, where he spent many happy times. It was like his second home, where Eddie played dominoes with us and we enjoyed ourselves greatly,” Aviles told Efe.
Perez died on Aug. 9 from cardiorespiratory failure at a hospital in Manati, in northern Puerto Rico.
The formal goodbye for Perez will be held on Sept. 1 with a Mass in the Maria Auxiliadora parish in the capital’s Cantera district. Then, Perez’s ashes will be taken to the Santa Maria Magdalena de Pazzis cemetery in Old San Juan.
Perez, 77, one of the salsa genre’s most beloved musicians, had spent almost a year convalescing from complications of diabetes and poor circulation in his right leg, which ultimately had to be amputated.
Despite his condition, the veteran saxophonist continued to be jovial and friendly with anyone who approached him and asked him for any kind of advice, an autograph or greeted him and thanked him for his contributions over almost 60 years to the history of Afro-Caribbean music in Puerto Rico.
One of Perez’s last public appearances was in November 2012 when he went onstage where El Gran Combo was to celebrate its 50th anniversary with a concert at the Jose M. Agrelot Coliseum in San Juan.
In an interview with Efe last December, Perez said his first musical instrument was the flute but he didn’t really like it, so he turned to the clarinet, though he finally decided on the saxophone because it was easier to play.
Perez said his nickname “La Bala” (The Bullet) came from some grownup who started calling him that because he ran around so fast when he was little.
El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico was founded in 1962 by Rafael Ithier, Perez and Roberto Roena after the three musicians broke with the group of Rafael Cortijo and his Combo, with which they had played for eight years.