Necessity was the mother of invention behind Latin Percussion for young mechanical engineer and avid photographer Martin Cohen. In 1956, the creative Bronx native happened upon New York's Birdland Jazz Club and was captivated by the sounds of hot Latin Jazz. As a regular at the Monday night jam sessions at the club, Cohen had difficulty obtaining instruments for his own use, partly because of the US embargo on Cuban goods. Unable to buy congas, bongos, and similar instruments of the quality other performers had, he sought to produce his own, and so Latin Percussion was born.
Cohen put his engineering skills to use and made his own set of bongos from a photo he took at a Johnny Pacheco set. After much trial and error he produced a good set of bongos, found a ready market, and filled a void. In August of 1964 he worked his last day for someone else, officially starting Latin Percussion. In building Latin Percussion's first patented instruments, Cohen used durable modern materials to replace rare and fragile instruments without sacrificing sound quality. Cohen was one of the first makers of fiberglass congas, which gained favor with Latin dance bands because of their great volume.
Cohen's commitment from the beginning has been to combine authentic sound with strong modern design. LP pioneered the use of many ethnic instruments for wider musical uses, and continues to be a leading innovator in this area. They are particularly known for their revolutionary plastic wood blocks, claves, agogo bells, and cowbells. As the company expanded, it added imported lines to its catalog, and has also become an exporter.
Cohen himself still travels to clubs around the world, taking photographs and talking to musicians, gathering feedback from those who use and love LP instruments. It's been a long time since one had to violate trade embargoes to get a good pair of bongos. Martin Cohen and the Latin Percussion family can take substantial credit for that.
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