Pernell Saturnino

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Pernell Saturnino
19° International Jazz Festival of Punta del Este - 150111-1110-jikatu (16076247230).jpg
Saturnino performing at International Jazz Festival of Punta del Este in 2015.
Background information
Origin Curaçao
Occupation(s) Percussionist

Pernell Saturnino is a Grammy Award winning percussionist from the Caribbean island of Curaçao.

Early life[edit]

Saturnino is continuing the musical legacy of his distinguished family. His grandmother, granduncle and grandaunt, were among those who originated and developed the island's indigenous folkloric rhythm known as Tambú. His uncle, who led a prominent folkloric group, took him to play in the group when he was 8 years old. He started playing guiro and within a month had learned to play most of the drum patterns from the group's percussionist. The first instrument he learned to play was the tambora, a drum from Venezuela. From there, he advanced to learn congas, the tambú (a traditional Curacaoan drum), the chapi (a hoe) and timbales.

Saturnino's impressive talents led to his joining Curaçao’s best-known folkloric group, Nos Antias, with which he performed at festivals around the world.[1] His exposure to other folkloric groups inspired him to learn about traditional rhythms from other countries, mostly by hanging out and exchanging knowledge with other musicians.


When he was 19, Saturnino began formal studies at the Foundation Institute of Music in Curaçao. Hired as percussionist in a house band that performed international shows at a prominent hotel, he learned to play rhythms from such countries as Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, among others.

In 1988 he moved to Boston to attend the Berklee College of Music, where he studied with percussion masters Giovanni Hidalgo and Jesus Alfonso (Los Muñequitos de Matanzas), and performed with such renowned artists as Joe Zawinul, Hermeto Pascoal and Gilberto Gil. Saturnino also began performing with local artists, most notably Rebecca Paris and Danilo Perez. During his studies, he was honored as The most outstanding percussionist (1992), and received The Latin Percussion Award (1994).


Following his graduation from Berklee, he began working and recording with saxophone/clarinet virtuoso Paquito D'Rivera both with The United Nation Orchestra (Live at the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild[2]), and in other group settings (Portraits of Cuba, Live at the Blue Note,[3] The Clarinetist,[2] Calle 54, Big Band Time with the WDR Orchestra, Island Story with The Caribbean Jazz Project and the new release Funk Tango). Mr. Saturnino has been performing and recording with Mr. D'Rivera for 11 years.

In 1996, Saturnino joined the David Sanchez Quintet and later Sextet, with whom he performed for nine years and recorded (Obsession,[2] Travesia,[2] Melaza[2] and Coral[3]).

Saturnino is kept busy as an in-demand side-man, guest artist and clinician. Among highlights: The 1996 Olympic Arts Festival and the Lincoln Center Summer Jazz Festival with Wynton Marsalis, with whom he also recorded (Sweet Release). Chick Corea and Electric Band (To the Stars) and Diego Urcola (Viva[2]) with whom he received a Grammy nomination. He has also recorded with Danilo Perez (Central Avenue[2] and the soundtrack for the Hollywood feature movie, Huge Pool), as well as with Carlos Franzetti, Bebo Valdez, Antonio Hart (Here I stand), Juan Pablo Torres (Tromboneman), Richie Zellon (Café con Leche), Oscar Stagnaro, Curacaoan pianist Randal Corsen (Evolushon,[4] Armonia and Dulsura di Korsou), Curacaoan vocalist Izaline Calister (Soño di un muhé, Mariposa,[5] Krioyo, Kanta helele and speransa), Donny McCaslin and Sebastian Schunke(Back in New York, Life and Death, Genesis. Mystery and Magic)(Soar). Saturnino works frequently with the U.S. Quintet of Dee Dee Bridgewater.


  1. ^ Nastos, Michael G. "Biography: Pernell Saturnino". Allmusic. Retrieved 6 August 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Grammy nomination
  3. ^ a b Grammy award
  4. ^ Edison award
  5. ^ Edison nomination