Who is this man whom Mick Moloney dubbed “The Celtic-Cuban Connection?” The Cuban part comes from his father, a Cuban immigrant. (Albert’s mom is of Haitian descent.) Albert was born in Queens, New York City in 1948. The summer of his ninth year, Albert’s family went on vacation to Miami, never to return (forcing him to abandon his third grade Irish girlfriend). Albert studied art in Miami, Boston, and Los Angeles and logically became (what else?) a decorative faux painter. Albert lived in Miami until he reached his mid-20s, when he moved to Dallas.


One day in 1978, he was walking across a street in east Dallas with an antique piano accordion flung over his shoulder, and bumped into a musician who was on his way to a practice. Albert was invited to come along. The band Albert met that day and would join as a member was The New Dallas String Band. They played traditional American music. After awhile, he noticed the music influence had changed, with members bringing in new tunes. He loved the sound and discovered it was Irish music. At that moment the connection between the Cuban and the Celtic music scene become a reality.


Eventually, this band would break up. Along with Albert, three others (Russ Alvey, Peggy Davis and Earnie Taft) started to play strictly Irish music. With Ken Fleming, they formed the group known as Tinker’s Dam in the winter of 1981. On the first weekend of March 1983, this group, along with the Irish Texans, the Irish Rogues and others, got together and had a céilí in Dallas. Albert served a lot of potatoes that day for the 600 people who showed up — so many came they were lined up outside in the street waiting to get in. That event would become known as the very first North Texas Irish Festival (NTIF). This festival has grown to be second in size only to Milwaukee’s Irish Festival.


Albert has been a part of the North Texas Irish Festival from the beginning — from performing and serving food at the first one to becoming a stage manager, then booking the main acts, and eventually becoming one of the festival’s directors. He has served as both vice president and president of the festival’s governing sponsoring organization, the Southwest Celtic Music Association (SCMA). He has been a performer at the NTIF every year, and has also played at the Milwaukee Irish Fest, the Walnut Valley Festival, and the Kerrville Folk Festival.


Where did the transformation from accordion to bodhrán take place? When Albert was with Tinker's Dam, he played the piano accordion and another band member played the bodhrán. Albert was told it was too difficult and he’d never be able to grasp it. He took that dare to heart, locked himself up in his bedroom for a weekend, and when he came out on Monday, he could play — not the way he can play today — but he had it down.


Albert discovered the Augusta Heritage workshops in 1989 and took a button accordion class that year. He eventually dropped the accordion altogether to concentrate solely on his bodhrán playing. Soon Albert was sitting in with instructors during the concerts and sessions.  As more students heard him, they began to ask about his unique style, and this lead to an invitation to teach bodhrán mini classes at Augusta, which he has done for the last several years.  He has taught at Irish Arts Week in the Catskills and held workshops throughout the US and at Royal Academy of Music in London, Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and P.E.I. Canada.


Albert made his first bodhrán in the early 80s and immediately realized, “Why bother? The Irish have been doing this forever and there is no way … ”


His second attempt came about like this … “So, it’s 1991, and I’m in Ireland. Within hours at Milltown Malby, I find a small 16-inch tunable drum. I was in love with it for the six months I had it before it died. Or was it dead when I got it? At this point, I thought, I can do this! I experimented with drum design from 1991 to 1995. In December 1995, I set out to make the finest truly tunable full-range bodhrán that can be made. (It was easier said than done.) I stopped making drums for sale, spent six months redesigning my drum and came up with my best effort, yet.”


As America’s premier bodhrán maker, Albert continues to lead the way in innovation, taking his drums to even greater heights. They are unmatched for sound, playability and ease of tuning.  His distinctive drums can be found on the concert stage and in sessions around the world.

About Albert …

Hear Albert performing in the Irish Week concerts at the

Augusta Heritage Center, Elkins, West Virginia.

DISCOGRAPHY

 

Hear Albert play:

 

Roger Landes
Dragon Reels

 

Chris Grotewohl
Under the Influence

 

Mike Dugger
At Early Dawn

 

20 Years of Irish Music
at Augusta:
1983–2002
Irish Week concerts recorded live at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins, West Virginia (Augusta Heritage Recordings, AHR 028)

 

Hear Albert’s drums:

 

Solas
Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers

With Seamus Egan and John Anthony playing a drum made by Albert

see the drums

1998 with

Riosin Greene,

    tin whistle

Selections From

20 Years of Irish Music:
1983–2002 Irish Week

For even more Albert, go to

myspace.com/spotalbert and youtube.com.

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