By Dave Pehling

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A Bay Area treasure who was born in Pittsburgh and raised in Oakland, musician Pete Escovedo was a natural musician who gravitated from saxophone to vibes to Latin percussion while still in his teens. He and his brother, the late Coke Escovedo, founded their own Latin jazz ensemble in the ’60s after Pete had worked with local piano legend Ed Kelly.

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Eventually the brothers were recruited by Carlos Santana for his band and spent a number of years with him before moving on to found their own similarly styled Latin-rock big band Azteca in 1972. The large-scale ensemble featured over a dozen members including such notables as fellow ex-Santana guitar player (and future Journey founder) Neal Schon and jazz-fusion heavyweights Paul Jackson (Headhunters) on bass and Lenny White (formerly with Miles Davis and later a member of Return To Forever) on drums.

The band recorded two albums for Columbia Records but never managed to expand on its regional following and were eventually dropped by the label, though Pete Escovedo’s daughter teenage Sheila would get some experience working with the band, years before she would be discovered by Prince and begin going by her stage name, Sheila E.

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Over his career, Escovedo has performed with such jazz luminaries as Herbie Hancock, Mongo Santamaria, Cal Tjader, Tito Puente and Billy Cobham while still making time to work with pop artists like Anita Baker, Barry White, Stephen Stills, Bobby McFerrin and Chris Isaak. A true legend in Latin music, Escovedo leads what is widely considered one of the finest ensembles in Latin jazz, a mix of musicians from both Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

Escovedo’s local live performances frequently feature guest appearances by his talented offspring Sheila E., Juan Escovedo and Peter Michael Escovedo. Now a veteran of over 60 years in the music business, Escovedo brings his current band to Yoshi’s in Oakland this weekend.

While the venerable jazz club in Jack London Square has been hosting live music in its dining room for a number of weeks, regular featured attraction Escovedo will be the headliner when the venue finally reopens it’s main stage. In years past, the percussion great has celebrated his birthday with a run of performances at the club, so it’s only fitting that these shows come the weekend before he celebrates his 86th birthday on Tuesday.

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Pete Escovedo
Friday-Sunday, July 9-11, times vary, $34-$75 (early shows sold out)