Musician Eddie “La Bala” Perez, founding member of El Gran Combo, Dies


Sax player Eddie “La Bala” Perez, founding member of El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, died Friday, the legendary salsa orchestra said. He was 77.

“To the people of Puerto Rico and to the world of salsa: This morning, Eddie ‘La Bala’ Perez Lopez moved on to a better life,” the communique posted on El Gran Combo’s official Facebook page said.

Perez was convalescing at a San Juan hospital after his right leg was amputated due to complications from diabetes.

After his operation, the musician sued several members of El Gran Combo, including his lifelong friend and group co-founder Rafael Ithier, because, he said, they had dismissed him unjustly.

Ithier, however, denied in January that he ever fired Perez.

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 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.

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