Albert Serrano, who spent a career performing with Latin greats such as Hector Lavoe and Eddie Palmieri, was the kind of entertainer who electrified the stage with a Latin percussion mastery of unforgettable drum sets.
"I was so proud of him," says his mother Victoria Serrano, 78, who lived with her son, always welcoming him back home after those shows. "It was incredible how he played, something he loved doing since he was a kid. He loved salsa so much."
On the morning of Jan. 14, the 54-year-old Serrano was never to return to his Brooklyn, New York, home. It was after midnight when he fell down a flight of stairs shortly after performing with friends, according to his mother, who added that he was unconscious as he was rushed to Jamaica Queens Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead one day later on Jan. 15 after suffering multiple injuries, according to family.
Funeral services were held on Jan. 19 at Las Rosas Funeral Home in Brooklyn, which was attended by family and friends who also performed a drum set in honor of Serrano who many described as someone who continually looked out for others and was always ready to help anyone in need. Family and friends said that reporting Serrano's death to media took some time, as they took time to grieve and make sense of the accident.
"He was a very generous person," says Holly Lane, a friend of Serrano's for 22 years. "He gave money when people needed money, he taught music to anyone who wanted lessons. He was a super kind person."
During his career, Serrano honed his skills in his native New York during the '70s with a specialty in Afro-Cuban music, among many other genres that he mastered and that made him a favorite among salsa legends like Lavoe and Palmieri.
Serrano, whose parents hail from Puerto Rico, was a Fania recording artist and worked on the Son Primero album on the Montuno label with Rene Lopez and the late Dave Valentin, said Lane, a veteran music entrepreneur.
"Alberto was one of those guys who could play music properly," says Felix Sanabria, another musician friend who grew up in New York with Serrano. "He played Afro drums, the tumbadora and the quinto. We were called the Quinto kids. At one point Eddie Palmieri gave younger guys a chance to play and Alberto was one of them."
Friends and family said that through the years Serrano's body received injuries when he was working jobs outside of music, including as a lock smith. Serrano was also drum craftsman, Lane said and added that they were even making plans to build a new business.
Victoria Serrano says that her son also had severe back problems and often he'd tell her that he didn't know how to cope with them, even with the help of medications. He also never liked telling his mom about any challenges in his personal life because he didn't want to worry her.
"I always told him, 'Papi, I live for you. Any problem you have I am here for you,'" she said. "He suffered quietly. He never let me know about his problems. He was a model son and we shared so many good memories together."
Serrano is survived by his mother Victoria Serrano; father Dionisio Serrano and daugther Rocio Serrano.
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