Jazz 88.3 Blog
October 1, 2021- Today's Topic: West Coast Latin
Although New York was considered the epicenter of latin jazz in the 1940s and 1950s there was also a lot of activity in Los Angeles. It began with the Stan Kenton Orchestra in the mid 1940s with the recording of Machito and the addition of Jack Costanzo to the rhythm section. Shorty Rogers joined the Kenton Innovations Orchestra in 1950 and wrote several latin pieces including Viva Prado and Sambo.
When Shorty left the Kenton Orchestra in 1951 he began working at the Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach and continued to experiment with latin rhythms. Shorty’s Viva Zapata and Casa De Luz
were so popular that it began a tradition of the various Lighthouse All Stars arrangers to contribute latin pieces to the book.
Los Angeles audiences were also hearing all the sounds coming out of New York thanks to legendary disc jockey Chico Sesma who began broadcasting on KOWL in 1949. Chico was the first to introduce the Mambo to west coast listeners. He also started promoting latin jazz concerts in the early 1950s and by 1959 he was presenting his “Latin Holidays” live shows at the Hollywood Palladium.
During the 1950s there were a number of latin bands in East L.A. and many of the young west coast jazz musicians worked in those bands. Included were several artists that made big names for themselves later including Lennie Niehaus, Tony Ortega, Jack Montrose, Art Pepper and Bill Trujillo.
Since Los Angeles became home to so many composers and arrangers there was much experimentation with latin rhythms on many recording sessions. Luckily there were three important latin percussionists in town that were called in for many such sessions. They also all worked regularly at the Lighthouse.
First was Carlos Vidal. Carlos was one of the original members of Machito’s Afro Cubans. He moved to Los Angeles in the late 1940s and became in high demand. Second was Jack Costanzo who left the Stan Kenton Orchestra he ended up in Los Angeles and became very famous as “Mr. Bongo” In addition to leading his own sessions, he appears on countless west coast dates and became a favorite of the Hollywood crowd. He appeared in many motion pictures as well as television.
Third was Mike Pacheco who was another important west coast artist that came to prominence with Stan Kenton and became of mainstay of the west coast scene. Shorty Rogers continued his latin explorations including a collaboration with Perez Prado called the Voodo Suite as well as The Afro Cuban Influence which is one of Shorty’s finest albums. Many other west coast artists incorporated latin themes into their recordings including Frank Morgan, Pete Rugolo, Bud Shank, Victor Feldman, Art Pepper, Bill Holman and many more.
Bud Shank and Laurindo Almeida did a series of samba based recordings in the early 50s which pre-dated the Bossa Nova craze by ten years. In addition to the american west coast artists who worked in a latin idiom there were a number of important latin bands in Los Angeles most notably Rene Bloch and Rene Touzet.
September 30, 2021- Today's Topic: Mambo
Mambo is a Cuban musical style that comes from the danzon tradition and referred to as danzon-mambo. Traditional mambo makes heavy use of the guajeos used in son-Cubano.
Guajeos also known as a montuno is a syncopated ostinato that repeats throughout the song usually with a clave pattern.
Mambo first appeared in Cuba in the late 30s and became a popular dance style. Orestes Lopez and his brother Cachao made some key innovations that helped define the genre.
In 1949 Damaso Perez Prado brought the style to international prominence, first in Mexico then in New York. Prado expanded on the earlier concept by adding a bigger American jazz influence with an enlarged big band instrumentation.
The impact in New York was immediate and soon spread to the rest of the country.
American record companies lined up to cash in on the music’s popularity. It was a cultural phenomenon in popular music and Perez Prado was the undisputed King of the Mambo.
In New York The Palladium became the most well known ballroom for the Mambo and attracted the city’s best dancers. In addition to Prado, Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez were major stars. Machito and Mario Bauza incorporated the style into their band as well. Popular music jumped on the band wagon and the word Mambo was used with many artists on many records.
Mambo uses a similar instrumental ensemble to other Afro-Cuban musical genres. A rhythm section may consist of percussion instruments like bongos, congas, timbales, cowbell, claves, guiro, and a drum set.
The Mambo remained the most popular latin dance style in the United States until it was replaced in the mid 50s by the Cha Cha Cha.
September 29, 2021- Today's Topic: Chico O'Farrill
Chico O’ Farrill was one of the prime creators of Afro-Cuban Jazz and one of the most successful in marrying American and Latin music together.
He was born Arturo O’ Farrill in Havana Cuba in 1921. His father was of Irish decent. As a young man he was sent to Military School in Georgia and learned to play the trumpet. He
also heard American Big Band Jazz for the first time. It had an enormous influence on his musical direction.
Back in Havana he studied with Cuban composer Felix Guerrero and played trumpet in several Havana based dance bands.
He came to New York in 1948 and began to realize the possibilities of bringing Latin elements into American jazz. He was preceded in New York by Machito, Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo
but it was Chico who set the standard as a composer/arranger.
His first significant work came as an arranger for Benny Goodman’s short-lived Bop Band. Chico’s original Undercurrent Blues was the most important piece to come out of Goodman’s
band at the time. It was Goodman who gave him the nickname Chico which stuck from that point forward.
When Norman Granz was planning the Machito Afro Cuban Jazz Suite, Mario Bauza suggested Chico to write it. The Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite is one of the masterpieces of the genre.
This led to an association with Norman Granz that enabled Chico to begin recording as a leader. He followed up with The Afro Cuban Suite #2 as well as numerous sides in the early to
In 1955 he returned to Cuba before going on to Mexico City. He stayed in Mexico City until 1965 and was involved in many, now obscure, recordings as well as the classic Aztec Suite for
He returned to New York in 1965 and became in demand as an arranger working with many artists including Cal Tjader, Count Basie, Gato Barbieri, Clark Terry and was once again
reunited with Dizzy Gillespie and Norman Granz. He also did a tremendous amount of studio work at the time writing for many television commercials.
In 1995 he began recording again as a leader with the brilliant album Pure Emotion. Others followed like Heart of a Legend and Carambola. He continued to lead his big band until shortly
before his death in 2001.
His son Arturo took over the band at that time and has continued to carry his father’s legacy as well as establishing himself as a major jazz artist.
Concerning the mixture of Jazz and Afro-Cuban music, Mr. O'Farrill once said, that it’s ''a very delicate marriage. You can't go too much one way or the other. It has to be a blend. But you
have to be careful with how different styles come together. Otherwise music labeled Latin jazz could end up being like Glenn Miller with maracas, or Benny Goodman with congas. Latin jazz
is much deeper than that."
September 28, 2021- Today's Topic: Cubop
Cubop is the marriage of Afro-Cuban rhythms with bebop harmony and improvisation.
It emerged during the bop era when Dizzy Gillespie added Chano Pozo to his big band in 1947.
We featured a number of Cubop recordings last week on days that spotlighted Machito, Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo.
But there were a number of other bop era musicians who began experimenting with the style.
Charlie Parker recorded with Machito at two recording sessions as well as some live performances.
The sessions produced several titles for Norman Granz including No Noise, Mango Mangue and Chico O’ Farrill’s masterpiece The Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite.
They were released under Machito’s name plus a Charlie Parker album titled "Charlie Parker South of the Border."
In 1948 Howard McGhee worked with Machito and performed and recorded the tune Cubop City.
A number of notable congueros came to the US at that time as well including Mongo Santamaría, Armando Peraza, Francisco Aguabella, Carlos Vidal and Modesto Durán.
September 27, 2021- Today's Topic: Stan Kenton and Pete Rugolo
Besides Dizzy Gillespie, the other American band to explore Afro-Cuban music was the Orchestra of Stan Kenton.
Kenton and his chief arranger Pete Rugolo heard the Noro Morales band at the Embassy Club in New York in early 1947. It was in a back room and the band was screaming and the people
were dancing and they were blown away by what they heard. One of the dancers told them if you think this is good you should hear Machito and His Afro Cubans. Later, they took the dancers advice and went and heard Machito at a club in Spanish Harlem. That experience had a major impact on both Kenton and Rugolo. Rugolo was so inspired that he immediately wrote an original and titled it “Machito”. They brought in authentic Latin percussionists for the recording and to this day it is one of Rugolo’s masterpieces.
Kenton disbanded his “Artistry in Rhythm” Orchestra not long after Machito was recorded but reformed a new band that premiered later that year. This time he called it “Progressive Jazz”
Kenton and Rugolo wanted to continue to explore the latin idiom and hired Jack Costanzo to play latin percussion. They also hired Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida. Rugolo wrote several Latin pieces for the Progressive Jazz Orchestra including Cuban Carnival, Bongo Riff and the four part Prologue Suite which included the titles Intro to a Latin Rhythm, Chorale for Brass Piano and Bongo, Abstraction and Journey to Brazil. They also put together an arrangement of The Peanut Vendor that became a staple in the band’s book up to the very end.
Kenton continued to incorporate latin pieces into the bands repertoire for the rest of his career, more so than any other American band.
September 24, 2021- Today's Topic: Chano Pozo
Chano Pozo was born in Havana in 1915 and grew up in the El Africa Solar neighborhood which was poverty stricken and extremely dangerous. He began playing the drums early on and was a participant in the Afro-Cuban religious ceremonies that took place in the neighborhood. The streets were so dangerous that he had to learn to survive even if that meant getting involved in criminal activity. He did some time in a reformatory and spent his free time dancing and playing the drums.
He also began doing choreography and writing music. He was big and muscular and often was hired as a bouncer in the various nightclubs. Before long his dancing and percussion skills
made him famous throughout Havana. Chano's reputation grew among the people each year, not only because of his physical prowess as a dancer, drummer, but for the compositions he wrote for Carnival, during the nightly celebrations of which neighborhoods formed highly competitive comparsas, or street troupes. They consisted of singers, dancers, musicians, and the rumberos. Rumberos were integral since they provided throbbing, sensuous rhythms regarded as the base for all AfroCuban music. In a few years Pozo was the most well-known and sought after rumbero in Cuba, and was regularly winning top cash prizes for his compositions.
Chano elevated the status and reputation of rumbero to near mythic proportions with his swaggering attitude as he led his own comparsa through the streets and with increasing successes became a hero to Havana's poor people. Pozo and some of his fellow musicians wrote a conga music composition that earned them first prize in the city of Santiago de Cuba's carnival of 1940: "La Comparsa de los Dandys," a composition that some consider an unofficial theme song of Santiago de Cuba, and a familiar standard at many Latin American carnivals.
In 1947 he came to New York and was immediately embraced by a who’s who of the music and dancing community including associations with Miguelito Valdez and Katherine Dunham.
Not long after his arrival, Mario Bauza introduced him to Dizzy Gillespie and their collaboration led to the birth of Afro-Cuban Jazz.
As Dizzy fondly recounted, Chano had the power to mesmerize the audience as he stripped to the waist performing long conga solos and singing sacred Afro-Cuban chants.
It all came to a tragic end in December of 1948 when Chano was shot to death at the El Rio Bar which was at 111th and Lenox Ave. in Harlem.
Even though he was only on the scene a short time his impact was immense and still felt today.
September 23, 2021- Today's Topic: Dizzy Gillespie
The real birth of Afro-Cuban Jazz happened in 1947 when Dizzy Gillespie brought Chano Pozo into his big band. Dizzy had become fascinated with Cuban rhythms when he worked with Mario Bauza in Cab Calloway’s band in the late thirties.
By 1947, modern jazz was well-established and Dizzy was it’s most prominent figure. At the time he was leading his own big band and decided to incorporate Cuban rhythm into the
orchestra. Bauza introduced him to Chano Pozo who had recently arrived in New York from his native Cuba. Chano had become famous in his birthplace of Havana as a dancer and master percussionist and was the most sought after Rumbero.
The addition of Chano Pozo’s conga drum to Dizzy’s rhythm section created the birth of Afro-Cuban Jazz and what would become known as Cu-Bop. He debuted at Dizzy’s high profile Carnegie Hall concert on September 29, 1947 and was featured on George Russell’s Cubana Be-Cubana Bop. He also collaborated with Dizzy on several of the early Cubop pieces including Tin Tin Deo and Manteca.
Their collaboration was short-lived though as Pozo was shot and killed in a bar in Harlem in December of 1948.
In the meantime Cu-Bop was established and others started to experiment with the style. Dizzy continued his fascination with Cuban music which he explored throughout his entire
During his final years he recorded four albums as a leader which cemented his legacy as one of the true giants of latin jazz.
September 22, 2021- Today's Topic: Mario Bauza
Along with Machito, Mario Bauza was one of the founding fathers of latin jazz. He was featured prominently yesterday during our feature on Machito but today we focus specifically
on Mario Bauza. He was born in Havana in 1911 and was a child prodigy on the clarinet and bass clarinet. So much so that he was featured with the Havana Symphony at the age of 11.
He first came to the United States in 1926 and stayed in Harlem where he was exposed to American jazz for the first time. It had a major effect on him and he vowed to become a jazz
musician in the future. When he returned to Havana he mastered the alto saxophone with the idea of one day returning to New York.
His opportunity came in an unexpected way. Don Azpiazu’s Havana Casino Orchestra had taken New York by storm with their hit tune The Peanut Vendor. Azpiazu needed a trumpet
player for a recording session but they had all returned to Cuba. Bauza bought a trumpet and taught himself to play it in two weeks and made the session. He stayed in New York and joined Chick Webb as lead trumpet and Music Director in 1933.
During this time he was instrumental in discovering Ella Fitzgerald and bringing her into the band. In 1938 he joined the trumpet section of Cab Calloway’s band which later included a young
Dizzy Gillespie. Dizzy’s exposure to Cuban music through his friendship with Bauza would eventually lead to the creation of Afro-Cuban Jazz.
After Cab Calloway, Bauza teamed up with Machito and the Afro-Cubans and became the band’s musical director. His composition Tanga was recorded in 1942 and is one of the earliest
examples of latin jazz. His use of in-clave and the development of the 3-2 2-3 approach was groundbreaking and highly influential.
He stayed with Machito until 1976 then fell into relative obscurity. He had never really gotten the recognition he deserved but that all changed in 1979 when there were several celebrations
that recognized his contributions. It kicked off a career revival that lasted the rest of his life.
During his final years he recorded four albums as a leader which cemented his legacy as one of the true giants of latin jazz.
September 21, 2021- Today's Topic: Machito
Machito was one of the significant founding fathers of Latin Jazz and one of the most influential. He was born Francisco Raul Gutierrez Grillo in 1909 and raised in Havana Cuba.
He came to New York in 1937 and began recording with a variety of bands most notably the orchestra of Xavier Cugat. In 1940 he formed his own group Machito and the Afro-Cubans. His music director was Mario Bauza and together they were one of the first to combine cuban rhythms in a big band setting.
In 1942 the Afro-Cubans recorded the Mario Bauza composition Tanga which is considered the first latin jazz song based in-clave. The early success of Machito and the Afro-Cubans inspired a number of American bandleaders including Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Kenton who would both begin incorporating Afro-Cuban rhythms into their music.For over twenty years, starting in the mid-forties, Machito and the Afro-Cubans played every summer at the Concord Hotel in the Catskills.
When they weren’t in the Catskills they were one of the featured attractions at New York’s Palladium Ballroom. In addition to being so influential to other musicians, Machito and the band were responsible for many latin jazz “firsts.” The first important Descarga, which means Cuban Jam Session, happened at a Machito rehearsal in 1943. They were the first to establish the bongos, congas and timbales as the standard percussion unit for Afro-Cuban music.
Machito’s arrangers including Mario Bauza and Chico O’ Farrill established many arranging techniques that would be copied by others including Bauza’s 3-2 2-3 clave concept.
Many of the legendary latin percussionists worked with Machito including Luis Miranda, Chano Pozo, Carlos Vidal, Ubaldo Nieto, Jose Mangual, Armando Pereza, Chino Pozo, Candido,
Patato Valdes and Machito’s son Mario Grillo.
Machito passed away in 1984 but Mario, known as Machito Jr, continues to carry his father’s legacy forward.
In 1985, New York mayor Ed Koch named the intersection of East 111th Street and Third Avenue "Machito Square."
September 20, 2021- Today's Topic: Jelly Roll Morton and the Birth of Latin Jazz in New Orleans
The influence of Afro-Latin rhythms to jazz has been there right from the very beginning in the birthplace of jazz itself, New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans was a melting pot of many different cultures including French, Spanish, Creole, African, European and the Caribbeans. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, musical traditions from those cultures mixed which resulted in the emergence of a variety of new sounds with an emphasis on new and complex rhythms.
The African heritage of both Caribbean and American music became more pronounced and influenced the music that would evolve into jazz. Jelly Roll Morton, early pioneer and self proclaimed inventor of jazz, explained how he was influenced by the Spanish culture that was such a prominent aspect of the New Orleans of his youth. He referred to it as “the Spanish tinge.”
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