September 14, 2009
May 15, 2009
Percussionist Machito- one of the most important figures in Afro Cuban jazz and a major band leader for over 40 years. Born Frank Grillo in Florida but raised in Cuba, his mother nicknamed him “Macho” a title that stuck for two decades until he arrived in New York and changed it to “Machito” He spent much of the 1930’s performing in Cuba. His friend Mario Bauza who had moved to the US in 1930 came to Cuba to marry Machito’s sister Estrella. Bauza’s stories about New York would inspire Machito to save money so he could move to New York. He left for the states in 1937, working for various New York based Cuban bands. In 1940 Machito’s Afro Cubans had a successful debut. In 1941 Mario Bauza would join as trumpeter and musical director. Bauza’s experience with New York jazz combined with Afro-cuban music would make Machito’s Afro Cubans truly the Cadillac of Latin big bands. The song Tanga would be widely considered the first Afro-cuban jazz song. Machito was highly regarded as a symbol of Latin oriented jazz appearing in Carnegie Hall in 1949. Machito’s orquestra would record and tour in the 60’s and 70’s. After his passing in 1984, his son Mario would become the leader keeping the legacy of Machito’s afro Cubans alive for the next generation.
May 15, 2009
Percussionist Pete Escovedo has been a major force in the Latin Music scene of the San Francisco Bay Area since the late 1960’s. He grew up in Oakland, California surrounded by music, his father singing for Latin big bands. Pete played sax in high school, switched to vibes then timbales. Pete and his younger brother Coke Escovedo both developed into skilled percussionist. In 1967 Carlos Santana hired the brothers to play in his band. After touring with Santana for 3 years they formed the 14 piece Latin Rock big band Azteca recording 2 albums for Columbia records. Pete’s 15 year old daughter Sheila joined them on percussion. She would later work with Prince as Sheila E. also recording with her own group E-train. She frequently rejoins her dad in his Latin Jazz bands which also feature her sister and younger brothers making Pete and the Escovedo family proof that the family that plays together stays together.
May 12, 2009
Charlie Palmieri-The older brother of top pianist Eddie Palmieri. The son of Puerto Rican parents Charlie was born in New York City. He began classical piano studies when he was seven and attended Julliard. During the 40’s and 50’s he made a name for himself in the local Latin scene performing with Tito Puente, Xavier Cugat and jazz flute player Herbie Mann. Influenced by the charanga style of Cuba, Charlie would form Charanga Duboney. Charanga’s main feature was to use flute and violins in the role that the horn section would otherwise play. The album Viva Palmieri would set the stage for the new harmonic and arranging trends that would eventually become the standard for salsa orchestras. By the 1960’s the Charanga craze ended and he changed his group to the Duboney orchestra featuring three trumpets and two trombones. He began a second career in 1969 as a historian and teacher of Latin music and started doubling on organ in the 70’s. He also became musical director for Tito Puente’s television program. Charlie Palmieri’s El Gigante would become an important bridge from Afro-Cuban jazz to salsa then to the Latin jazz of today.
February 18, 2009
Marc Anthony- Was the one at the forefront of a new generation of Latin artists to come into prominence in the 1990’s. His wide raging tenor voice combined with contemporary, modern production helped to usher in a new wave of salsa to a new generation of listeners. Born Marco Antonio Muñiz in East Harlem, New York he was exposed to Spanish music by his father. When he would leave his house Anthony was listening to disco, R&B and Motown. In his twenties, Anthony would get experience working in the studio working on free style and house music for New York dance clubs. Signing with Ralph Mercado’s RMM label he hit with 1995’s Todo a su tiempo which echoed the salsa Romantica style with R&B influenced arrangements. After several hit records with RMM, he signed with Sony records also recording for the pop market in English, but not straying too far from his Latin roots which remain his musical foundation.
February 18, 2009
Celia Cruz – One of the most famous and beloved singer ever in Latin music. This is and artist that is recognized all over the world for her passionate singing and extravagant stage presence. She studied literature at a teacher’s training College, but after winning a radio talent show she was soon studying music at the Havana Conservatory. Celia’s first big break came in 1950 when she was hired by La Sonora Matanzera, Cuba’s most famous group, to become their feature singer. In 1960 during Castro’s regime Celia and her band left for a tour that never made it back to their homeland. Celia moved to New York in 1962 marrying Pedro Knight who was one of her band mates and he became her manager. In 1965, Celia left Sonora Matanzera and began to record with Tito Puente and his Orquestra. In 1974 she worked with Johnny Pacheco on the Fania label. Her work on Fania would propel her to superstardom and she soon became known as the queen of salsa. Sadly, Celia Cruz left us on July 16th, 2003 leaving behind a recording legacy of over 100 albums influencing every singer in Latin music. She became more than just the Queen of salsa, as a cultural icon for the Latin population worldwide; she became immortalized as Queen of the people.
January 5, 2009
Chico O Farrill is one of the most important composers and arrangers in the history of Latin jazz. Born Arturo O Farrill in Havana Cuba, he attended a military academy in Georgia during the years of 1936 through 1940. It was during this period he discovered jazz and began playing the trumpet. After graduating in 1940 he returned to Cuba where he studied composition. In 1946 O Farrill gave up the trumpet altogether to concentrate on arranging and leading his own band. In 1948 O Farrill moved to New York city writing charts for Gill Fuller. He was then recommended to band leader Benny Goodman who would give O Farrill his nickmane of Chico. Other band leaders were soon using O Farrill’s talents, such as Stan Kenton, Dizzy Gillespie, and Machito. From 1951 to 1954 O Farrill made 6 fiery albums of big band jazz. In 1957 O Farrill moved to Mexico City working for studios and television. During the next 30 years he free lanced writing arrangements for many bands, one of them being the Tanga suite for Mario Bauza in 1991. His son Arturo O Farrill is a pianist leading his own band continuing the tradition of class and sophistication in the field of Latin jazz.
January 5, 2009
Henry â€œPuchoâ€ Brown
b. Nov 1 1938 Harlem NY.
Pucho and his band the Latin soul brothers were one of the top bands in the mid 1960â€™s that successfully mixed elements of jazz, Latin, soul and funk.Â African American Henry Brown was born in Harlem, NY.Â In his youth he was exposed to jazz, Latin music, and rhythm and blues.Â Nicknamed Pucho by a friend he was inspired by Tito Puente to pick up the timbales at age 15.Â In the 50â€™s he served for several years in pianist Joe Panamaâ€™s band.Â In 1959 he formed his won band known as Pucho and the cha cha boys.Â One of his musicians was a very young Chick Corea.Â Puchoâ€™s band attracted attention form top Latin jazz men who lured Corea and other musicians into their own groups.Â Pucho then reorganized his band and renamed them the Latin soul brothers.Â He signed with jazz label Prestige in 1966 recording albums that helped define the Latin boogaloo style.Â This style combined Latin music, jazz and funk.Â In 1995 Pucho and his band made a come back exposing new audiences to his unique brand of Latin soul.
November 24, 2008
Nestor Torres â€“ born in Puerto Rico- Nestor Torres is a spirited flute player whose style incorporates Latin, jazz, pop and classical styles.Â He started playing drums at the age of 5, switching to flute at age 12.Â He was inspired by Cal Tjader, Dave Brubeck and Tito Puente.Â After high school, he went to New York hoping to find work with Latin jazz bands.Â Realizing his skills needed improving; he enrolled in Berkley College of music and the New England Conservatory of music.Â In 1977 he graduated and returned to New York.Â He worked with his mentors Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri and gigged with Manny Oquendoâ€™s Libre.Â In 1981 Torres started working with Latin act Hansel and Raul and moved to Miami.Â Torres was immediately accepted into the cityâ€™s salsa scene.Â He spent his time lecturing and performing on the college circuit in South Florida.Â In 1989 he signed with PolyGram records releasing Morning ride for Verve/forecast.Â It climbed to the top ten on the contemporary jazz charts.Â Later that year he had an accident in a celebrity boat race crushing his upper body and damaging his lungs.Â After a long recovery, he returned in 1991 and has since recorded taking listeners on an exotic journey with beautiful sounds from his flute.
November 17, 2008
Hilton Ruiz â€“ a brilliant pianist equally skilled in Latin and jazz styles.Â A child prodigy, Ruiz was classically trained from a very young age.Â He appeared at Carnegie Hall at the age of 8.Â He took extensive lessons from pianist Mary Lou Williams.Â Williams was one of the most respected female musicians in jazz, and one of the great stride piano stylists to influence Ruiz during his formative years.Â He also had an important association with blind jazz saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk, playing on his final albums before his untimely death.Â Ruiz has gigged and recorded with many of the top musicians in Latin music and jazz.Â The downtown New York club The Village Gate in the 70â€™s and 80â€™s would hold salsa meets Jazz shows every week. This helped create an atmosphere that helped introduce Hilton Ruiz and other young musicians to the public.Â Ruiz and others were well versed in both Latin and Jazz styles reinterpreting classics to a fresh audience.Â In the 90â€™s Ruizâ€™s recordings used the finest musicians in Latin jazz who would go on to form their own bands and whose influence, like the jazz greats of the 50â€™s is being felt today.