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Machito and His Afro-Cubans: SelectedTranscriptionsPaul AusterlitzGettysburg College

Jere LaukkanenHelsinki Metropolia University of Applied SciencesRoles

Editors:Paul Austerlitz, Gettysburg CollegeJere Laukkanen, Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences

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Austerlitz, Paul and Jere Laukkanen. Machito and His Afro-Cubans: Selected Transcriptions. Middleton, WI: A & R Edition, 2016.


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Machito and His Afro-Cubans: Selected Transcriptions

DescriptionMachito (Francisco Raúl Grillo, 1909–1984) was born into a musical family in Havana, Cuba, and was alreadyan experienced vocalist when he arrived in New York City in 1937. In 1940 he teamed up with his brother-in-law, the Cuban trumpeter Mario Bauzá (1911–1993), who had already made a name for himself with topAfrican American swing bands such as those of Chick Webb and Cab Calloway. Together, Machito and Bauzáformed Machito and his Afro-Cubans. With Bauzá as musical director, the band forged vital pan-Africanconnections by fusing Afro-Cuban rhythms with modern jazz and by collaborating with major figures in thebebop movement. Highly successful with Latino as well as black and white audiences, Machito and his Afro-Cubans recorded extensively and performed in dance halls, nightclubs, and on the concert stage. In thisvolume, ethnomusicologist Paul Austerlitz and bandleader and professor Jere Laukkanen (both experiencedLatin jazz performers) present transcriptions from Machito’s recordings which meticulously illustrate theimprovised as well as scored vocal, reed, brass, and percussion parts of the music. Austerlitz’s introductoryessay traces the history of Afro-Cuban jazz in New York, a style that exerted a profound impact on leaders ofthe bebop movement, including Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, who appears as a guest soloist withMachito on some of the music transcribed here. This is MUSA’s first volume to represent the significant Latinoheritage in North American music.

KeywordsMachito, Cuba, Afro-Cuban music, jazz, bebop, transcription

DisciplinesAfrican American Studies | Composition | Latin American Studies | Music Performance

PublisherA-R Editions


CommentsProfessor Austerlitz's opening essay, "The Afro-Cuban Impact on Music in the United States: Mario Bauzá andMachito," available by clicking the download link above.

This book is available at The Cupola: Scholarship at Gettysburg College: https://cupola.gettysburg.edu/books/107

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M a c h i t o a n d H i s A f r o - C u b a n s


Edited by Paul Austerlitz and Jere Laukkanen

Recent Researches in American Music • Volume 78

Music of the United States of America • Volume 26

Published for theAmerican Musicological Societyby

A-R Editions, Inc.Middleton, Wisconsin


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Published by A-R Editions, Inc.Middleton, Wisconsin 53562http://www.areditions.com

© 2016 American Musicological Society

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form byany electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information stor-age and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.

Printed in the United States of America

ISBN 978-0-89579-828-2ISSN 0147-0078

Frontispiece: Machito. Photo credit: Henry Medina Archives and Services.

Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite by Chico O’FarrillWorldwide rights for JATAP Publishing Co. (BMI) administered by Blue Parasol, a divi-sion of Helene Blue Musique Ltd. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Caso perdido by Luis VaronaUsed by permission of Peer International Corporation. All rights reserved.

FrenzyWords and music by Mario Bauzá and Rene Hernández. © 1958 (renewed 1986) EMI Full Keel Music. This arrangement © 2014 EMI Full Keel Music. All rights reserved.International copyright secured. Used by permission. Reprinted by permission of HalLeonard Corporation.

Hall of the Mambo KingThis arrangement © 2015 Jere Laukkanen.

Mango mangüéWords and music by Marion Sunshine and Gilbert Valdez. © 1998 Fred Ahlert MusicGroup (ASCAP) / administered by BMG Rights Management (US) LLC. This arrange-ment © 2014 Fred Ahlert Music Group (ASCAP) / administered by BMG RightsManagement (US) LLC. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Reprinted by permissionof Hal Leonard Corporation.

Tanga by Mario BauzáCopyright © 1943 (renewed) EMI Robbins Catalog Inc. All rights controlled by EMIRobbins Catalog Inc. (publishing) and Alfred Music (print). All rights reserved. Used bypermission.

Que vengan los rumberos by Gilberto S. ValdesThis arrangement © 2015 Jere Laukkanen.

Publication of this edition has been supported by a grant from the National Endowment forthe Humanities, an independent federal agency. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recom-mendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect those of the NationalEndowment for the Humanities.

∞�The paper in this publication meets the minimum requirements of American NationalStandard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials,ANSI Z39-48-1992.

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vii F o r e w o r d

ix A c k n o w l e d g m e n t s

xi T h e A f r o - C u b a n I m p a c t o n M u s i c i n t h e U n i t e d S t a t e s :M a r i o B a u z á a n d M a c h i t o , by Paul Austerlitz

li A p p a r a t u s

lvii P l a t e s

M a c h i t o a n d H i s A f r o - C u b a n s : S e l e c t e d T r a n s c r i p t i o n s

3 Tanga

57 Que vengan los rumberos

97 Hall of the Mambo King

127 Mango mangüé

167 Frenzy

203 Caso perdido

233 The Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite

365 L i t e r a t u r e C i t e d


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1. Gordon, Assimilation in American Life.2. See Glazer and Moynihan, Beyond the Melting Pot; Portes and Zhou, “The New Second Generation:

Segmented Assimilation and Its Variants.”3. Flores, Divided Borders, 185, 192.4. Ibid., 199–224; O’Gorman, The Invention of America, 105–122.5. Ennis, “The Hispanic Population,” 3, accessed 18 September 2015, http://www.census.gov/prod

/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-04.pdf. The figure comes from the 2010 U.S. census, and of course, omitsundocumented residents.


T H E A F R O - C U B A N I M P A C T O N M U S I C

I N T H E U N I T E D S T A T E S : M A R I O


Paul Austerlitz

Variegated influences from around the globe have blended and collided to fashionthe mosaic of music in the United States. However, conventional notions of immi-

grant culture assimilating into a European-American “mainstream” typically ignore thefact that Europeans themselves arrived in this land as migrants.1 Assimilationist mod-els of immigration are further flawed in their assignment of normative status to Anglo-American culture.2 The fact that Spaniards colonized much of North America beforethe English, for example, challenges the concept of Anglo centrality in the UnitedStates. Social historian Juan Flores points out that the Latino experience in the UnitedStates has been a matter of neither “eventual accommodation nor ‘cultural genocide.’ ”Instead, the Latino experience constitutes “a more intricate structuring of ethnicity. . . .Rather than being subsumed and repressed . . . [Latino] culture contributes . . . to anew amalgam.”3 While Latinos in North America hail from many different countries,they share a common language and therefore comprise a group that is widely diverse,but also united in many ways. “America” itself is a contested and troubled concept, ashifting borderland. Americans continually redefine what it means to be Native,Anglo, Latin, or African American: as salsa composer Rubén Blades’s song puts it, weare perpetually “buscando América,” we are always “discovering America.”4 The resultingmontage constitutes the heart of North American culture.

Today, the United States boasts a Latino population of more than 16.3% of the totalpopulation,5 and while strides have been made to document Latino culture in theUnited States, academic discourse on the music of the United States still often neglectsthe contributions of Latinos. Of the various manifestations of Latino culture in theUnited States, Cuban-influenced music stands out. Even casual attention to jazz his-tory and popular culture (such as the I Love Lucy television program, 1951–1957)affirms that various forms of Latin music have long been integral to North Americanlife. The New York-based band called Machito and his Afro-Cubans (founded in1940) and their musical director, Mario Bauzá (1911–1993), were significant expo-nents of Latino culture in the United States, whose amalgam of North American and

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Cuban styles exerted a major impact on jazz and popular music. While most Cubandance music in the middle of the twentieth century was influenced by North Americanstyles to some extent, Bauzá and Machito played central roles in the development ofLatin jazz in the United States. Although the Machito band compared favorably to topCuban bands of their day, they were not among the foremost dance bands in Cuba.And while some of their recordings were popular at one time in Cuba, Machito andhis Afro-Cubans never performed there. In fact, Cuban musicologist Leonardo Acostapoints out that while Machito was “almost unknown” in Cuba, he is nevertheless betterknown on the global stage than is the eminent Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona.6The Machito band exerted a formative influence on Latin jazz as well as salsa, andexerted an indirect but significant influence on the development of non-Latin popularmusic. The publication of the music in this edition and this introductory essay willshow that Machito and his Afro-Cubans was a North American institution that had amajor impact on music in the United States.7

T h e A f r o - L a t i n T i n g e

Pioneering jazz composer and pianist Jelly Roll Morton famously stated that a“Spanish tinge . . . has so much to do with the typical jazz idea. If one can’t manage to put these tinges of Spanish in these tunes, they’ll never be able to get the right sea-son[ing], I call it, for jazz music.”8 Ethnomusicologist John Storm Roberts and othershave documented this “Latin tinge,” demonstrating its centrality not only to early jazz,but also to many other forms of music in the United States.9 However, musicologistCharles Garrett points out that this tinge should be studied “not as a single entity butas a multifaceted variable array of influences, not as a singular tinge but as a collectiveset of Latin tinges that color the history of American music.”10 In various localities andtimes, sundry Cuban, Mexican, Argentinian, Brazilian, and other Latin influences haveaffected music in the United States. Influences from West and Central Africa, ofcourse, also have blended with Latin and Anglo musics in North America.

These tinges already constituted a rich mélange in nineteenth and early twentiethcentury New Orleans. Louisiana was founded as a French colony, was ceded to Spainfrom 1764 to 1800, and then was returned to France, only to be sold to the UnitedStates in 1803. Louisiana’s cultural ties to the Caribbean islands were pervasive; it isestimated that in the years 1776 and 1777 alone, 2500 enslaved people of Africandescent came to New Orleans from Martinique. An additional 3000 came from theFrench colony of Saint-Domingue after the Haitian Revolution of 1791–1804; thisemigration more than tripled the size of the city. Many members of the latter exoduscame via Cuba, adding a Spanish layer to the Afro-French strain.11 Afro-Caribbeandrumming and dance had a high profile durig Sunday celebrations at the city’s CongoSquare in the early nineteenth century. In 1889, the Louisiana composer W. T. Franciswrote, “You can listen in New Orleans to the melodic music of the Spanish nations.”12

Mexican music was also influential in New Orleans, with touring groups makingfavorable impressions on the locals, and with Mexican music teachers and performers

Paul Austerlitz

6. Acosta, Del tambor al sintetizador, 16.7. Portions of this essay were previously published in Austerlitz, Jazz Consciousness.8. Lomax, Mister Jelly Roll, 78.9. Roberts, The Latin Tinge, 3; Roberts, Latin Jazz; Borneman, “Jazz and the Creole Tradition”;

Washburne, “The Clave of Jazz”; Brewer, “The Use of Habanera Rhythm in Rockabilly”; Lewis, “Ghosts,Ragged but Beautiful: Influences of Mexican Music”; Stewart, “‘Funky Drummer’”; Fiehrer, “FromQuadrille to Stomp.”

10. Garrett, Struggling to Define a Nation, 82.11. Borneman, “Jazz and the Creole Tradition,” 102.12. Quoted in Gushee, “The Nineteenth-Century Origins of Jazz,” 16. Also see Borneman, “Jazz and

the Creole Tradition,” 99.


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settling there.13 New Orleans Creole composer and piano virtuoso Louis MoreauGottschalk was strongly influenced by local music, for example in his La bamboula,danse negre no. 2 and Bananier chanson nègre, Op. 5. Several of Jelly Roll Morton’s com-positions, such as “Mama ’Nita” and “New Orleans Blues,” employ Latin tinges,14 as doJoe “King” Oliver’s “Jazzin’ Baby Blues” and Miff Mole’s “Crazy Rhythm.”15 As jazzbegan to spread northward from New Orleans, the Argentine tango, which had becomea Parisian cosmopolitan fad, also became dominant in the landscape of North Americanpopular music. Blues composer W. C. Handy, who had visited Cuba in 1900, expressedinterest in Cuban music. In 1914 he composed “St. Louis Blues,” which features atango rhythm.16 New York stride pianists such as Charles Luckeythe “Luckey” Robertsalso incorporated Latin elements,17 and Duke Ellington, Charlie Barnet, and otherbandleaders incorporated Latin influences in the decades that followed.

C L A V E : T h e K e y t o A f r o - C u b a n M u s i c

The rhythm most often identified with the Latin tinge is called the tresillo, whichmeans “triplet” in Spanish, but which actually consists of this syncopated duplerhythm: . The tresillo is closely related to so-called cinquillo (“quintu-plet”), which redacts the tresillo’s dotted quarter notes: . The tresilloand cinquillo rhythms are of West and Central African origin, as can be seen in theirsimilarity to this time-line used in gahu, a dance music of the Ewe people of Ghana:

.Related rhythmic patterns permeate the art of “patting juba,” which combines

rhymed declamations with clapping and patting the thighs. “Patting juba” flourishedamong African Americans in the antebellum period, later developing into a rhyme-song genre dubbed the “ham-bone.” Jazz historian Gunther Schuller notes that similarAfrican-derived rhythms appear in ragtime, citing Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” asan example.18 Cuban musicologist Alejo Carpentier shows that though the cinquillo isfound throughout the Caribbean, it emerged on the foreground of Cuban music in thenineteenth century as a result of the mass influx of Haitians that came to Cuba in thewake of the Haitian Revolution of 1791–1804. Indeed, cinquillo-related rhythms areprevalent in many Haitian genres (such as Vodou drumming and konpa).

During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, these rhythms emerged as a hall-mark of Cuban music. They should therefore be considered Afro-Latin tinges, to bedistinguished from Spanish-derived influences emanating from Mexico and elsewhere.Most Afro-Cuban genres employ a tresillo-related rhythm called the clave, whichbecame identified as a hallmark of their style. Clave literally refers to a musical instru-ment consisting of two sticks that are struck together, but the word clave also means“key,” as in the key to a puzzle. Several permutations of the clave serve as deep struc-tural elements of Cuban genres ranging from son to rumba. The clave underlies mostCuban dance music and is fundamental to the music of Machito and his Afro-Cubans:

.One of the earliest written sources concerning the clave was a report by Emilio

Grenet published in 1939 by the Cuban government as an attempt to clarify

The Afro-Cuban Impact on Music in the United States

13. Gushee, “The Nineteenth-Century Origins of Jazz,” 16; Garrett, Struggling to Define a Nation, 57;Washburne, “The Clave of Jazz.”

14. Garrett, Struggling to Define a Nation, 58–69; Roberts, The Latin Tinge, 25.15. Cristóbal Díaz Ayala goes so far as to make the enticing but perhaps equivocal suggestion that the

cornet/clarinet/trombone front line used in early jazz may derive from Cuban danzón recordings using thisinstrumentation that came to New Orleans in the early twentieth century. Díaz Ayala, Cuando salí de LaHabana, 61; Bruckner-Haring, “El jazz desde la perspective caribeña.”

16. Handy, Father of the Blues, 122–36.17. Ibid., 18.18. Schuller, Early Jazz, 24.


C .œ .œ œ C œ jœ œ jœ œ

C .œ .œ œ Œ ˙ œ

C .œ .œ œ Œ œ œ Œ

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misconceptions about Cuban music in the international community. It states that claveis a fundamental organizing principle in Cuban music:

Going only slightly into the rhythmic structure of our music we find that all its melodicdesign is constructed on a rhythmic pattern of two measures, as though both were onlyone, the first is antecedent, strong, and the second is consequent, weak. . . . The clavesincarnate the rhythmical tyranny of our song and . . . lead the steps of our dancers whofollow the claves as closely as the shadow follows the body.19

Son groups usually include the clave instrument, but even when the instrument is notpresent, the clave rhythm is implied by the other instruments and voices. Musicianstalk about being “in clave” when melodic rhythms as sung or played by fixed-pitchedinstruments imply or align with the clave rhythm.20 The son clave exists in two forms:one called the 3–2 clave, which begins with the three-stroke (tresillo) followed by thetwo-stroke phrase ( ); and the other called the 2–3 clave, whichbegins with the two-stroke followed by the three-stroke phrase ( ).21

When musical phrases, as articulated by singers, fixed-pitch instruments, or the har-monic structure, begin on the “three” side of the clave, they are said to “be in 3–2clave.” When phrases begin on the “two” side, they are said to “be in 2–3 clave.” Theclave is therefore more than a rhythm: it a key element that determines melodic, har-monic, and rhythmic phrasing—a “recipe” for Afro-Cuban music. The clave is centralto the music of Machito and his Afro-Cubans. In this edition, for example, the vocalchoruses of “Mango mangüé” are in 3–2 clave (see mm. 143–144), while the vocal choruses of “Que vengan los rumberos” are in 2–3 clave (mm. 85–86). Although NewOrleans jazz and other North American genres sometimes employ tresillo-relatedrhythms, Afro-Cuban music consistently utilizes the clave as a central feature inform-ing all aspects of musical structure. And although various Latin tinges have appearedin North American music since at least the beginning of the twentieth century,Machito and his Afro-Cubans played a significant role in diffusing the clave in theUnited States.

C u b a n M u s i c , S t e r e o t y p e , a n d R e a p p r o p r i a t i o n

While significant African influences are embedded in North American culture, 22

in Cuba, African traditions are practiced in ways that retain extremely close ties totheir Old World counterparts. For example, while the call-and-response of AfricanAmerican spirituals evince an undeniable African influence, Afro-Cuban religiousmusic is often sung in African languages, refers to African cosmologies, and uses musi-cal instruments that issue from specific ethnic groups of their home continent. Fourprimary African ethnic groups whose cultures have been passed down in religious tra-ditions exist in Cuba. The Lucumí religion, known as Santería because of its syncreticincorporation of Catholic saints, derives from the Yorùbá cultures of present-dayNigeria and employs spoken and sung liturgies in the Yorùbá language, Yorùbá musicalinstruments, and Yorùbá cosmology and divination. The Palo complex is based onCongolese religions of Central Africa; the Arará religion derives from the Fon ofBenin; and the Abacuá secret society derives from the Ejagham of southeasternNigeria and southwestern Camaroon.23

Paul Austerlitz

19. Grenet, Popular Cuban Music, xv, xvii; quoted in Washburne, “The Clave of Jazz,” 67.20. This occurs when phrasing conforms to clave strokes and/or when melodic rhythms parallel the

clave’s juxtaposition of tresillo-based measures and measures that emphasize the down beat. SeeWashburne, “The Clave of Jazz,” 67; Peñalosa, The Clave Matrix.

21. See Peñalosa, The Clave Matrix.22. Herskovits, The Myth of the Negro Past, 3.23. Thompson, Flash of the Spirit.


C .œ .œ œ Œ œ œ ŒC Œ œ œ Œ .œ .œ œ

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Afro-Cuban carnival music groups, or comparsas, elicit many Congolese influences,and their associated dance is called the conga. Rumba, a form of street drumming anddance identified with grassroots black Cuban culture, uses drums similar to those ofthe comparsas. In Cuba these are called tumbadoras but in the United States they weredubbed conga drums. The son is a syncretic Afro-Cuban popular dance music thatemerged in eastern Cuba in the early twentieth century and soon spread to Havana,where it was influenced by the rumba. The classic son ensemble, the sexteto, cametogether in the 1920s and consists of six instruments: tres (a plucked lute with threedouble-course strings), guitar, string bass, claves, maracas, and bongós. Sextetos wereoften augmented by a trumpet or cornet, making them septetos. Rumba and son perfor-mances usually begin with a verse section with changing harmonies, and end with avamp section called a montuno that showcases percussion and improvised lyrics calledinspiraciones (“inspirations”). While incorporating Afro-Cuban elements, the musicalstyle of the danzón occupies a spot closer to Spain on the continuum of African andEuropean influences. Developing in the nineteenth century when the Euro-Cubancontradanza incorporated Afro-Cuban tinges, the danzón was originally performed byorquestas típicas comprising European classical wind instruments and timbales (smalltympani). Around 1920, the orquestas típicas gave way to charangas francesas (or simplycharangas) consisting of violins, flute, and timbales. Its links to both European classicalforms and local African-influenced aesthetics made the danzón appealing to a racialcross-section of Cubans. In the middle of the twentieth century, Cuban dance bandsbegan to mix elements of the conga, rumba, son, and danzón.

Musicologist Robin Moore has identified an irony of Cuban identity: in spite ofEurocentrism, white Cubans have repeatedly adopted elements of Afro-Cuban cultureas national symbols. Afro-Cubans responded with ever more forceful assertions of in-group black identity. Similar trajectories are found elsewhere. Musicologist CharlesKeil points to a dynamic in which grassroots musics are appropriated and stereotypedby dominant classes. While the marginalized group has no choice but to accept (andeven at times to perpetuate) these stereotypes, it eventually reappropriates them, devel-oping new, oppositional forms of expression.24 In the 1920s, influenced by Parisianprimitivism and the Jazz Age, white Cuban nationalists appropriated Afro-Cubanexpression into what they considered quintessentially Cuban culture. A conga crazetook shape as composer Eliseo Grenet’s stylized versions of the dance became popularin Havana ballrooms. From there, the conga traveled to Paris and New York.25 Stereo -typed Afro-Cuban religious themes entered pop culture: singer Miguelito Valdés, forexample, popularized “Babalú,” a song named for a Yorùbá-Cuban spirit (but removedfrom Afro-Cuban liturgical music). White Cuban nationalist composers such asAmadeo Roldán and Alejandro García Caturla incorporated Afro-Cuban themes intotheir concert works. This appropriation brought black Cuban culture to the forefrontof national consciousness, making it possible for Afro-Cubans to display pride in theirheritage and express it on their own terms. Singer and composer Ignacio Piñeiro of afamed son group called Septeto Nacional referred to Santería in his songs “No juegescon los santos” (“Don’t Fool Around with the Saints”) and “Canto Lucumí” (“LucumíSong”). Many sones of the period used African-derived words prevalent in the blackslang, such as asere and chévere (“friend” and “great” in the Carabalí language).26

Stereotyped versions of the son and conga reached the United States and France inthe 1920s and 1930s (the son received the misnomer “rhumba” on the internationalstage). Justo “Don” Aziazpú brought his Havana Casino Orchestra to New York in1930, making a splash with his “rhumba” (or son) entitled “El manicero” (“The Peanut

The Afro-Cuban Impact on Music in the United States

24. Moore, Nationalizing Blackness, 6–7; Keil, Urban Blues, 43–49; Keil, “People’s Music Compara -tively,” 120–27.

25. Moore, Nationalizing Blackness, 77–80.26. Sublette, Cuba and its Music, 204.


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Vendor”). Based on street vendors’ cries, it was performed with traditional son instru-mentation and accompanied a dance show that depicted stereotypical Cuban streetscenes. “The Peanut Vendor” became a big hit and was recorded in the United Statesmany times, most notably by Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. The salon congaincorporated rhythms from its conga prototype: its well-known “one, two, three—kick”choreography derives from Afro-Cuban carnival dance. Bandleader Xavier Cugat, bornin Catalonia but raised in Cuba, emerged as the foremost exponent of “Americanized”Latin music in the 1930s.27 Freely admitting that “to succeed in America I gave theAmericans a Latin music that had nothing authentic about it,” Cugat believed that,because “Americans know nothing about Latin music . . . they have to be given musicmore for the eyes than the ears. Eighty percent visual, the rest aural.”28 His perfor-mances diluted and blended various Latin American influences into entertaining, flamboyant shows that stressed displays of instrumental virtuosity, attractive femalesingers, dancing, and flashy percussion.

North Americans also developed stereotyped notions of Lain America through cul-tural endeavors encouraged by public policy. The United States government’s GoodNeighbor Policy, which promoted cultural and economic relations with Latin America,had been in place since Herbert Hoover’s presidency, but was largely ignored untilPresident Franklin Delano Roosevelt revived it. During World War II, Walt Disneywas hired to make animated films to support the policy. Though denials were issued atthe time, memos released after the war reveal that the policy’s architects had requesteda series of “direct propaganda films” intended to demonstrate “a warm feeling of inter-racial friendship and solidarity, counteracting Axis propaganda about Uncle Sam’sracial prejudices.”29 As a result, Disney made the animated feature films Saludos Amigosin 1943 and The Three Caballeros in 1945. Despite good intentions, these along withother non-animated Hollywood efforts projected stereotyped images of domesticated,sensual Latin Americans. The films were hits in the United States. While they enjoyedsome popularity in Latin America, they also engendered resentment; UniversalPictures’ film Argentine Nights (1940), for example, was reportedly “hooted off thescreen” in Buenos Aires.30

Xavier Cugat, the Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz, and the Brazilian singer CarmenMiranda, known as the “Brazilian Bombshell,” emerged as the top stars of Hollywood’sLatin cinema. The 1940 film Too Many Girls, starring Arnaz, was a mix of variousLatin elements including a scene in which microbes dance the conga. The 1946 filmCuban Pete casts Arnaz as a bandleader in New York City; his later I Love Lucy televi-sion program brought the Cuban bandleader into living rooms across America.Inspired by Miguelito Valdés’s success with “Babalú,” Arnaz cemented his fame on theLucy show by singing “Babalú” while playing a conga drum, gyrating, and letting locksof his hair fall down over his eyes. The transplantation of Afro-Cuban stereotypes—already out of context in Cuba (this song was written by a white Cuban and is notassociated with Afro-Cuban religion)—to the United States was doubly ironic. Mostwhite people, of course, had no idea that the word “Babalú” is Yorùbá and not Spanish,or that the conga drum normally accompanied carnival songs and not Babalú songs.One high-ranking Afro-Cuban priest, Felipe García Villamil, states that many blackCubans found these appropriations insulting:

This would often upset us because of . . . racism and that whole mess. They wrotearrangements and the majority of those who sang them were white [Cubans]. Also, theygave the impression that they didn’t understand what they were singing.31

Paul Austerlitz

27. Cugat, Rumba Is My Life.28. Roberts, The Latin Tinge, 87.29. Woll, The Latin Image in American Film, 55.30. Ibid., 56–59.31. Quoted in García, Arsenio, 22.


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Indeed, Desi Arnaz betrayed ignorance about his own signature song when he erro-neously claimed that “Babalú” was dedicated to a Yorùbá-Cuban spirit named Changórather than to Babalú-Aye.32 Similarly, Carmen Miranda, who appeared in eight filmsbetween 1939 and 1944, gained her fame by dancing with a mock fruit basket on herhead. Her self-parody and high energy made subversive readings possible, and adynamic of re-appropriation lurked beneath the stereotyped veneer.33

M a c h i t o i n C u b a

Francisco Raúl Pérez Gutierrez (who later took the surname Grillo) was born on 16 February 1908 to Rogelio Pérez and Marta Gutierrez de Pérez in a two-room solar(or compound apartment) in the predominantly black barrio (neighborhood) of JesusMaría in Havana.34 Francisco, called Macho by family, and Machito later by his fans,was the oldest of six children. When he was ten years old, his father became successfulin the grocery business, transporting food from docks to retail outlets. Though living ina poor Afro-Cuban neighborhood, the Pérez family was better off than were its neigh-bors; Machito attended a private school, where he was one of the only black students.Afro-Cuban cultural practices were deeply ingrained in the barrio; Machito, whosegrandmother was born in Africa, remembered that “the Yorùbá religion or Santería . . .to us was like the Catholic religion” was to whites: it was central to their worldview.Local rumba musicians and dancers were heroes among the neighborhood youth.Machito used to give the famed drummers free groceries simply out of respect for theirmusic.35

The Pérez family was musical. Machito’s father, an amateur singer himself, enjoyedhiring top-flight popular musicians such as singer María Teresa Vera and bandleaderAntonio María Romeu to play at his wife’s birthday parties. All of Machito’s sisterssang, and for a while they had their own son group.36 Machito also sang as a teenager,and since he was a baritone, he generally sang harmony rather than melody. He lovedto watch and listen to rehearsals of Havana’s top son groups, marveling especially at themaraca players. He later remembered their virtuosic control as “fantastic . . . so I saidthat OK, I want to learn to do this. And I locked myself in my room . . . and took themaracas,” practicing day and night. “My mother thought I was crazy.”37 Machito alsoreceived instruction in solfège and flute.38 While still a teen, he joined the top echelonof son musicians, debuting as a back-up singer and maraca player with the MiguelZavalle Sextet.39 His flair for playing the maracas won him attention, and whenIgnacio Piñiero, the leader of the famed Septeto Nacional, heard him play in 1929,Piñiero invited Machito to replace their accompanying vocalist because the latter wasnot a good maraquero. Machito joined Maria Teresa Vera’s Sexteto in 1930, and then

The Afro-Cuban Impact on Music in the United States

32. Arnaz, A Book, 27. Arnaz also claimed that Changó is a “god of war,” ibid. In fact, Changó rulesthunder, while Babalu-Aye governs infectious diseases such as smallpox and (today) AIDS.

33. Roberts, “Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat,” 143–53.34. Machito, interview by Max Salazar; Jon Pareles, No headline [Machito’s obituary], New York

Times, 17 April 1984, accessed 18 September 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/1984/04/17/obituaries/no-headline-128949.html. Other sources cite Machito’s birth as occurring on 16 February in the years1909, 1912, or 1915 in the Jesús María or Marianao Beach districts of Havana, or even in Tampa,Florida. See “Machito.” Wikipedia, accessed 31 August 2015, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machito;Orovio, Cuban Music from A to Z, 129; Chediak, Diccionario de jazz latino, 137.

35. Machito, interview by Max Salazar.36. Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts.37. Machito, A Latin Jazz Legacy, directed by Carlos Ortiz (New York: Icarus Films, 1987), video -

cassette (VHS); all translations are mine unless otherwise noted.38. Raúl Fernánadez, personal communication with the author.39. Salazar, “Latin Music: The Perseverance of a Culture,” 26.


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substituted later that year for the famed vocalist Antonio Machin with the SextetoAguabama.40

B a u z á i n C u b a

Mario Bauzá was born to Hilario and Dolores Bauzá on 28 April 1911 in the predom-inantly black barrio of Cayo Hueso, Havana.41 His father, a cigar maker, was closefriends with Arturo Andrade, a wealthy white military man with a respected positionin the community, who lived in the town of Pogoloti just outside Havana. Andradebecame Mario’s godfather and lacking children of his own, asked Mario’s father if hecould raise the boy. His father consented and Mario moved in with his godparents. An amateur musician, Andrade taught solfége to children in the neighborhood free ofcharge. Mario picked up on these lessons by eavesdropping and surprised his godfatherwhen, at about six years of age, he performed difficult solfége assignments perfectly.Andrade determined that Mario would receive a formal musical education from thebest teachers available. The child’s solfège instructor, however, imposed such a strict regimen that after six months Mario told his godfather he wanted to stop. But his god-father said he must continue. After studying solfège for two years, Mario began takingoboe lessons. When he registered his dislike of the oboe, he was allowed to switch toclarinet. The demanding practice schedule imposed upon the boy left little time forplay. As Bauzá later recalled, it was just “study, study, study, so that I didn’t have nokid’s life.”42

At age sixteen Bauzá was working as the bass clarinetist for the Havana SymphonyOrchestra.43 Sought by dance bands, the young clarinetist joined Antonio MaríaRomeo’s danzón group, one of the best in Havana. Bauzá’s formal background there-fore contrasts with Machito’s grounding in grassroots Afro-Cuban music. Bauzá’sstraddling of Afro-Cuban and European forms was not uncommon in the HispanicCaribbean, and became a major determinant of his artistic vision.

When Machito was nineteen, his father moved to Pogoloti, where Bauzá also lived.Machito met Bauzá through Machito’s younger sister Estella, who was twelve at thetime. Estella took a fancy to Mario, who used to come by the house to visit her.Hoping that her elder brother would approve of the relationship, Estella introducedMachito to Mario, who was well-known in the area as a musician. The two boysbecame friends, and often went to movies and baseball games together. More signifi-cantly, they formed a musical group and began rehearsing for a projected tour toPanama. No tour materialized, but the experiment marked the start of Bauzá andMachito’s long and fertile musical collaboration.44

During the 1920s, North American record companies often recorded in the UnitedStates even when the record was intended for sale in another other country. In 1926the Victor Talking Machine Company hired Romeo’s danzón group to make a record-ing, and the entire band, including Bauzá, traveled to New York City. There Bauzáheard Fletcher Henderson’s band with saxophonist Coleman Hawkins and PaulWhiteman’s band with saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer. The musical excellence andinnovations of these groups, compounded by their polished demeanor, greatlyimpressed Bauzá; he later remembered thinking that “this is what I’m looking for.”45

Paul Austerlitz

40. Machito, interview by Max Salazar; throughout this study, data on personnel of musical ensemblesare based on data gleaned from interviews and are therefore tentative.

41. Salazar, “Latin Music: The Perseverance of a Culture,” 25.42. Mario Bauzá, interview by Anthony Brown.43. Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts.44. Machito, interview by Max Salazar.45. Mario Bauzá, interview by Anthony Brown; Padura Fuentes, Faces of Salsa: A Spoken History of the

Music, 16.


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Upon his return to Cuba, Bauzá took up the alto saxophone and listened avidly tobig band jazz broadcasts on short-wave radio from the United States. Ellington’sCotton Club performances made a special impression on him. Bauzá began to play altosaxophone in dance bands in prestigious venues such as the Montmartre Cabaret andgained notoriety on the Havana music scene for his proficiency in jazz.46 The music hewas playing, however, was not the jazz of Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington, buta jazz-influenced dance music, or as he later put it, a kind of “simple jazz.”47 Sincearound 1920, predominantly white Cuban groups had been playing North Americandance music for white Cubans and tourists in largely segregated venues, and by the endof the decade some of these groups were blending Cuban music with North Americanstyles. Therefore, along with a “Latin tinge” in music from the United States, there wasalso a “jazz tinge” in Cuban music.48 One of the most popular of these Cuban groupswas Orquesta los Hermanos Castro, which played both jazz-tinged dance music andstylized son and conga numbers, which gained notoriety with the band’s accompanyingsinger Miguelito Valdés (of “Babalú” fame).49 The jazz vogue in Cuba was embracedmostly by the upper middle classes, and these groups were predominantly white.Although Bauzá was hired by Los Hermanos Castro, as a minority he consistently feltthe sting of racial prejudice.

In the late 1920s, Bauzá played alto saxophone and clarinet in pianist CélidoCurbelo’s band. This group played North American music but lacked a trumpeteradept in jazz. Bauzá was determined to fill the trumpet chair and approached LázaroHerrera, the trumpeter in the famed Septeto Nacional, for lessons. Bauzá learnedquickly. After only a few weeks of diligent practice, and aided by his mastery of solfège,Bauzá became the band’s trumpet soloist.50 Yet Bauzá returned to the saxophone whenhe left Curbelo. At this time, Bauzá considered the trumpet as still an experiment.

“ T h e G r e a t e s t L e s s o n T h a t I E v e r H a d ” — B a u z á

Realizing that opportunities for playing jazz in Havana were limited, Bauzá decided tomove to New York City to “improve” himself—to “reach the top”—as he later said.51

The decision, of course, was inspired both by Bauzá’s quest for musical excellence aswell as by the opportunities available for blacks in cities in the northern United States.Large-scale northbound migration of African Americans had fomented a cultural andeconomic boom, of which the incarnation in New York became known as the HarlemRenaissance.52 In 1930, Don Aziazpú’s group left for New York. Although Bauzá wasnot a member of the band, he decided to accompany them on their voyage. In NewYork, African Americans had created vital black organizations in the face of overtracism. Because black musicians had been barred from joining the New York’s musi-cians’ union (Local 802), in 1910 James Reese Europe had organized an alternate orga-nization called the Clef Club, for which the Rhythm Club on 131st Street in Harlemserved as an informal gathering place. This was a private club for black musicianswhere members could relax, play pool or poker, simply chat, and especially make pro-fessional contacts. Jam sessions were held at the Rhythm Club, and Bauzá remembershearing Art Tatum play there. At the Rhythm Club, Bauzá also met his Afro-Cuban

The Afro-Cuban Impact on Music in the United States

46. Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts.47. Ibid.48. The notion of a jazz tinge in Latin music was suggested to the author by Dominican master saxo-

phonist Crispín Fernández.49. Moore, Nationalizing Blackness, 141–43.50. Lázaro Herrara, interview by the author; Acosta, Del tambor al sintetizador, 16.51. Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts.52. See Lewis, The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader ; Lewis, When Harlem Was in Vogue.


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compatriot, flutist Alberto Socarrás, who had come to the United States in 1928.Socarrás was playing flute in a Broadway show called Blackbirds;53 Socarrás alreadyknew many of the best black musicians in New York and was well-placed to orientBauzá.54

Bauzá sat in on jam sessions at the Rhythm Club and was offered a job playing atupscale private parties with the stride pianist “Luckey” Roberts, whose unique compo-sitional style was notable for its Latin tinges.55 Bauzá also worked with conductor JoeJordan on the short-run 1931 Broadway show Fast and Furious.56 Puerto Rican reed-man Raymond “Moncho” Usera, who was working with bandleader Noble Sissle, usedBauzá as a substitute on several occasions.57 This led Bauzá to a regular job with Sisslein 1932.58 One of the most prominent bands of the day, Sissle’s group included top-flight musicians such as trumpeter Buster Bailey and saxophonist and clarinetist SidneyBechet. (As the band’s featured artist, Bechet did not sit with the reed section, butplayed solos only.) Details of decorum and appearance were of the utmost importance inthe classy Harlem venues, and Sissle inspected band members’ uniforms before theywent on stage: collars had to be stiff, and patent leather shoes had to shine. Soon afterBauzá joined the group, Sissle embarked upon a tour of Europe, but Bauzá remained inNew York. He had come to the United States to participate in Harlem’s vibrant musicand culture, and even touring with such a great musician as Bechet ran contrary to thatobjective.59 After Sissle’s band left for Europe, Bauzá worked with several groups,including those led by Sam Wooding in 193260 and, notably, by Eubie Blake.61

Don Aziazpú’s lead singer, Antonio Machin, started his own quartet in New York,and he was planning a recording but was in a bind: few musicians in the city could playson trumpet. When Bauzá said that he would like the job, Machin was surprised;Bauzá was known as a saxophonist, not a trumpeter. Whereas Bauzá’s first job as atrumpeter in Cuba had been a short-lived experiment, this time he decided to take theinstrument seriously and make it his primary calling. His motivation was based uponhis love of jazz: Louis Armstrong’s towering influence had rendered the Armstrongtrumpet style virtually synonymous with hot improvisation. Bauzá later said that “Iwant[ed] to play like Louis Armstrong so bad I can taste it [sic].”62 He added, “I fell inlove with the trumpet . . . so I started learning all his solos” from records. Bauzá gaveup playing the alto saxophone for the time being, going so far as to give his instrumentto a friend.63

Bauzá was excited to play jazz trumpet and took a job as lead trumpeter with HiClark and his Missourians, even though he considered the group a “second rate band.”Clark was working at the famed Savoy Ballroom in Harlem. Drummer Chick Webb,whose band headlined at the Savoy, heard Bauzá with Clark. When a trumpet chairopened up in Webb’s band in 1933, Webb auditioned seven players and hired Bauzá.Although Bauzá sight read the first job proficiently, Webb asked him to attend arehearsal after the show. When Bauzá got there, he was surprised to see no one else butWebb. Webb told him that they were going to work one-on-one, that he was going tohelp the Cuban musician with the interpretation of African American music. Bauzá

Paul Austerlitz

53. Norton, American Musical Theater, 628–30.54. Roberts, The Latin Tinge, 37.55. Ibid., 18.56. Norton, American Musical Theater, 56–65.57. Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts.58. New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd ed., s.v. “Mario Bauzá.”59. Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts.60. New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd ed., s.v. “Mario Bauzá.”61. Mario Bauzá, interview by Anthony Brown; Mario Bauzá, interview by Aaron Levinson.62. Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts.63. Mario Bauzá, interview by Anthony Brown. Also see Mario Bauzá, interview by Aaron Levinson.


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called this meeting, “the greatest lesson that I ever had in my life.”64 Bauzá laterremembered that Webb told him:

“Take such and such a number out.” I took the number out. He said: “Play.” He said:“Don’t phrase like that.” So he used to hum to me the way he want me to phrase. I try.“That’s it, keep going—no—don’t lose the idea. Like that. Do it like this.”65

Bauzá, who had been accustomed to success at all musical tasks, became discouraged,thinking that perhaps jazz was not his calling after all. He told Webb that maybe hewas not the man for the job, but Webb disagreed: “You got what I need, and I got whatyou need. . . . You play all the notes beautiful, but something about [it] is missing inthere. If you listen to me, you’re going to never regret it.”66

Bauzá read music well, but he had not been interpreting the music according toAfrican American aesthetics. Jazz, of course, emphasizes beats two and four instead ofone and three, and jazz swings in variable eighth note rhythms approximating triplets.Bauzá had not been “swinging.” Nevertheless, Bauzá’s classical background made him avaluable player for Webb, and Webb knew that Bauzá wanted to play jazz, so theirunion was symbiotic. This had not been the first time that such a union played itselfout in African American music; Ruth Glasser points out that for some time, blackbandleaders, most notably James Reese Europe, had used Latin-Caribbean players as“music-stand musicians” because they were good readers.67 Training in European clas-sical music was more readily available to people of color in Cuba and Puerto Rico thanit was to African Americans,68 and a confluence of vernacular and concert traditionscharacterized Latin-Caribbean players’ musicality. Webb made good use of Bauzá’smusical training; within a year, Webb asked Bauzá to serve as a “musical director” forthe band.69 For a youth who had traveled alone to a new country with hopes of playinga new kind of music, this was a dream come true. Bauzá later remembered: “I flipped,[thinking] oh my goodness, I made it!”70

The fact that Bauzá’s skills were as a reader and interpreter—skills culled from hisclassical background—is underscored by the fact that Webb counseled him to stick tothis specialty rather than asserting himself as a soloist. Although Bauzá loved LouisArmstrong and was learning to play in that style, Webb advised him to avoid emulat-ing the great black improvisers. Bauzá later remembered Webb saying: “Don’t try to dothat hard stuff because you won’t out-do them. . . . Those white trumpet players, whenthey play jazz, like Red Nichols, and you say you like it, they play around the melody.That’s what I want you to do.”71 Indeed, while Bauzá has gone down in history as anarchitect of Afro-Cuban jazz, he is not known as an innovative improviser.

As leader of one of the top black bands of the period, Webb competed withHenderson and Ellington. Webb’s powerful drum set technique, combined with hisband’s top soloists and formidable arrangements by Jimmy Mundy and FletcherHenderson, made his group one of the most swinging in Harlem. Bauzá rememberedhearing Webb’s and Benny Goodman’s groups at the Savoy Ballroom in “battles of thebands,” and he felt that Webb’s band won. Webb recorded Bauzá’s composition“Lona,” which showed off Bauzá’s light timbre on the solo trumpet.72 In addition toworking with Webb, Bauzá recorded regularly with New York Latin bands. Bauzá’s pay

The Afro-Cuban Impact on Music in the United States

64. Mario Bauzá, interview by Aaron Levinson.65. Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts; punctuation by the author.66. Mario Bauzá, interview by Anthony Brown; Mario Bauzá, interview by Aaron Levinson; Padura

Fuentes, Faces of Salsa: A Spoken History of the Music, 18.67. Glassner, Music is My Flag, 64–72.68. Roberts, Latin Jazz, 37, 55–56.69. New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd ed., s.v. “Mario Bauzá.”70. Mario Bauzá, interview by Anthony Brown.71. Ibid.72. Ibid.


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with Webb was about $80 per week, and he could make additional money doingrecordings. Earning more than most of his peers, Bauzá was a successful man.73

However, in 1938 Bauzá had a disagreement with Webb’s booking office, which led tohis leaving the band.

After a three-month stint with Don Redman74 and a one-month engagement withFletcher Henderson, Bauzá joined the Cab Calloway band. Alberto Socarrás, whoseband worked opposite Calloway at the Cotton Club, recommended Bauzá as a substi-tute for Calloway’s lead trumpeter Doc Cheatham. This led, in 1939, to a permanentjob, which lasted until 1941.75 Calloway’s was the most commercially successful blackband of the time. Because Calloway paid more than anyone else, he was able to attracttop players such as tenor saxophonist Chu Berry, bassist Milt Hinton, and drummerCozy Cole. In spite of Calloway’s emphasis on showmanship and a great popularityamong whites, he had effective ways of maintaining self-respect: to avoid the indigni-ties associated with traveling in the segregated South, for example, Calloway’s grouptraveled by private rail car or charter bus; as one of his musicians put it, there was “noJim Crow coach for Cab.”76 The philosophy of black self-help, perhaps inspired byBooker T. Washington, resonated with Bauzá’s attraction to the economic and socialopportunities available to blacks based in Harlem at the time: instead of looking to thewhite world for solutions, successful African Americans such as Calloway kept theirdignity intact and their pocketbooks full by creating their own black organizations.Successful in the competitive world of black dance bands, Bauzá had triumphed in theUnited States and felt at home there to the extent that he now identified more closelywith New York’s black swing band scene than with its Latin music scene. In 1936,Bauzá had made a two-week visit to Cuba to marry Machito’s sister Estella, and dur-ing this stay he told his friends about opportunities for blacks in New York. Heencouraged Machito to begin saving money for the trip.77

F r o m B a c k b e a t t o C L A V E

Bauzá met John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie (1917–1993) when Gillespie was workingwith Teddy Hill opposite Webb at the Savoy; Gillespie jammed with Webb andbecame friends with Bauzá.78 While many seasoned musicians criticized Gillespie’sunconventional playing, Bauzá loved his novel approach and sensed that Gillespie wasdestined to be an innovator. Bauzá thought Gillespie would make a valuable additionto Calloway’s band, and went so far as to tell Calloway not only that he wantedGillespie in the band but also that he believed that the band needed Gillespie.79 Bauzáclaimed that, in order to get his friend a foot in the door, Bauzá took a night off andasked Gillespie to substitute. He told trumpeter Lamar Wright to give Gillespie thelead part and to let him improvise.80 He also coached Gillespie to play conservatively,telling him, “Don’t go overboard.”81 As it turned out, Gillespie’s solo accompanied asoft-shoe routine headlined by dancer Bill Robinson. Gillespie aced it, and within sev-eral weeks Calloway fired one of his trumpeters and asked Gillespie to join the band.82

Bauzá remembered that during this period Gillespie had already earned his nickname

Paul Austerlitz

73. Ibid.74. New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, 2nd ed., s.v. “Mario Bauzá.”75. Ibid.; Mario Bauzá, interview by Anthony Brown.76. Gillespie and Fraser, To Be, or Not . . . to Bop, 107–08.77. Salazar, “Machito, Mario, and Graciela,” 26.78. Ibid., 64.79. Mario Bauzá, interview by Anthony Brown.80. Gillespie and Fraser, To Be, or Not . . . to Bop, 96.81. Mario Bauzá, interview by Anthony Brown.82. Gillespie and Fraser, To Be, or Not . . . to Bop, 96.


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by playing the clown.83 Gillespie attested that joining Calloway was an importantcareer move and that he became Bauzá’s roommate and best friend in the Callowayband. Ever grateful for Bauzá’s guidance, Gillespie wrote that “Mario was like myfather.”84

It was during his stint with Calloway that Bauzá began to think about weddingCuban music to jazz. Remembering the lesson Chick Webb had given him on jazzphrasing, it occurred to Bauzá that he could likewise teach North American musiciansto phrase in the Cuban idiom. In an illuminating anecdote, Bauzá later explained thatCalloway’s drummer Cozy Cole used to get bored between sets, and one day when hewas practicing in the dressing room Bauzá said to him:

“Cozy, if I hum it to you some kind of rhythm do you think you can do it?” He said,“Well, I’ll try it.” So I hummed something, and “I said, no, no not like that, like [hums aphrase].” So I said let me get hold of Dizzy. So I said, “Dizzy, put a mute in the trumpet.He’s going to play some rhythm in there and I want you to play something jazz in thereon top.” So he start the phrase and I say “no, no, stop, stop. Cuban music, the metric ofthe Cuban music is clave . . . so put the phrasing from upbeat to the downbeat.” So Dizzystart playing on top of that rhythm. I said this is it already, I know what to do now. All Igot to do now is take the tune and dress it, voice wide like a jazz band, with the sameharmony, the same voicing and instruments. That’s how the Afro-Cuban jazz [was]born.85

Bauzá’s idea was not merely to superimpose jazz solos over Cuban rhythms. Rather,Bauzá wanted the jazz elements to be rhythmically consonant with the deep structureof Cuban music: performers should emphasize beats one and three instead of two andfour, and they should refer to the clave rhythm. Bauzá’s genius consisted in knowing hisstrengths as an artist. He combined his background as a “music-stand musician” versedin the interpretation of written parts, with his “greatest lesson,” which was to differen-tiate jazz interpretation, based on swung eighth notes and emphasis on the “backbeat”(beats two and four) from clave’s downbeat emphasis.

Gillespie states in his memoirs that already in 1938 he wanted to incorporate morepercussion into his music. Therefore, Gillespie was primed for the informal lessons onAfro-Cuban music that Bauzá offered while they worked with Calloway. Gillespiestated that when he started his own big band in 1947, “That was the first thing Ithought of. I had to have a conga drummer.”86 He asked Bauzá to recommend some-one, and Bauzá thought of Chano Pozo, who had recently arrived from Cuba. Pozowas a talented conguero, singer, dancer, and composer whose artistry was informed byhis involvement with the Abakuá secret society. A fine dancer, Pozo gained attentionwith drum and dance routines that incorporated Afro-Cuban liturgical songs. He alsocomposed songs that made creative use of wordplay. Based upon vocables, for example,his hit “Blen, blen, blen” outlines the tresillo part of the clave rhythm. The collaborationbetween Gillespie and Pozo was a microcosm of the mutually enriching interactionbetween Afro-Cuban and African-American musicians that took shape at mid-century, and had a lasting effect on American music. Gillespie later wrote of his collab-oration with Pozo: “Since he couldn’t speak English, people always asked, ‘Well, howdo you communicate?’ ‘Deehee no peek pani, me no peek Angli, bo peek African’[‘Dizzy no speak Spanish, me no speak English, but we both speak African’], Chanowould answer.”87 Gillespie developed into an acknowledged expert and innovator inCuban music, widely known and respected in Latin music circles.88 As Machito once

The Afro-Cuban Impact on Music in the United States

83. Mario Bauzá, interview by Anthony Brown; Mario Bauzá, interview by Aaron Levinson.84. Gillespie and Fraser, To Be, or Not . . . to Bop, 115.85. Mario Bauzá, interview by Aaron Levinson.86. Gillespie and Fraser, To Be, or Not . . . to Bop, 115–16, 317.87. Ibid., 318.88. Stearns, The Story of Jazz, 243–44, 249, 252; Roberts, Latin Jazz, 75–77; Gillespie and Fraser, To

Be, or Not . . . to Bop, 348–49.


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remarked, “the marriage of Cuban music to jazz was not a conventional union; rather, itwas a marriage of love.”89 Bebop and Afro-Cuban jazz are best understood in relation tothe contemporaneous discourse on Africa and jazz in politics, academia, and the arts,90

and in relation to what cultural anthropologist J. Lorand Matory calls the “live dia-logue” between various parts of the pan-African world.91 With George Russell, Pozoand Gillespie co-composed “Cubano Be, Cubano Bop,” which Russell considered thefirst modal composition in jazz.92 Gillespie and Pozo’s 1947 Carnegie Hall premiere ofthis two-movement work collectively dubbed the “Afro-Cuban Drums Suite” wascompared to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring by reviewers. Indeed, Gillespie and Pozo’s dis-sonant harmonies and emphasis on rhythm invited comparison to Stravinsky’s innova-tive work, and forged what Stewart calls “Afro-modernism,” featuring “abstraction andcreative mobility” as tenets, and with Cuban elements as a central component.93

W e C o m e f r o m A f r i c a

Machito arrived in New York in October 1937, staying in Harlem with Mario Bauzáand Estella. Like his brother-in-law, Machito was tremendously impressed by theaccomplishments that African Americans were making in the northern United Statesat the time. As Machito later remembered: “It was a fertile time, when everybody wasthinking about improving themselves. The black North Americans who were living inHarlem had already established themselves there. . . . I went to the Savoy everynight.”94 Machito soon was working with several New York Latin bands. WhileMachito’s musical experience in Cuba had been as a back-up singer in small songroups, he now had the opportunity to sing lead vocals in large dance bands. In 1938,Machito recorded with the preeminent bands of Xavier Cugat and Noro Morales.95 In1939, Machito worked with Orquesta Siboney directed by Alberto Iznaga, and in 1940he took over the leadership of that band for a job at a new midtown nightclub calledClub Cuba. Although the band’s engagement was short-lived, it was significant in thatit marked the first time that Machito led a group in New York; the seeds of theMachito band had been planted.96 Later in 1940, Bauzá and Machito decided to joinforces. As they prepared for a collaborative venture, Bauzá, who still worked in hislucrative Calloway job, took charge of rehearsing Machito’s musicians.97

At the first rehearsal, Bauzá determined that some of the players Machito had cho-sen were not up to par, and he replaced them. Bauzá’s goal was to create a top-shelfband on the same level as the legendary Harlem swing bands: a Latin band with thepolish, decorum, and musical excellence of Calloway and Ellington. Bauzá wanted agroup that would appeal to dancers but that also could accompany shows. Sidemenremember Bauzá as an exacting bandleader, a “slave-driver” when it came to rehearsals.Bauzá was especially demanding in regard to interpretation and intonation.98 BecauseBauzá wanted to blend Cuban rhythms with jazz phrasing, he needed musicians whowere open to new ideas. Thus, he sought not only top talent but flexible musicians

Paul Austerlitz

89. Machito, A Latin Jazz Legacy, directed by Carlos Ortiz (New York: Icarus Films, 1987), video -cassette (VHS).

90. García, “We Both Speak African,” 198; Monson, “Art Blakey’s African Disapora.”91. Matory, “Afro-Atlantic Culture,” 44.92. Chambers, Milestones, 279–80.93. Stewart, “No Boundary Line to Art,” 333, 341.94. Machito, a Latin Jazz Legacy, directed by Carlos Ortiz (New York: Icarus Films, 1987), video -

cassette (VHS).95. Salazar, “Machito, Mario, and Graciela,” 26; Acosta, “Machito: Padre de jazz latino y la salsa,” 17.96. Salazar, “Machito, Mario, and Graciela,” 27.97. Ibid., 27.98. Leslie Johnakins, interview by David Carp.


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willing to be molded and to work together as a team. There were many excellent Latinhorn players in New York who could interpret Cuban music, but in addition to Latinoplayers Bauzá used many North American musicians. Machito explained:

On account they was American, they knew they got to learn how to get adjusted with us.. . . A Spanish guy would have said, “No, [don’t tell me how to play] because I playedwith Coén, I played with Noro Morales, I played with Cugat.” We don’t want that. Wewant a guy who would pay attention to what we want. . . . There was a lot of musicians[sic] who could read, but . . . we were looking for people, for flexible people, that we couldmold the way we want. . . . They don’t supposed to be the best musician [sic]. The mostflexible was the one we was looking for.99

With their hand-picked players, Bauzá implemented Chick Webb’s lessons aboutphrasing—this time teaching Cuban rhythms—and the musicians responded robustly.100

While Bauzá and Machito sought flexibility in their horn players, they demandedpercussionists who were versed in Afro-Cuban traditional music, and Machito wasadept at attracting these players. The pianist and bassist needed to be well-rounded,with a mastery of Cuban rhythms and jazz harmony as well as solid sight-readingskills. (Notably, the Machito band did not use trombones.101) The band started withfive horn players and a rhythm section of four. Along with Bauzá, Doc Cheathamplayed trumpet. The saxophone section consisted of Johnny Nieto and Freddy Skerriton altos and José “Pin” Madera Mario on tenor. Bauzá switched from trumpet to leadalto saxophone when the band played slow tunes, or boleros, because Bauzá wanted alush sound in these pieces. The pianist was Gilberto “Frank” Ayala (later replaced byLuis Varona, and then Joe Loco), and the bassist was Julio Andino. The rhythm sec-tion of the band would combine the bongó from the Cuban son group with the timbalesfrom the danzón, just like other large Cuban dance bands in New York. Machito’s firstbongocero was José “Bilingüe” García, who played for six months and was replaced for ashort period by Chino Pozo,102 until José “Buyú” Mangual joined and stayed untilabout 1960. The band’s first timbalero was Tony “Cojito” Escolies, a top-rated drummerknown for his swinging style, but who could not read music. For this reason, Escolieswas soon replaced by seventeen-year-old Tito Puente for a brief time, until UbaldoNieto joined the group and remained until about 1960. The timbales player also oftenswitched to trap drums, especially when accompanying shows. New York dance bandseventually used the conga drum, but in 1940, it was generally reserved for street-levelrumba and comparsa processions associated with carnival.103 (Machito’s band added aconga player in 1942, see below.)

Bauzá opined that most Latin bands in New York during this period were “rinky-dink” affairs that lacked the harmonic sophistication and virtuosity to which he hadbecome accustomed in Webb’s and Calloway’s bands. Determined to make Machitoand his Afro-Cubans stand out from the crowd, Bauzá called on his contacts in theblack swing world for arrangements and asked arranger John Bartee, who worked forCalloway, to arrange for Machito. Because Bartee had no expertise in Cuban music,Bauzá worked with him closely. While leaving the harmonizations to Bartee, Bauzáprovided what he called “blueprints” that consisted of lead sheets augmented withinstructions for introductions, and importantly, the bass parts that were central to theband’s style. On nights before rehearsals, Bauzá and Bartee sometimes stayed up longinto the night to prepare the music. The resulting jazz arrangements gave the band a

The Afro-Cuban Impact on Music in the United States

99. Machito, interview by Max Salazar.100. Mario Bauzá, interview by Anthony Brown.101. On rare occasions, for certain recordings, the band added trombones.102. Chino Pozo was said to be related to Chano Pozo, but the verity of their familial ties has been

questioned.103. Machito, interview by Max Salazar; Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts; Ray Santos,

interview by the author, New York, 2001; José Madera, interview by the author.


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modern sound, which, as Bauzá later expressed, appealed to young people in theUnited States. “The sound is familiar to them,” he said, “and it really moved them. Itwas a good combination.”104

Machito and Bauzá determined to call the band Machito and his Afro-Cubans.Bauzá later said that some “people didn’t want that title; the people say, why the ‘Afro?’I said [that we used this name] because the music we represent come[s] from Africa,and we come from Africa.”105 In naming their band, Machito and Bauzá made an ideological statement about pride and unity in the African diaspora. Open pride inAfrican origins was still rare in the early part of the twentieth century, when Afro-Cubans and African Americans encountered each other as long-lost brothers and sisters after centuries of social rupture.

B r i n g o n t h e R U M B E R O S !

Machito and his Afro-Cubans debuted at the Park Plaza-Palace Ballroom on 110thStreet and Fifth Avenue on 3 December 1940.106 Bauzá did not participate in thedebut performance because he was still playing for Calloway. Bauzá joined the groupseveral months later,107 and one musician remembers that he “looked very professional,his whole attitude and everything, the way he walked, the way he spoke, and the wayhe tapped off the band . . . this guy knew what he was doing, definitely. And the bandsounded marvelous. . . . I hadn’t seen that in a Latin band. I had seen that in . . . Dukeand Basie and the rest of the bands. But in a Latin band I had never seen that type ofprofessionalism.”108

Grassroots Afro-Cuban percussion and Machito’s brilliant improvised lyrics basedon the traditional son and rumba style, called inspiraciones, were central to the band.Paradoxically, the Latin bands that played in Harlem at the time used less percussionthan did the downtown society bands such as Xavier Cugat’s, which capitalized onflashy drumming displays.109 The Machito band was innovative not only in its ground-ing in jazz but also in its foundation in clave-based percussion in the son and rumba tra-ditions, something neither uptown nor downtown New York Latin bands did at thetime. Machito’s formidable drummers, especially the bongó players, improvised pro-fusely, riffing behind vocalists in the manner of the Cuban son sextets, which had beenstrongly influenced by rumba drumming. The bongó improvisations in the band’s 1941recording of “Que vengan los rumberos,” (included in this edition) intertwine in kalei-doscopic counterpoint with Machito’s inspiraciones. Indeed, the song’s name, translat-able as “Bring on the Rumberos!” (literally “Let the Rumberos Come”), epitomizesMachito’s percussion-based contribution, heralding the arrival of clave and traditionalAfro-Cuban music to the United States.

Important in forging the band’s early style was the work of tenor saxophonist José“Pin” Madera, who arranged many of the band’s early hits, including “Que vengan losrumberos,” “Sopa de pichón,” “La paella,” “Hall of the Mambo King,” and the band’sfirst theme song—“Nagüe.” Madera was born in Guayama, Puerto Rico on 11 May1911 into a respected family of musicians. His grandfather was a music teacher and his father, Simon Madera (1875–1957), was a violinist and the composer of the well-

Paul Austerlitz

104. Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts. Some have mistakenly assumed that Bauzá was anarranger; see Woolley, “The Spanish Tinge,” 9; Vásquez, Listening in Detail, 117.

105. Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts.106. The Park Plaza and the Park Palace were adjacent, affiliated clubs. Because oral testimony does

not clarify precisely when Machito played in which venue, this text (following an approach developed byDavid Carp) treats the two clubs as an aggregate.

107. Salazar, “Machito, Mario, and Graciela,” 27–28.108. Steve Berrios, interview by David Carp.109. Glasser, Music is My Flag, 81.


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known danza “Mis amores.” As a young man, Madera studied arranging and solfègewith his father and developed into a fine performer on saxophone, clarinet, and flute.Madera moved to New York City in November 1930, settled in East Harlem, andworked as a reed player in pit orchestras, Latin bands (notably, those of Xavier Cugatand Noro Morales), and jazz groups (including Noble Sissle’s). He also arranged forvarious Latin dance bands. Madera played an important role in forging the Machitoband’s original style.110 He played with Machito throughout his career, passing away in1991.

Machito and Bauzá established a good balance in their collaboration. For all ofBauzá’s importance as bandleader, Machito’s grounding in Afro-Cuban roots—hisexpertise as a son singer and maraquero—was the band’s central attraction during itsearly years. As Bauzá himself admitted, his own background in classical music, thedanzón, and jazz did not qualify him to discern the finer points of Afro-Cubanrhythm: “The danzón orchestra is a different metric.” Bauzá acknowledged thatMachito knew “that side of the music better than me. He used to show how importantthe clave was in the music.” In fact, Machito judged whether arrangements written byNorth Americans adhered to the tenets of Afro-Cuban music. Bauzá once explainedthat Machito would often point to specific parts of arrangements, cautioning writers to“be careful with the clave.”111 Until the advent of the Machito band, many Latin bandsin the United States had been stylistically removed from Afro-Cuban roots, and Bauzáwent so far as to claim that Machito “brought the clave to the United States.”112

The inspiraciones that Cuban singers improvise often comment on immediate con-cerns such as local people or current events. At the Park Plaza-Palace, Machito devel-oped vocal improvisations into a song about sopa de pichón, or pigeon soup. The songwas said to have a double meaning: pichón was a slang word for marijuana (or asMachito poetically put it, “that particular happy cigarette”).113 He explained that thispiece marked his first foray into songwriting, and that the tune’s original version paidhomage to the popular and powerful individuals on the streets of Spanish Harlem: 114

“[Before this,] I never composed anything in my life. Never wrote anything. . . . I saidto [pianist] Frank Ayala: ‘Okay. Get a vamp in D.’ So he start: bam barambam bambi—[and I sang] ‘tiene que tomarte una sopa de pichón’ [‘you have to try pigeon soup’],and then start to improvise lyrics. . . . I used to mention in my inspiration[s] all thetough guys in the neighborhood, so that became a hit.”115

Machito’s use of slang and his appeal to the local big-shots reflected his groundingin the grassroots barrio scene. In keeping with this down-home flavor, Machito read-dressed culinary notions in another top number of the period, “La paella.” (In fact,Machito was an excellent cook.) Regarding “La paella,” Machito told the story of howhis close friend and promoter, the Puerto Rican Federico Pagani “was walking out of arestaurant and we were talking and I say, ‘Federico, how are you?’ He said: ‘Bueno, I justhad paella. Did you ever try paella before?’ You know, I got insulted. I said . . . ‘I knowhow to make paella. How you going to ask me if I ever taste it, a paella?’ So I went inthe subway that particular day, it was a matinee at La Conga, and I wrote ‘La paella’ inthe train.”116 Machito’s spontaneity was a feature of the band’s style and appeal. Heexplained: “[If we] played ‘La paella’ now, and fifteen minutes from now we played ‘La paella’ again . . . it is another bash, because [it] depend[s] on the atmosphere, the

The Afro-Cuban Impact on Music in the United States

110. Carp, “José Madera”; José Madera, Jr., interview by the author, New York, 2000.111. Mario Grillo, interview by the author.112. Medina, “Machito,” 16.113. Machito, interview by Max Salazar.114. The recorded version of “Que vengan los rumberos” included in this edition uses different words

from those of the original (unrecorded) improvised version.115. Machito, interview by Max Salazar; punctuation by the author.116. Ibid.


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dance, the way I feel, the way the musicians feel. So this is not a machine or just acomputer that you give it one information and it make a thousand cop[ies]; no, [with]my computer, you[’re] going to have a different information every time that you hit thebutton.”117

In addition to working at the Park Plaza-Palace, Machito and his Afro-Cubansplayed in other uptown venues in Harlem and the Bronx, often booking jobs throughPagani. Pagani would rent a hall, leave the bar profits to the house, and take the covercharge for the band. Knowing that Machito would attract a large crowd, ballroomowners often sought the band. The group’s combination of traditional and new ele-ments became a hit with working-class Latinos. As Bauzá said, Machito was “the kinguptown.”118

M a c h i t o G o e s D o w n t o w n

Machito and his Afro-Cubans played their first “downtown” engagement outside theLatino community: a two-week matinee stint at the Beachcomber club, in December1941.119 As a result, Jack Harris, the owner of an elite club called La Conga on 51stStreet and Broadway, asked Machito to substitute for his house band, which was led byAnselmo Sacassas. As mentioned above, stereotyped versions of the son (calledrhumba) and the conga were becoming popular in New York,120 and La Conga featureda Latin band for dancing and a group led by Harris himself that accompanied danceshows and comedians.121 According to Bauzá, La Conga’s clientele consisted mostly ofaffluent Jewish Americans, many of whom worked in the fur trade.122 Machito and hisAfro-Cubans made a favorable impression on Harris, and in 1942 Harris offered theband a steady job.123

Harris’s own band was capable of accompanying shows, but it was a small group thatlacked an original style. Harris, who was astute in business as well as music, decided todisband his own group and feature two Latin bands: Machito and his Afro-Cubanswould be the headline act and play for shows and dancing, and José Curbelo’s groupwould play for dancing when Machito took breaks.124 Machito and his Afro-Cubansbegan the evening’s entertainment with light dinner music. They continued with a fewdance numbers, then accompanied a show that featured dancers and up-and-comingcomedians such as Jackie Gleason and Dean Martin. After this, Curbelo’s band playedfor dancing, and then the two bands alternated dance sets. Therefore, Bauzá attainedhis goal of forging a band that, like the top Harlem groups, was rooted in dance music,yet was polished enough to accompany high-class shows.125 As Bauzá later remem-bered, some of New York’s white Latin bandleaders had expected that Machito’semphasis on black Cuban roots would preclude acceptance in swanky white downtownvenues. But La Conga proved the naysayers wrong. “People said that my band wouldnot work below 96th Street,” Bauzá recalled, “but after we subbed for Sacassas at LaConga, we stayed there three years.”126

Paul Austerlitz

117. Ibid.118. Mario Bauzá, interview by Anthony Brown.119. Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts.120. Roberts, Latin Jazz, 52, 62.121. Max Salazar, interview by the author; Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts.122. Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts.123. Machito, interview by Max Salazar; Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts.124. David Carp, personal communication with the author.125. Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts; Graciela, interview with Mario Bauzá and

Graciela on WKCR-FM; David Carp, personal communication with the author.126. Mario Bauzá, interview by Anthony Brown.


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As a result of this exposure, in 1942 Robbins Music began to publish Machito’ssongs, and Decca Records offered the band a recording contract. “Sopa de pichón,” “Lapaella,” “Nagüe,” and “Que vengan los rumberos” were well-received in Cuba as well asin the United States Latin market. The band also recorded several sides accompanyingthe famed Cuban singer Migulito Valdés; these included “Eco” (a son invoking Afro-Cuban liturgical themes) and “El botellero” (which later served as the basis forMachito’s second theme song, “Tanga”).127 The Valdés recordings sold well in LatinAmerica because of the singer’s great popularity and the high quality of the discs.Generally speaking, North American recordings during this period came to Cubaindependent of radio stations, and they were often sold to owners of jukeboxes. Thusthe Machito sides became hits on Cuban Victrolas, as jukeboxes were called in Cuba; aradio disc jockey recalled that Machito was “un Victrolero por excelencia” (“a victroleropar exellence”).128 Featuring their music published by Robbins Music, in 1942 Machitoand his Afro-Cubans started broadcasting live coast-to-coast from La Conga. Theband also broadcast a “Saludos Amigos” radio program designed to raise morale amongSpanish-speaking troops during World War II.129 In 1946, Machito was filmed per-forming “Tanga,” “Tambo,” and “Nagüe” for A Night in the Tropics, a film starring BettyReilly. Although Machito’s segment was not used in the film’s final version, the footagewas released as a short and shown in Latino community theaters.130

Machito and his Afro-Cubans also were adept at performing covers of songs thenpopular in the United States, once accompanying Billie Holiday and recording withHarry Belafonte in 1949.131 Several Latin bands began to add Cuban rhythms toNorth American popular songs as Latin music caught on with white audiences. Forexample, former Machito pianist Joe Loco started his own band and gained fame witha Latinized version of “Tenderly” (1947). Machito also participated in this trend,recording “Donkey Serenade,” “Tea for Two,” and an entire LP of compositions byIrving Berlin.132 Machito’s best-selling record was a novelty number called “AsiaMinor” that featured oboist Mitch Miller playing stereotyped “snake-charmer” music.The success of “Asia Minor” in 1949 led to a follow-up entitled “Oboe Mambo,” whichbecame popular in Cuba.133 Like Ellington’s version of the Peer Gynt Suite, “Hall of the Mambo King” (included in this edition) is a take-off on Edvard Grieg’s famouspiece. “Hall of the Mambo King” exemplifies José Madera’s masterly orchestration andBauzá’s talent as a bandleader by juxtaposing the even eighth notes, downbeat phras-ing, and clave of Cuban music (mm. 1–18) with the backbeat and swung eighth notesof jazz (mm. 19–26). “Hall of the Mambo King” features Leslie Johnakins on baritonesaxophone (see mm. 57–73). Johnakins was often featured as soloist, and his impor-tance as an improviser was perhaps overshadowed by the dominance on recordings ofguest jazz soloists.134 The baritone saxophone underscored the all-important bass fig-ures in Machito’s arrangements, which were influenced by conga parts in rumba andoften articulated clave-based rhythmic cells. Johnakins remembers that the style wasdifficult to play at first: “I got confused with the rhythm. I was used to having onedrum, and here I joined a band with three drums: a conga drum, a bongó, plus timbales,

The Afro-Cuban Impact on Music in the United States

127. Machito, interview by Max Salazar; Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts.128. Manuel Villar, interview by the author, Havana, Cuba, 2001.129. Machito, interview by Max Salazar.130. Salazar, “Machito, Mario, and Marcielo.” The Betty Riley short can be seen at “Machito and his

Afro-Cuban Boys,” YouTube, accessed 31 August 2015, https://www.youtube.com /watch?v=6mmVEWJJ_ZQ.

131. Leslie Johnakins, interview by David Carp; Ray Santos, interview by David Carp; Harry Belafonteand Michael Shnayerson, My Song: A Memoir, 82.

132. Machito and His Orchestra, Irving Berlin in Latin America, Forum SF 9040, no date, LP.133. Manuel Villar, interview by the author.134. Ibid.


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and then there was a bass and a piano. And you know, [with] the complicated rhythmsof the Latin music, there’s somebody hitting on every beat, and I didn’t—couldn’t—find which beat was the one I was supposed to hit on [laughs]!”135 Nevertheless,Johnakins became a master of interpreting the clave-based baritone parts and played acentral role in forging the Machito sound.

The Afro-Cubans were the first band in New York regularly to include the congadrum, first using it in 1942. Until early the 1940s, this instrument, known as tumbadorain Cuba, was not generally used in dance bands. Several bandleaders in Cuba, mostnotably the influential Arsenio Rodríguez, began to incorporate it in an affirmation ofblack Cuban street culture. This innovation soon caught on. The incorporation of thisdrum into dance bands dovetailed with the popularity of the conga dance. Before itsuse as a regular part of the percussion section, the quinto, a small conga drum, wassometimes used as a sort of prop in stereotyped conga dance shows (Desi Arnaz used a quinto while singing “Babalú” on the Lucy show). Riding such stereotypes, Machitoand his Afro-Cubans first used the conga during their engagement at La Conga.However, they transcended the stereotype because they utilized the instrument in the manner introduced by Arsenio Rodríguez, which builds on its basis in rumba style rather than in stereotyped conga performances. The addition of this drum to theson added a heaviness—a grounded funkiness—that black Cubans loved, and whichhearkened to grassroots culture identified with the rumba. Carlos Vidal was Machito’sfirst conguero, and later top congueros in the band included Luis Miranda, PatatoValdéz, and Candido Camero.136

G r a c i e l a

Machito’s younger foster sister Felipa Graciela Pérez Gutiérrez, known professionallysimply as Graciela, was born in 1915 in Havana. She showed musical talent as a child,and like many young girls studied piano and solf ège, although her predilection was forsinging popular songs. To assist her career, Machito used his contacts with Havana’stop musicians, recommending her as a singer and clave player to the famed all-womanSexteto Anacaona (named for a legendary queen of the Taínos, the indigenousCaribbean inhabitants). Thus, at age sixteen, Graciela already was performing with oneof Cuba’s best groups, remaining with Anacaona from 1933 to 1942. When she joined,Anacaona was a son group, but it later evolved into a charanga (or string and flute-based ensemble specializing in the danzón), and then into a dance band with brass andreed instruments. (Graciela even played string bass with Anacaona for a short time.)Anacaona also played popular songs from the United States. In addition to enjoying ahigh profile in Cuba, the group toured to Puerto Rico, Panama, Mexico, Venezuela,and New York City. In 1938, the Anacaona band played in Paris at the CabaretHavana-Madrid opposite French guitarist and composer Jean “Django” Reinhardt—itwas there that Graciela played bass.

When Machito was drafted into United States military service in 1943, the bandneeded a replacement vocalist, so Bauzá hired one of the best Latino singers in NewYork, the Puerto Rican Polito Galíndez. Bauzá also invited Graciela to join the band.Graciela was a fine singer, versed in up-tempo dance numbers as well as boleros; herperformance is featured on “Caso perdido” in this volume. Indeed, Graciela was a moreversatile singer than Galíndez or even Machito himself, who was not a bolero special-ist. Like her brother, Graciela was grounded in Afro-Cuban culture and had masteredthe intricacies of clave; she played claves in the Anacaona band. Machito stayed in the

Paul Austerlitz

135. Leslie Johnakins, Machito, a Latin Jazz Legacy, directed by Carlos Ortiz (New York: Ircarus Films,1987), videocassette (VHS).

136. Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts.


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United States Army for less than a year, receiving an honorable discharge after suffer-ing an accident during target practice in basic training. When Machito returned,Galíndez left the band but Graciela remained. Machito and his Afro-Cubans now hada sibling team of lead singers, each with a highly individual style.137

Graciela’s most requested songs were such witty numbers as “Juanita y José,” whichrecounts neighborhood gossip, and “Esto es lo último” (renamed “¡Sí, Sí, No, No!” inthe Machito band’s version), which features an introduction where Graciela repeats“¡Sí!, ¡No!” and other refrains, including “¡Que lo tengo en la chi-chi!” (“I have some-thing in my chi-chi!”) intoned in a sexy and provocative vocal tone. When the bandrecorded this song in Mexico, producers asked them to remove the “chi-chi” reference,because in Mexico the term refers to a woman’s breasts. Graciela countered that inCuban Spanish “chi-chi” is used by children to refer to the head, and that she had orig-inally interjected the word into the song when her head was cold after arriving at LaConga during New York’s severe winter months. Nevertheless, the sexy subtext of “¡Si,si!” is undeniable; double entendres of this sort had long been a staple of Cuban popularmusic.138 Graciela was supremely versatile, adept in boleros, phrasing the son, and theclave. In fact, her clave playing made her a harbinger of this central element of Afro-Cuban music in the United States alongside Machito. Graciela also had a strong feel-ing for jazz phrasing, and recorded an innovative piece called “U-Bla-Du,” replete withsupremely entertaining scatting that blended Cuban and bebop styles. Graciela workedwith Machito and Bauzá throughout her life, and she passed away in 2010.139

“ Ta n g a ”

Machito’s first theme song, Chano Pozo’s composition “Nagüe,” opened and closed setsin the band’s early days. However, in 1943 they adopted a new theme, “Tanga”(included in this edition), which has been touted as the “first Afro-Cuban jazz compo-sition.”140 The origin of “Tanga” is vague. An oft-told story recounts that during abreak at La Conga while Machito was in the Army, the pianist Luis Varona startedplaying a vamp from the introduction to “El botellero,” which the band had recentlyrecorded with Miguelito Valdés. Bassist Julio Andino joined in and the catchy soundcaught Bauzá’s attention. The next day, at the band’s rehearsal at the Park Plaza-Palace,Bauzá asked the musicians to replicate what they had done the night before. Bauzáaurally dictated horn parts and created a texture with modernistic chord extensionsmanifesting in a pyramidal manner in the saxophone section (see mm. 7–22). He askedsome of the band’s African American musicians to improvise jazz solos over this pat-tern. The blend of Afro-Cuban rhythms and African American jazz improvisationexemplified Bauzá’s “greatest lesson” and built on the experiments he had carried outwith Gillespie in Cab Calloway’s band.141

As for the tune’s name, musicologist Max Salazar says that the Puerto Rican song-writer Pedro Flores heard an early performance and remarked that the sound was “asexciting [as] a tanga,” which he claimed to be an “African” word for marijuana.142

The Afro-Cuban Impact on Music in the United States

137. Graciela, interview on WKCR-FM; Max Salazar, interview by the author; Mario Grillo, interviewby the author, New York, 2000; Alvarez Peraza, “A César lo que es de César, y a Graciela—el bolero!”;Cano Guayo, “Graciela: comienzo como professional”; Vázquez, Listening in Detail.

138. Graciela, interview on WKCR-FM.139. Ben Ratliff. “Graciela Pérez-Gutierrez [sic], Afro-Cuban Singer, Dies at 94.” New York Times,

accessed 18 September 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/09/arts/music/09graciela.html?_r=0.140. Salazar, “Machito, Mario, and Graciela,” 25–29.141. Machito, interview by Max Salazar. Machito made many recordings of “Tanga.” To illustrate the

band’s spontaneity, this edition includes a transcription of a live performance.142. Max Salazar, interview by the author; I have been unable to trace a reliable etymology for this



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143. Mason, Orin Òrìsà, 397.144. Leslie Johnakins, interview by David Carp.145. Leslie Johnakins, interview by David Carp; spelling and punctuation by the author.146. Delannoy, ¡Caliente!: Une histoire du latin jazz, 70. These were copyright filings rather than publi-

cations of sheet music.147. Johnny Nieto was timbalero Ubaldo Nieto’s brother; Anonymous, personal communication.148. Ray Santos, interview by David Carp; punctuation by the author.149. Roberts, Latin Jazz, 67.

Paul Austerlitz

When Machito returned from military service he developed a set of improvised lyricsbased on the interjection “¡Machito llegó !” (“Machito is here!”) inserted between chorusstatements of “¡tanga!” Machito often introduced the piece with the vocal interjection “ ‘boru ‘buya,” a contraction of the Yorùbá-Cuban greeting “ìbo rú di (ì)’bo ye,” routinelybestowed upon high priests, or babalawo in Cuba. The phrase’s literal meaning is: “Thesacrifice that is carried becomes the sacrifice that is suitable.”143 “Tanga’s” melding ofjazz with an Afro-Cuban liturgical reference epitomized Machito’s vision of Afro-diasporic unity.

According to baritone saxophone player Leslie Johnakins, “Tanga” was prominent inthe band’s repertoire when he joined Machito in November of 1945. That the piecewas played strictly by ear presented problems for new musicians joining the band: eachplayer already knew what he was supposed to play, but no one could teach new playerstheir parts. As a result, Bauzá asked René Hernández to notate “Tanga.” Johnakinsremembers: “As new men come in . . . we were beginning to have problems playing ourown theme song. So [laughs], Mario had René write it down. And he even come to meand ask me, ‘At this spot what note were you playing? And what beat did you hit onwhen you just’—and I told him. And do you know, he put it down verbatim onpaper.”144 The musicians were so accustomed to playing “Tanga” by ear, however, thatthey were hard-pressed to capture its feeling from written music. Bauzá decided that it was best to continue performing it by ear: “We be looking at it on the paper, wecouldn’t play it [laughs]! It sounds unusual . . . [but] trying to play that, what is writ-ten, and still inject the feeling that you know you had over the years from playing itrepetitiously—it didn’t make it. So he just took the arrangement out of the book, threwit away, and said we’d do better without music!”145

Bauzá himself published “Tanga” with Robbins Music,146 but some charge thatbecause others played important roles in its genesis, Bauzá did not have a legitimateclaim to authorship. One long-time band member believes that “Tanga” was the brain-child of Machito’s saxophonist Johnny Nieto.147 Curiously, in his many interviews,Bauzá himself never recounted the commonly-told anecdote about the genesis of“Tanga” as described above, while Machito did. But according to this very story,Machito was not present when “Tanga” was created, but was in the Army. One thing isclear, however: “Tanga” was forged aurally and collaboratively. Like many bandleadersin both Cuba and the United States, Bauzá worked by ear, adapting the ideas of side-men. Ray Santos remembers that “this was part of Machito’s style, of Mario Bauzá’sstyle: head arrangements: He’d dictate riffs to the brass, the saxophones right on thebandstand.”148 Duke Ellington also worked this way: Unclear authorship comes withthe territory of aural tradition.

“Tanga” served as the theme for Machito’s live radio broadcasts from La Conga onradio station WOR and gained a large audience.149 Although “Tanga” includes a vocalsection, it is primarily an instrumental piece that features jazz solos; the foregroundingof jazz no doubt contributed to its attraction to white audiences. Recognizing the com-mercial viability as well as the artistic merit of Cuban bebop (or Cubop), jazz impre-sario Norman Granz signed Machito and his Afro-Cubans to a recording contractwith Mercury Records. The first studio recording of “Tanga, Parts One and Two,” in1948, features Flip Phillips as guest tenor saxophone soloist. In 1949, Granz recorded

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“Tanga” again, this time for Verve Records, which he owned. While the “Tanga” studiorecordings featured prominent guest soloists, the band members, especially baritonesaxophonist Leslie Johnakins, were featured in live performances. “Symphony” SidTorin, a famous jazz disc jockey, was impressed when he heard Machito play “Tanga”with soloists trumpeter Howard McGee and tenor saxophonist Brew Moore at theApollo in 1948. He arranged for the band to record a new tune based on a similar idea,arranged by René Hernández, on Symphony Sid’s Roost Records. Because of contrac-tual conflicts, the band recorded under the name Howard McGee and his Cuboppers.Even more bop oriented than “Tanga,” “Cubop City, Parts One and Two” signaled amajor musical innovation in its seamless blending of modern jazz improvisation withCuban rhythms.150

R e n é H e r n á n d e z ( 1 9 1 4 – 1 9 7 7 )

Many American musicians were drafted into the military during World War II, and itbecame difficult for Bauzá to find players. Especially hard to fill was the piano spot,which required expertise in Afro-Cuban rhythms, jazz harmonies, and sight-reading.When pianist Joe Loco was drafted in 1945, Bauzá sent to Cuba for René Hernández,who became an important member of Machito and his Afro-Cubans, making anindelible mark on the band as both a pianist and arranger.

Alejandro René Hernández was born to a musical family on 3 June 1914 inCienfuegos, Cuba. His father was a bandleader, and his brother was one of the toptrumpeters in Cuba. In addition to music, Hernández learned the art of barbering. Hemoved to Havana as a teen and developed into a fine pianist and arranger by workingwith several top dance bands.151 Hernández was recommended to Bauzá as one of thefinest pianists in Cuba, so in 1945 Bauzá invited him to come to New York. Althoughhired as a pianist, Hernández soon became the Machito band’s principal arranger.Because of his expertise with Cuban rhythms, Hernández wrote most of the Afro-Cubans’ dance music, while Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill, with his sophisticated harmonicsense, handled boleros and suites.152 Bauzá and Machito always had advised NorthAmerican arrangers about the exigencies of clave, but they did not have to do so withHernández. Bauzá recalled that he told Hernández: “I ain’t going to tell you what towrite. You write, that’s all. I used to do that with Bartee and all those guys because theydidn’t know that work, no, but you, you do what you want.”153 Fellow arranger RaySantos declared Hernández “the most clave arranger I’ve ever come across.”154

Hernández was a largely self-taught composer and arranger whose sensitive earsguided his exploration of the new sounds he encountered in New York. Hearing jazzboth in clubs and on the radio, he was said to have absorbed its influences like asponge.155 Hernández arrived in the United States at an auspicious time; the year 1945was the height of the bebop movement as well as the dawn of the mambo explosion. As Santos put it: “You had like two revolutions going on at the same time, one inAfro-Cuban music and one going on in jazz, and they both, like, met head-on andabsorbed each other.”156 Santos remembered Hernández taking in the new influences:“Machito’s band [was] alternating with Bud Powell. So, you know, René would be sit-ting next to him, watching his hands, you know, picking up on the harmonies and all

The Afro-Cuban Impact on Music in the United States

150. Machito, interview by Max Salazar; Roberts, Latin Jazz, 78; Delannoy, ¡Caliente!: Une histoire dulatin jazz, 75–76.

151. Carp, “René Hernández”; Machito, interview by Max Salazar.152. Leslie Johnakins, interview by David Carp.153. Mario Bauzá, interview on WKCR-FM.154. Ray Santos, interview by David Carp.155. Ibid.156. Ibid.


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that. Because René had great ears. Yeah, he could pick up anything. Good ears, plus hewas creative—good tasty creativeness.”157 Thus, Hernández was primed to expand theconventions of Cuban dance music.158 He employed a keen sense of critical judgmentin his use of jazz; instead of incorporating all aspects of the new language, he filtered inthe aspects that he felt would mix best with Afro-Cuban music.

The bass parts of Cuban dance music, intricately hooked into the percussion sec-tion, imbue each arrangement with a characteristic “feel” or kinetic motion, andHernández was a master composer of bass parts. Bauzá believed that creativity withbass parts was what distinguished Hernández’s arrangements from most other Cubanand salsa arrangements. Bauzá was quoted as saying that Hernández “didn’t write any-thing before he had the bass line. The bass line is the most important thing in Cubanmusic.”159 Like Madera, Hernández often gave bass patterns to the baritone saxo-phone; this practice was picked up by other arrangers and eventually became standardin salsa.160 The addition of a baritone saxophone was innovative for Cuban bands,which usually used only altos and tenors; the baritone changed the color of the ensem-ble and intensified the bass part, which was foregrounded as the soul of the band’srhythm. Therefore, baritone saxophonist Leslie Johnakins’ long-time membership inthe band and René Hernández’s baritone-heavy arrangements made a lasting contribu-tion to the style and orchestration of Latin dance music.161 In Cuba, Hernández hadwritten for smaller bands with perhaps two trumpets and three saxophones. ForMachito’s band, Hernández wrote for a larger group, and the enlarged palette stimu-lated his creativity. Cuban jazz-tinged dance bands like Orquesta Casino de la Playaand Julio Cueva’s group employed four-part block harmony in the saxophones, butavoided the modernistic harmonies of bop. As the Afro-Cubans grew in number,Hernández rewrote their arrangements, transferring them from the original scoring forthree or four saxophones and two trumpets into formats that used four or five saxo-phones and four trumpets.162 Having a baritone saxophone—played by such a top-notch musician as Johnakins—particularly expanded the sonic possibilities and madepossible larger and more open voicings.

Hernández’s friends knew him as a happy person. Ray Santos felt that “you canactually hear this in his music: he’s a happy writer, yeah. His arrangements, his riffs,everything sounds happy.”163 In addition to arranging, Hernández composed manyoriginal pieces for the Afro-Cubans. One of Hernández’s most extraordinary qualitiesas an arranger was his ability to remain fresh, to keep thinking of new ideas in spite ofthe large amount of work he produced. Hernández’s creativity was put to good use inthe Machito band. His diverse contributions ranged from percussion-driven vocalnumbers to smooth instrumentals that pleased dancers, and novelty numbers such asthe pop-orientalist hits “Asia Minor” and “Oboe Mambo.” Hernández took advantageof his versatility by writing for several other bands, and emerged as the dominant forcein New York Latin arranging in the 1940s and 1950s. Santos compared Hernández’swriting for vocalist Vicentico Valdés to the arranger Nelson Riddle’s collaboration withFrank Sinatra.164 All of Tito Rodríguez’s early hits (with a three-trumpet conjunto)were arranged by Hernández.165 Hernández also made conjunto arrangements forbandleader Eddie Palmieri, including the arrangements for his Grammy Award-

Paul Austerlitz

157. Ray Santos, interview by the author, New York, 1999.158. Ray Santos, interview by David Carp.159. Mario Bauzá, interview by Anthony Brown.160. Ray Santos, interview by David Carp.161. Ibid.162. Ibid.163. Ibid.164. Ibid.; Carp, “René Hernández.”165. Ray Santos, interview by the author, New York, 2001; Ray Santos, interview by David Carp.


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winning 1974 LP entitled The Sun of Latin Music.166 As Bauzá explained, Hernándezmaintained different styles for each group: “You [know], one thing about René, he hadsuch a talented [way] that he [could] make arrangement[s] for each different artist intheir own style. Because some guys they just write the same way for everybody—notRené. René write [sic] for Vicentico [Valdés] . . . it sounds like one way. [He] used towrite for Panchito Rizet, was another world. Write for Machito it was another world.”167

Hernández’s inventive facility as an arranger astounded his peers, who rememberhim writing while he sat at the Palladium bar or while riding on the subway.168 He hadhis own mode of operation. Whereas most people in the music business relied on thetelephone to get work, Hernández set up his apartment on 76th Street near RiversideDrive without a phone because calls distracted him. When people wanted to hire him,they either contacted Bauzá, who would speak to Hernández, or directly approachedHernández during performances.169 Moreover, Hernández was a formidable pianist.Many pianists in New York could play Cuban dance music, but Hernández’s facilitywith Cuban rhythms, combined with his sight-reading skill, distinguished him fromhis peers. As a solo improviser, his playing was rhythmically clean with tinges of jazzthat exuded a solidly Cuban sound as illustrated in his obbligati in “Caso perdido,”included in this edition (mm. 33–39 and 60–75).170

In 1965 Hernández left Machito to become the pianist for Tito Rodríguez. Then,when Rodríguez settled in Puerto Rico, Hernández followed him there and playedboth in Rodríguez’s big band and in duo settings with the singer. Hernández also per-formed with the San Juan Caribe Hilton House show orchestra, and for a time led hisown band. Hernández died of a heart attack in Puerto Rico in December 1977.171 Hisinfluence on music is immeasurable; Bauzá went so far as to say that Hernández was“the greatest arranger of Cuban music I ever knew.”172

B e b o p , C L A V E , a n d “ M a n g o m a n g ü é ”

By the mid-1940s, Afro-Cuban music was gaining prominence in the United States.Machito’s friend, deejay and music publisher Fred Robbins, liked Latin music but was afraid that Spanish vocals would fail to attract white audiences. Afro-Cuban jazz,however, was predominantly instrumental and thus well-suited for his radio program.Machito appeared on Robbins’s show several times to publicize the new Cubop soundand soon, the Afro-Cubans were playing at New York jazz venues such as the RoyalRoost, Birdland, Bop City, The Clique, and the Apollo Theater. Preeminent jazzsoloists such as Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Zoot Sims, Brew Moore, JohnnyGriffin, or Stan Getz often appeared with them.173 Similarly, Machito’s percussionistsJosé Mangual, Carlos Vidal, and Patato also informally sat in with jazz musicians atbebop jam sessions in clubs such as the famed Minton’s Playhouse.

The prominent jazz bandleader Stan Kenton developed an interest in Afro-Cubanmusic, saying that while jazz had much to offer harmonically, Cuban music was richerrhythmically. He suggested that North American musicians avail themselves of this

The Afro-Cuban Impact on Music in the United States

166. Graciela, interview on WKCR-FM; Carlos de León, personal communication with the author.167. Mario Bauzá, interview on WKCR-FM.168. Ray Santos, interview by David Carp; Mario Bauzá, interview on WKCR-FM.169. Ray Santos, interview by David Carp.170. Ibid.; Chico O’Farril, interview by the author, New York, 2000; Ray Santos, interview by David

Carp.171. Ray Santos, interview by the author, New York, 2000; Ray Santos, interview by David Carp;

Carp, “René Hernández.”172. Figueroa, “René and Peruchín,” 25.173. Ray Santos, interview by the author, New York, 1999; Ray Santos, interview by David Carp;

Roberts, Latin Jazz, 81.


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musical resource.174 Teaming up with Machito’s percussion section in December 1948,Kenton recorded his own arrangement of “The Peanut Vendor” (originally “El man-icero”), and also recorded, as a tribute to the Afro-Cubans, a tune called “Machito.”175

Kenton’s “The Peanut Vendor” featured Carlos Vidal on conga, José Mangual onbongó, and Machito on maracas. The arrangement combines touches of Brazilianacoustic guitar played by Laurindo Almeida with the tune’s catchy theme couched inexciting, dissonant harmonies.176 After the recording, Vidal joined Kenton’s band as afeatured soloist, fulfilling the role that Pozo played in Gillespie’s band.177 Bauzáapplauded Kenton’s efforts, but felt that the result failed to capture the Afro-Cuban“nitty-gritty,” going so far as to claim that Kenton was essentially a “modern version ofPaul Whiteman.”178 Still, Kenton’s innovative experiments applying a bold new style ofbig band writing to Cuban rhythms broke new ground musically.

On 20 December 1948, producer Norman Granz recorded Charlie Parker and tenorsaxophone player Flip Phillips with Machito and his Afro-Cubans. Granz suggestedthat the band record “El manicero,” because it was the best-known Cuban song in theUnited States at the time. When the band played the song for Parker to see how heliked it, the alto saxophonist felt that the song’s idiosyncratic syncopation, which out-lines the clave-related cinquillo rhythm, would be too difficult for him to negotiate as asoloist. At first, Bauzá could not understand why Parker would hesitate to play whatmost Cubans considered a bare-bones simple tune. Later, Bauzá realized that while thecinquillo rhythm was natural to Cubans, it embodied a subtle logic difficult for non-Cubans to grasp. Nevertheless, Bauzá thought highly of Parker for recognizing therhythm’s complexities.179

After Parker nixed “El manicero,” the band played the instrumental version of“Mango mangüé,” which René Hernández had arranged to feature Graciela’s vocals.Parker listened, and the song piqued his interest. They played the song again, andParker improvised along, paraphrasing the vocal part. As Machito remembered:

We played [“Mango mangüé”] once, he says: “Play again.” He put together his instru-ment and he played all through the arrangement, like he know that number for twentyyears. . . . That fellow had a photograph[ic memory], a machine in his brain. . . . He wasthinking ahead maybe ten, fifteen, twenty bars, with ideas.180

But, Parker remained humble. Machito remembers him saying that “I could do betterthan that, let’s play [it] again. . . . Forgive me.”181 In the first section of the recording,Parker paraphrased the melody, following the arrangement’s twists, turns, and Cubansignature rhythms with characteristic bebop flights. In the second section, he soloedover the tune’s montuno (vamp).

In addition to “Mango mangüé” (included in this edition), the Granz recording ses-sion produced “Okidoke,” “Repetition,” and “No Noise, Parts One and Two,” allarranged by John Bartee.182 Once during a break in the recording session, Parkerimprovised while bongó player Chino Pozo vocalized drum syllables. Unfortunately,this spontaneous experiment was not recorded, but it served as the basis for a laterMachito recording entitled “Bucabú,” which featured tenor saxophonist Flip Phillips

Paul Austerlitz

174. “Band of the Year,” 46.175. Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts.176. Roberts, Latin Jazz, 74.177. Ray Santos, interview by David Carp.178. Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts.179. Ray Santos, interview by David Carp.180. Machito, interview by Max Salazar.181. Ibid.182. Machito, interview by Max Salazar; Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts.


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improvising while Machito’s percussionists vocalized Afro-Cuban drum patterns.183

Later, Parker recorded two LPs with Machito’s rhythm section: South of the Border(released 1952 and including the Granz tracks) and Fiesta (released 1957), which fea-tured both Brazilian and Cuban numbers.

A central paradox of the African diaspora is that while its constituent peoples—ranging from African Americans to Afro-Cubans, Jamaicans, Afro-Peruvians, and others—diverge in many ways, they also have much in common. Issues of Afro-diasporic continuity and divergence came to a head in the critical reception of Cubop.Ethnomusicologist John Storm Roberts writes that some of Charlie Parker’s solos withMachito were not successful aesthetically, and that Parker’s improvisatory figures wereout of sync with the clave rhythm.184 Other experts concur that several pieces on theSouth of the Border and Fiesta albums sound rhythmically stilted.185 Although Bauzáfelt that jazz soloists usually worked well with the band, Bauzá recalled some excep-tions. For example, Bauzá said that Harry “Sweets” Edison, who was asked to play on Machito’s The Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite, excused himself, saying: “This is not mygame.”186 And in Bauzá’s view, drummer Buddy Rich, who participated in the record-ing of the same Suite, was not attuned to the clave rhythm.187 Bauzá also rememberedthat alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, who later became a regular member of the group,abruptly ended his first attempt to play with the Afro-Cubans, feeling that he had notyet mastered the band’s style. Konitz, however, later overcame his reluctance andbecame a regular member of the Machito band.188

In this light, the aborted “El manicero” session with Parker is noteworthy. Bauzábelieved that Parker refused to record this tune precisely because it insistently empha-sizes clave in a way that was impossible for Parker to elide, but Santos, Roberts, andmost fans agree that Parker sounded rhythmically locked-in on “Mango mangüé.”189

Even when Parker’s solos did not refer to clave, the metronomic drive shared byAfrican American and Afro-Cuban musics facilitated the fusion.190 This demonstrateswhy Bauzá called Hernández “the most clave arranger” of them all.191 Note the clave-based rhythms in “Mango mangüé,” for example measures 7–9, 31–32, 43–44, and47–48. Even spots such as measures 1–2 and 11–12 imply the clave without explicitlystating it. Parker’s solo, based upon the back-beat phraseology of bebop, never articu-lates clave-related rhythms, but nevertheless forges a seamless union with the arrange-ment (see mm. 60–61 and 83–84). At measure 143, Parker embarks on a series ofsoloistic comments in dialogue with the clave as articulated in the chorus refrain.Arranger Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill opined that, while Parker remained humble whenhe encountered Cuban style, “when you listen to it, you know it is his music.”192

Bauzá stated that the collaboration imparted the feeling you get when “you put yourkey in your door . . . [and] you in home [sic].”193 Combining the inspired solo work by bebop pioneer Charlie Parker with the rhythmically impeccable “clave-logic” ofHernández’s arranging, “Mango mangüé” is perhaps the most dazzling piece includedin this edition.

The Afro-Cuban Impact on Music in the United States

183. Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts.184. Roberts, Latin Jazz, 79, 91.185. Ray Santos, interview by the author, New York, 2001.186. Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts.187. Ibid.188. Ibid.189. Ray Santos, interview by the author, New York, 1999; Roberts, Latin Jazz, 79, 91.190. Waterman, “African Influence on the Music of the Americas.”191. Ray Santos, interview by David Carp.192. Chico O’Farrill, interview by the author, New York, 2000.193. Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts.


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C h i c o O ’ F a r r i l l a n d T h e A f r o - C u b a n J a z z S u i t e

On 11 February 1949, Machito and his Afro-Cubans performed in a Norman Granzproduction at Carnegie Hall, sharing the stage with such luminaries as Duke Ellingtonand Lester Young. Slated to solo with the band on “Tanga,” Charlie Parker did notshow up for the performance, so Granz substituted Sonny Stitt.194 To commemoratethe performance, Granz released an LP entitled The Jazz Scene that featured the musicof all of the concert’s participants and photos of the bands. Machito and his Afro-Cubans’ participation in this prestigious project demonstrates the recognition of theirimportant place in North American music. Machito and his Afro-Cubans began toplay regularly in the Jazz at the Philharmonic concert series organized by Granz, whowanted Machito’s band to record a multi-movement work that would feature guestsoloists Charlie Parker and Flip Phillips. Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill, a young Cubanarranger who lived in New York and who was swiftly ascending the jazz ranks by writ-ing for Benny Goodman and others, was enlisted to write the The Afro-Cuban JazzSuite.

Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill Theye was born in Havana on 28 December 1921 to well-to-do parents of Irish and German extraction; his father was an attorney employed bythe government, and the family owned land in the countryside. Many affluent Cubanparents sent their sons abroad for high school, and the O’Farrills had a special incen-tive to do so because of their son’s habitual truancy in junior high. It was decided that aregimented environment would help the boy, and he was sent to the Riverside MilitaryAcademy in Gainesville, Georgia. There, O’Farrill’s roommates enjoyed listening tothe top dance bands of the day on the radio, and he became a jazz fan. He took up thetrumpet, and in his senior year impressed friends by performing Bunny Berigan’s soloon “ ‘Marie” note-for-note. O’Farrill studied jazz arranging on his own, and he madean arrangement for the school band of “Tuxedo Junction.” When Cab Calloway cameto Gainesville to perform, O’Farrill heard that there was a Cuban in the band, and hemet Mario Bauzá.

After graduating from the Riverside Academy, O’Farrill returned to Cuba to fulfillhis family’s expectations and follow in his father’s footsteps by studying law. However,O’Farrill’s heart was in jazz. O’Farrill had become familiar with the Cuban dancebands during his breaks from school when he went back to Cuba, and he played week-end gigs and dedicated himself to music. He had found a new circle of friends in Cuba—jazz lovers—and with them he listened to recordings and attended jam sessions.195

O’Farrill developed as an improviser, and increasingly became interested in arranging and composing. He began to take private composition lessons with FélixGuerrero, the dean of Cuban arrangers who also had taught bandleader Pérez Prado.Guerrero was a forward-thinking arranger who later in 1947 was to study with NadiaBoulanger,196 and he reportedly mingled with the likes of Stravinsky and Gershwin.197

O’Farrill became enamored of modernistic European classical music, once saying that“[o]ne of my greatest influences was Stravinsky and his compositions Petrushka and theRite of Spring.”198 O’Farrill also became acquainted with the work of Cuban composersAmadeo Roldán and Alejandro García Caturla, both of whom had created an Afro-

Paul Austerlitz

194. Machito, interview by Max Salazar.195. Delannoy, ¡Caliente!: Une histoire du latin jazz, 136–39.196. Alberto Alén Pérez, “Guerrero Díaz, Félix.” Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford

University Press, accessed 31 August 2016 http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/11933.

197. Chico O’Farrill, interview by René López; Graciela, interview by Anthony Brown and RaulFernández.

198. O’Farrill quoted in Delannoy, ¡Caliente!: Une histoire du latin jazz, 145; Delannoy, ¡Caliente!: Unehistoire du latin jazz, 143–45, 149.


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Cubanist style of concert music by blending black Cuban rhythms with modernistinnovations. Influenced by this movement, in 1945 O’Farrill began writing a jazz suitebased on Afro-Cuban themes.199

O’Farrill wrote for Isidro Pérez’s band, at the time one of the most jazz-orientedgroups in Cuba, gaining an opportunity to express his modernist bent by writing amodernist arrangement of “Deep Purple” in 5/4 meter.200 Music critic Luc Delannoynoted that O’Farrill did not yet know about Bauzá’s Cubop experiments at this time,and argued that O’Farrill was the “true creator of Cubop.”201 However, Isidro Pérez’sband had great difficulty in finding work; there was little demand in Cuba for stronglyjazz-influenced music. O’Farrill moved to New York City, later saying that “going toNew York was an act of rebellion”; he felt that “if this orquesta is not good enough forCuba, Cuba is not good enough for me.” A comparison of O’Farrill’s and Bauzá’s back-grounds, their statements about their motivations for coming to the United States, andtheir attractions to jazz is instructive: Both were versed in European classical musicand interested in pursuing jazz as a career, and both sought economic opportunities tomake music. But while Bauzá was a working-class black musician who identified jazzwith the vibrant black culture of the Harlem Renaissance, O’Farrill was an upper-classwhite Cuban who identified jazz with dominant trends emanating from the UnitedStates.

Cuban expatriate musicians often aided their fellow countrymen upon arrival toNew York City, and Bauzá helped O’Farrill get his bearings. Bauzá introducedO’Farrill to the bandleader Noro Morales, and O’Farrill began writing for him.O’Farrill also became friends with the brilliant bop trumpeter Fats Navarro, a Floridanative of partial Cuban descent, who introduced him to the bop scene. Also, O’Farrillworked as a ghostwriter for the formidable bebop arranger Walter Gil Fuller. Fullersystematically accepted more work than he could personally complete, and subcon-tracted portions of arrangements to a handful of arrangers who worked for him. Fullergave his ghostwriters specific instructions, for example guidance on how to harmonizecertain passages.202 Benny Goodman, who always was savvy to twists and turns in themusic business, formed a “Bebop Band” in 1948. In the following year, O’Farrill heardthat Goodman planned to use Fuller’s ghostwriting team and directly offered Good -man his “Undercurrent Blues” to avoid Fuller taking credit for his work. Goodman wasfavorably impressed, recorded “Undercurrent Blues,” and hired O’Farrill as one of hisown staff arrangers. This, of course, was a dream come true for O’Farrill, as he laterremembered. Goodman was also responsible for bestowing O’Farrill’s nickname“Chico.”203 Goodman once introduced O’Farrill to Stravinsky, in a meeting that wasmemorable for the young arranger.204

Although O’Farrill had started work on an Afro-Cuban suite in 1945, he had neverbeen particularly interested in Cuban music. As he stated, he only became interested init “when I heard the Machito band.” Machito’s music was different from the Cubantípico music that O’Farrill knew in Cuba: “I came to New York and I heard the Machitoorchestra and I was really surprised that this orchestra was so advanced. . . . I could saythat for the first time I was really interested in Cuban music; I heard sounds thatattracted me. I heard, you know, harmonies that were rich.”205 And O’Farrill added: “Itwas Afro-Cuban jazz. Jazz: that word was very important for me. Jazz, it was jazz. It

The Afro-Cuban Impact on Music in the United States

199. Delannoy, ¡Caliente!: Une histoire du latin jazz, 140.200. Ibid., 136–39.201. Ibid., 140.202. Luc Delannoy, personal communication with the author.203. Chico O’Farrill, interview by René López.204. Delannoy, ¡Caliente!: Une histoire du latin jazz, 143–45, 149.205. Chico O’Farrill, Machito, A Latin Jazz Legacy, directed by Carlos Ortiz (New York: Ircarus Films,

1987), videocassette (VHS).


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was jazz-oriented. It was rich, rich as any form of jazz, and it was very aggressive;instrumentally it was rich, too. That’s what attracted me; otherwise I don’t think that Iwould have been interested.”206

Bauzá asked O’Farrill to arrange several boleros to feature Graciela’s vocals, andO’Farrill used modernistic harmonies in these bolero arrangements. For example, whenthe voice returns after an instrumental interlude in “Alma con alma,” he injects adeceptive cadence before falling back to the tonic. As experienced a singer as Gracielawas, she had not previously encountered such untraditional arrangements and foundthem so difficult to sing that she once asked Bauzá to stop using O’Farrill. However,Bauzá convinced Graciela to adapt to O’Farrill’s style.207 In general, Bauzá usedO’Farrill to arrange boleros and concert music because O’Farrill was less attuned toclave-logic than was Hernández. As Ray Santos put it, “René Hernández was a Cubanarranger with a jazz approach, and . . . Chico O’Farrill is a jazz arranger with a Cubanapproach.”208 Still, O’Farrill wrote many danceable pieces, including “Vaya Niña” and“Carambola,” which embeds polytonal chords within a clave base.

Producer Norman Granz was impressed with O’Farrill’s ability to merge modernistjazz with Cuban music. Because Afro-Cuban jazz was becoming commercially viable,Granz commissioned O’Farrill to write The Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite, recorded for theClef record label on 21 December 1950.209 (This Suite is included in this edition.) TheAfro-Cuban Jazz Suite is in five movements, each representing an Afro-Cuban musicalrhythm and thus constituting a compendium of Cuban music styles. The Suite beginswith a trumpet solo, presumably performed by Bauzá. The opening movement, “Can -cion,” is based on a rhythm often used in Afro-Cuban liturgical music, and O’Farrilllets the percussionists loose. The second movement, “Mambo” highlights the ensembleand percussionists in Afro-Cuban guaguancó rhythm, and leads to an extensive altosaxophone solo. A transition includes a brief trumpet solo by Sweets Edison and aclarinet solo by Bauzá, and leads into the third movement, “6/8,” in Afro-Cuban güirorhythm. The fourth movement, “Jazz,” features solos by Flip Phillips, Charlie Parker,and Buddy Rich.210 And the final movement, “Rumba Abierta” in an Afro-Cuban car-nival rhythm, showcases Machito’s percussionists and ensemble. O’Farrill considered itparadoxical that his best-known work was based on traditional Cuban styles: “That’sthe irony of it: I was never an expert on Cuban music. What I did for example in thatSuite was purely instinctive; I never was an expert on Cuban music, frankly, and I neverresearched it, and I never paid too much attention to it really. They asked me, ‘write a suite, Chico,’ [so] I just wrote according to my best understanding, letting my jazzsensibility to guide me most of the time.”211 The positive reception of The Afro-CubanJazz Suite led to commissions for other high-profile Afro-Cuban orchestral projectssuch as Stan Kenton’s “Cuban Episode,” O’Farrill’s second Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite, and his Manteca Suite for Dizzy Gillespie’s big band augmented by Machito’s rhythmsection.

M a m b o T i m e

During the 1950s, the mambo arose as a high-profile dance craze. Although it wasassociated largely with the Cuban bandleader Dámaso Pérez Prado, both the word“mambo” and its characteristic style predated Pérez Prado. The term “mambo” origi-

Paul Austerlitz

206. Chico O’Farrill, interview by René López.207. Graciela, interview on WKCR-FM.208. Ray Santos, interview by David Carp.209. Delannoy, ¡Caliente!: Une histoire du latin jazz, 145–50.210. Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts; Roberts, The Latin Tinge, 133–41; Stearns, The

Story of Jazz, 243–56; Gitler, From Swing to Bop, 291–93; Gillespie and Fraser, To Be, or Not . . . to Bop,347–49.

211. Chico O’Farrill, interview by René López.


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nated in Congo, and originally referred to liturgical songs of the Afro-Cuban Palo (or Congo-derived) subculture.212 In 1938, the danzón group Arcaño y sus Maravillasrecorded Orestes López’s composition entitled “Mambo” with the usual charangainstrumentation of violins, flutes, and rhythm section.213 However, López’s “Mambo”dispensed with the sectional form and modulations typical to the danzón, and insteadconsisted of a short introduction followed by a montuno (or vamp) overlaid with fluteimprovisations and a vocal chorus. Furthermore, Arcaño used the conga drum. De-emphasizing European melodies and employing rumba and son influences, Arcañoreworked the danzón, Africanizing it and labeling it “danzón de nuevo ritmo” (“danzónwith a new beat”). One observer, noting that this new style boils down to a vamp overlaid with improvised riffs, called it “ordered anarchy.”214 Around the same time as Arcaño, Cuban bandleader Arsenio Rodríguez was innovating by incorporatinginfluences from the Afro-Cuban Palo religion in his music, and, most significantly,adding riff-based finales called mambos (or diablos, “devils”) to his arrangements.215

Cubans soon began using the term mambo to refer to arrangements based on riffs and montunos.

Cuban popular musicians and fans have always had a penchant for coining neolo-gisms as trademarks for genres—as Acosta puts it, there is a “tendency to pigeon-hole.”216 This tendency has often served as a marketing strategy. Arcaño andRodríguez’s work aside, Cuban big band arrangers in this period routinely based theirwork on saxophone and trumpet riffs; mambo style had been incubating among Cubanmusicians in both Havana and New York City for some time.217 Acosta suggests thatthe first jazz-based Cuban group to use montuno-riff mambo structures may have beenJulio Cueva’s group, for whom René Hernández was the arranger.218 Arrangers BeboValdés, El Niño Rivera, and Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill also wrote in this style in Cuba,and Machito’s arrangements by José Madera and John Bartee from the early 1940semployed a riff-based sound. The mambo style—if not the name—thus clearly devel-oped prior to the rise of Pérez Prado.219 Moreover, the term mambo already had beencatching on before Pérez Prado’s fame took hold; in addition to the term being used by Arcaño and Rodríguez, José Curbelo’s “El rey del mambo,” featuring Rodríguez onvocals, was released in New York in 1946,220 and in 1947 Tito Rodríguez came outwith a band called the Mambo Devils.221 In response to Pérez Prado’s claiming creditfor the innovations that these many musicians had fostered, Bebo Valdés coined theterm batanga in 1952 as a rival marketing term.222 Reception, however, is the finalarbiter of such tactics: musical terms either catch on or they do not, according to popular taste.

Dovetailing with the tango and conga vogues, the mambo grew on fertile ground.Moreover, the demise of many swing bands in the late 1940s left a demand for dancemusic. As the mambo label gained currency, Machito recorded an LP entitled Mambo Is

The Afro-Cuban Impact on Music in the United States

212. Ortiz, Los instrumentos de la música afrocubana, 232–33, 241, 246; Thompson, Flash of the Spirit,110–11; Pèrez Firmat, Life on the Hyphen, 82.

213. Orestes López cites this as the date of the recording in his interview by Adrianna Orejuela. LiseWaxer, personal communication with the author. Giró, however, cites Arcaño stating that the year was1939, while others claim that it was as early as 1935. See Giró, “Todo lo que Ud. quiso saber sobre elmambo,” 215.

214. Odilio Urfé in Giró, “Todo lo que Ud. quiso saber sobre el mambo,” 215.215. Giró, “Todo lo que Ud. quiso saber sobre el mambo,” 211.216. Robbins, “Practical and Abstract Taxonomy,” 379–89.217. Giró, “Todo lo que Ud. quiso saber sobre el mambo,” 216.218. Acosta, Del tambor al sintetizador, 69.219. Giró, “Todo lo que Ud. quiso saber sobre el mambo,” 220–21.220. Roberts, Latin Jazz, 71.221. Pèrez Firmat, Life on the Hyphen, 91–92.222. Delannoy, ¡Caliente!: Une histoire du latin jazz, 89.


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Here to Stay in 1950. Soon, a mambo craze was afoot. Magazines referred to its “highsex quotient” and “lids off demonic quality.”223 A 1951 article in Ebony magazine pro-claimed that “[i]ts impulses are primitive, its rhythms are frenetic, and it is called themambo.”224 Tin Pan Alley tune-smiths began penning their own mambos; ten werereleased in October 1954 alone. But like the North American re-workings of the congaand rumba, some of these mambos merely amounted to stereotyped versions of Cubanmusic.

Machito’s first timbalero, a New Yorker of Puerto Rican descent named Tito Puente,organized a band in September 1949 called the Picadilly Boys, after picadillo, a dish ofspiced chopped beef. The band, a small conjunto consisting of a rhythm section andthree trumpets, debuted at the Palladium. Puente’s charisma struck a chord with thepredominantly Puerto Rican crowds, and he soon became a star. After Puente’s debutengagement, he abandoned the conjunto format, adopted big-band instrumentation,and developed a winning formula of showmanship that emphasized his style of musicalexcellence. A master entertainer and a virtuoso performer, Puente played exciting tim-bales solos during fast numbers and sensitive vibraphone obbligatos during boleros.Puente also was a brilliant arranger who forged a distinctly personal, flashy style ofjazz-tinged Latin dance music. He was soon crowned “King of the Mambo.” Puentewas strongly influenced by René Hernández’s innovations in arranging. Another risingstar of the New York mambo scene to emerge was the Puerto Rican vocalist TitoRodríguez, who started a band called the Mambo Devils in 1947. Rodríguez made hisearly reputation singing in a manner highly influenced by Machito, like him oftenusing vocables such as “no, no, no, no” in his improvisations. Eventually, Rodríguezfocused on boleros.225 One prominent musician who played with Machito, Puente, and Rodríguez opines that Puente and Rodríguez had “very good bands, [but] to methey were basically spin-offs of Machito, you know, the saxophone, trumpet concept of big band jazz” combined with Afro-Cuban rhythms.226 However, by 1952, Puenteand Rodríguez, perhaps impelled in part by their appeal to the predominantly PuertoRican Latino community in New York, surpassed Machito as the City’s most popularmamberos.

In 1954, promoter George Goldner put together a “Mambo-USA” tour featuringMachito, Joe Loco’s Quintet, and other assorted acts such as the Arthur MurrayTelevision Mambo Dancers.227 Tastes in particular mambo styles were allied to particu-lar geographic regions. Although the New York bands were played on the radio on theWest Coast, Pérez Prado reigned there.228 Prado arrived on the East Coast in 1952,but New Yorkers preferred the percussion-heavy, jazz-soaked style of Machito, TitoPuente, and Tito Rodríguez. In 1954, a new Cuban dance, the cha-cha-chá, arrived inthe United States,229 and perhaps because it was easier to execute than the mambo,caught the country by storm. While most bands in Cuba used the danzón-derived (orcharanga) flute and violin instrumenation for playing cha-chas, New York bands cateredto cha-cha dance steps using trumpet and saxophone big band instrumentation. Andsignificantly, the New York bands were steeped in the jazz tradition.

M u l t i - C u l t u r a l D a n c i n g a t t h e P a l l a d i u m

Integral to music throughout the African diaspora is a connection with dancers, andthis connection was certainly a central tenant of the Machito aesthetic. While Machito

Paul Austerlitz

223. Firmat, Life on the Hyphen, 84.224. Ibid.225. Ray Santos, interview by the author, New York, 2001.226. Anonymous, personal communication with the author.227. Firmat, Life on the Hyphen, 97.228. Delannoy, ¡Caliente!: Une histoire du latin jazz, 164.229. Roberts, The Latin Tinge, 131–34.


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and his Afro-Cubans was notable for its innovative blending of jazz with Cubanmusic, the group performed primarily as a dance band. In the late 1940s, Machito’srepertoire was balanced between Afro-Cuban jazz and dance numbers. In the middleand late 1950s, the band became more dance-oriented and developed a repertoire ofperhaps sixty percent vocal dance music, twenty percent instrumental dance music, andtwenty percent instrumental music meant primarily for listening.230 These categoriesoverlapped, since all of Machito’s music was danceable, and all of it was jazz-based.The growing market for dance music may have been spurred by increasing Latinoimmigration to the United States. Thanks to a post-War slump in Puerto Rico’s econ-omy, an estimated 300,000 Puerto Ricans arrived in New York City between 1948 and1950, increasing the demand for Latin dance music.231 Machito’s jazz influences, how-ever, were never at odds with the requirements of dancers, since the band combineddanceable big band jazz with bebop influences and Cuban dance rhythms.

A new dance hall called the Palladium was founded in New York a few years beforethe mambo boom and emerged as a focal point of Latin dance music in the city. Beforeit was called the Palladium, in 1947, the Alma Dance Studios at 53rd Street, locatednearby the well-attended Arcadia and Roseland Ballrooms, faced stiff competition foraudiences. Owner Tommy Martin, hoping that Latin music would increase his busi-ness, hired Machito and his Afro-Cubans to play for Latin dances on Wednesdaynights. Machito’s friend Federico Pagani promoted these dances and distributed flyersuptown near subway exits, which caused some people to refer to them as “SubwayDances.” The venue was unofficially dubbed the Blen Blen Blen Club, after the popu-lar Chano Pozo song. Machito and his Afro-Cubans headlined, and other bands performed, including bands led by Noro Morales and José Curbelo, among others. The Blen Blen Blen Club became a big success, often drawing several hundred peopleto a single dance. Graciela remembered that the ballroom once was so crowded that itscoat room quickly filled up, forcing patrons to check their outerwear at a restaurantdown the block.232 Before the Blen Blen Blen Club opened, Latin bands had workedin downtown venues as so-called “relief bands” rather than as headline attractions(Machito’s engagement at La Conga was a notable exception). Furthermore, it wasunusual for downtown clubs to cater to black and Latino crowds. Martin was happywith the initial success of the Blen Blen Blen Club, but he told Pagani that he wasconcerned that the preponderance of people of color in the audience would turn whitepatrons away. As more and more dark-skinned Latinos and African Americans cameto the dances, Pagani remembers Martin telling him: “You’re gonna ruin my business.”Pagani countered by pointing out that Martin was doing great business: “What do youwant, the green or the black? If you want the green, you can have it . . . otherwise,throw them out of here.”233 Eventually, Martin agreed with Pagani and offered Machitoand his Afro-Cubans a steady engagement of several months. In 1948, Max Hymanbought the Blen Blen Blen Club and renamed it the Palladium.234 The interior of thePalladium was attractive. Single women could sit in a special section, and dancersdivided the floor into areas for beginners and advanced dancers.235 The Palladium wasthe number one spot for the mambo in New York, and remained popular until 1966.236

A pattern developed at the Palladium: Wednesdays were dominated by a whiteaudience, Fridays attracted a mixed crowd, and Saturdays drew mainly Latinos.

The Afro-Cuban Impact on Music in the United States

230. Mario Grillo, interview by the author, New York, 2000; Jose Madera, Jr., interview by the author,New York, 2000.

231. Rene López in Graciela, interview on WKCR-FM.232. Machito, interview by Max Salazar; Graciela, interview on WKCR-FM.233. Machito, A Latin Jazz Legacy, directed by Carlos Ortiz (New York: Ircarus Films, 1987), video -

cassette (VHS).234. Rondon, El libro de la salsa, 30.235. Boggs, Salsiology, 30.236. Waxer, “Mambo Kings,” 159.


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Sundays also drew a mixed crowd with blacks predominating, perhaps because theadmission charge was lower that day.237 Max Salazar remembers that Wednesdays alsoattracted celebrities: “That would be the night you could see Marlon Brando, SammyDavis, Jr., Harry Belafonte, Kim Novak. . . . Hollywood personalities sitting in theaudience there.”238 An emcee occasionally announced the presence of the celebrities tothe crowd and shone a spotlight on them.239 Salazar postulates that the New Yorkmambo scene was remarkable for its lack of racial tension. There was no feeling thatpeople of certain ethnicities were unwelcome on particular nights, he said, but “it justworked out that way.” Moreover, as time went on, “everybody started going on thesedifferent dates—it wasn’t black Sunday anymore or Hispanic Saturday and whiteWednesday. Forget it!” Others who remember the era confirm this situation, as Salazarput it:

During the late ’50s and ’60s, it was a lot of inter-marriages because the music is whatbrought these dancers together at the Palladium Ballroom. Yeah, because what they didwas when they got together at the Palladium, they got to find out that they were justalike, that people were like them. There were family, they had married, they had children,they had rent problems. And the mambo is the things [sic] that really removed these barri-ers, by bringing these people together, because by bringing them to that dancehall, theygot to learn about each other. And realize there’s not that much difference.240

African-American mambo dancer Ernest Ensley remembered that when he went topredominately white clubs in Brooklyn he never encountered racial discrimination andnever had problems finding partners among white women.241 Machito’s assessment ofracal relations and mambo culture might not be an exaggeration: “That’s where integra-tion began.”242

While they performed at the Palladium and other predominantly Latin venues,Machito and his Afro-Cubans also performed at the Savoy and Renaissance Ballroomsfor predominantly black crowds. There, the band played its usual mambo repertoire,sharing the stage with jazz bands led by the likes of Arnett Cobb and CootieWilliams.243 Machito’s saxophonist Leslie Johnakins remembered that when Machitofirst played at the Savoy in Harlem, many of their Latino fans followed them there todance, leaving the African-American regulars to watch from the sidelines. Gradually,however, black fans learned the Cuban dances, just as Johnakins and other NorthAmericans had learned to play Cuban music.244 Referring to the African Americans,Machito remembered:

They, they was crazy about it. They was dancing [and] . . . it was exciting and you know,we was playing for black[s] and it was black music, so there was no—you didn’t have tomake no explanation to a black person. . . . [T]hey come from where the rhythm comesfrom.245

Many white fans also became proficient—some became experts—at the mambo:Machito noted that many of the people who regularly came to his performances con-sisted of white Americans “that know how to dance.”246 While the mambo was firmlyrooted in African-based aesthetics, its magic became available to everyone. African

Paul Austerlitz

237. Boggs, Salsiology, 129, 147; Max Salazar, interview by the author.238. Max Salazar, interview by the author.239. Ray Santos, interview by the author, New York, 2001.240. Max Salazar, interview by the author.241. Boggs, Salsiology, 148.242. Machito, A Latin Jazz Legacy, directed by Carlos Ortiz (New York: Ircarus Films, 1987), video -

cassette (VHS).243. Ray Santos, interview by David Carp.244. Leslie Johnakins, interview by David Carp.245. Machito, interview by Max Salazar.246. Ibid.


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American exhibition dancer Ernest Ensley observed that the great popularity of themambo says a great deal about the culture of the United States: “Here you have a musicwhose lyrics are in Spanish, unintelligible to the average American. Yet from the ’40sthrough the ’70s, it became an integral part of the American experience.”247

K E N Y A a n d “ F r e n z y ”

In the years that followed, the Machito band focused more on dance music thanbebop, but in 1957 promoters wanted the Afro-Cubans to record a jazz-oriented LPthat would cement their high profile in the jazz field. This LP was entitled Kenya,according to the liner notes, in homage to the struggle against colonialism in Africa.Perhaps the impetus for Machito and his promoters to draw attention to African colo-nialism was inspired by the Mau Mau rebellion of 1952–1956. Bauzá took very seri-ously the African subject of the Kenya LP and prepared for the recording project byconsulting with the Nigerian bandleader Babatunde Olatunji and searching for bookson Kenya in the library (he later remembered finding material on “Swahili andCongo,” but nothing on Kenya).248

Kenya was recorded in December 1957 in the heart of Spanish Harlem at the Odd -fellows Temple (which had a theater and a recording studio) and featured compositionsand arrangements by René Hernández, A. K. Salim, and Ray Santos, as well as stellarsolo performances by trumpeter Joe Newman and alto saxophonist Cannonball Adder -ley. The band rehearsed prior to the recording session, but the featured soloists did not.Santos remembers that the first takes of Cannonball’s fantastically rhythmic solos“knocked everyone out,” and that on following takes, he played equally impressive, butdifferent, solos.249 Although Cannonball was hired as a guest artist and not a sectionman, he enjoyed playing with Machito so much that he asked to lead the saxophonesection on “Blues à la Machito.”250 René Hernández contributed original composi-tions, infusing big-band timbres and modernist harmonies with a percussion-soakedAfro-Cuban sensibility. Bauzá had met the African American arranger Ahmad KhatabSalim (born Albert Atkinson, also called Ahmad Kharab Salim) in Paris, wasimpressed with his work, and asked him to participate in the Kenya project. Salim’sarrangements featured improvisation by guest soloists; “Frenzy,” included in this vol-ume, features soloists Newman and Adderley along with extensive improvisations bythe band’s percussionists. As Bauzá had done with other non-Latin arrangers such asJohn Bartee, he provided Salim with bass lines and instructions on clave.251

T h e L a t e r Y e a r s

In 1960 and ’61, Machito and his Afro-Cubans completed a three-month tour ofJapan, where, like many visiting jazz luminaries, they received a regal reception. Cubandance music already had made significant inroads in Japan: recordings by Machito,Prado, Cugat, and Puente were already known there. Graciela remembered that arriv-ing at the airport, musicians were surprised to see a beautiful display of flowers andMachito LP covers. During press interviews, journalists told band members that theyalready had researched the history of the Afro-Cubans so they did not need to ask

The Afro-Cuban Impact on Music in the United States

247. Boggs, Salsiology, 149–52.248. Ibid.249. Ray Santos, interview by David Carp; José Madera, Jr., interview by the author, New York, 2000.250. Mario Bauzá, interview by John Storm Roberts.251. Mario Bauzá, interview by Anthony Brown; “A. K. Salim,” Wikipedia, accessed 31 August 2015,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A._K._Salim; Feather, Encyclopedia, 408–09; Ginell, Evolution of Mann, 45.


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them about it. Instead, journalists just wanted to know whether their guests wereenjoying the reception festivities.252

Back in the United States, the public taste in Latin bands was turning to smallerensembles, and Machito had difficulty finding work. Machito thought there might bemore work in Puerto Rico and moved there in 1966 with a pared-down version of hisband. After eight months, however, Machito and his band returned to New York. Inthe years that followed, the band only worked two to four nights a week. In addition tolarger venues such as the Chateau Madrid and the Roseland Ballroom, they played forweddings and bar mitzvahs, and in hospitals and schools.253 On January 1, 1975, theMachito band played Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill’s brilliant composition “Oro, Incienso, yMirra” (“Gold, Incense, and Myrrh”), featuring Dizzy Gillespie, at the first jazz concertever performed in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The subsequent LP recording of this, “ThreeAfro-Cuban Jazz Moods,” which featured Clark Terry on trumpet, was released onGranz’s Pablo label and was nominated for a 1975 Grammy Award in the jazz cate-gory, but lost to Ellington.254

In 1975, the jazz promoter George Wien asked Machito to form an octet to work inParis and Hamburg. Bauzá felt that such a small group would be unable to maintainthe band’s signature style. However, Machito disagreed and split with Bauzá, going ontour without his longtime associate.255 Machito assembled a band from the top NewYork Latin musicians,256 and Machito’s Latin Jazz Octet performed alongside jazzgreats like Charles Mingus and Roy Haynes at festivals in Paris and Berlin, and upontheir return to the United States, at the Newport Jazz Festival.257 Machito saw anopportunity to perform in the festival market, and he re-formed his big band, this timewithout Bauzá and Graciela, but featuring his son Mario Grillo on timbales and hisdaughter Paula on vocals. More European tours followed for Machito, and the LPMachito and his Big Band Salsa, 1982, on the Dutch Timeless label, won the Grammyfor Best Tropical Music.258 Machito found the European jazz market to be lucrative:fans around the world had heard Machito’s recordings but had never seen his bandlive. Machito’s band’s new fans, however, differed from the Palladium “mamboniks” of the past; many of them were members of the 1960s counter-culture. At the sametime as Machito’s international success, he began to receive accolades back in theUnited States. He received a letter of commendation from United States PresidentJimmy Carter, and on 20 August 1981, Machito’s contributions to New York City wererecognized by Mayor Koch on the steps of City Hall. Despite Bauzá’s estrangementfrom Machito, Bauzá joined in honoring his long-time associate and friend.259 In1984, Machito’s ten-piece Latin Jazz Ensemble left for a European tour, but inLondon, Machito suffered a cardiac arrest and died in his sleep from a cerebral hemor-rhage.260 In 1985, East Harlem’s intersection at East 111th Street and Third Avenuewas named Machito Square in his honor.261

Paul Austerlitz

252. Machito, interview by Max Salazar; Graciela, interview by Brown.253. Grillo, interview by the author.254. Salazar, “Machito, Mario, and Graciela, Part Two,” 9–10; Medina, “Machito,” 62.255. It was rumored that there were additional, personal reasons for the split.256. The band included trumpeter Victor Paz, tenor saxophonist Mario Rivera, pianist Jorge Dalto,

bassist Victor Venegas, conguero Julito Collazo, and Machito’s son, timbalero Mario Grillo. Dalto, a bril-liant Argentine pianist, arranged the band’s regular repertoire, such as “Mambo Inn” and “CubanFantasy,” for the small group (Grillo, interview by the author).

257. Grillo, interview by the author.258. Salazar, “Machito, Mario, and Graciela, Part Two,” 2.259. Ibid., 11.260. Salazar, “Machito, Mario, and Graciela”; Jon Pareles, No headline [Machito’s Obituary], New

York Times, 1984, accessed 31 August 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/1984/04/17/obituaries/no-headline-128949.html.

261. “Machito,” Wikipedia, accessed 18 September 2015, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machito;Feirstein, Naming New York, 135.


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Machito’s son Mario Grillo (named after Mario Bauzá) had been sitting in with theAfro-Cubans since he was six years old, and waged mock battles on the timbales withthe likes of Tito Puente. Grillo had joined the band as a full member at age fourteen,and became the band’s musical director in 1975.262 Grillo kept the band going after hisfather’s death and called his band The Machito Orchestra. The band performed con-certs in Europe, Lincoln Center, and elsewhere.

Mario Bauzá and Graciela had left Machito and his Afro-Cubans in 1975 to formtheir own band. Long overshadowed by his co-leader, as leader of his own band Bauzásoon received the credit and the limelight that he deserved. Bauzá released several crit-ically acclaimed LPs, including the aptly-named My Time is Now. In 1993, Bauzá diedof cancer. His obituary in the New York Times affirmed that he “helped change thesound of American music. . . . Without Mr. Bauza [sic] American music would be rad-ically different from what it is today. . . . [H]e helped introduce Latin music to theUnited States, first deeply influencing jazz, then popular music, then rock-and-roll.”263

C o n c l u s i o n

Bauzá, Machito, Chano Pozo, and Gillespie have been credited with bringing Latinmusic to the United States, but Washburne points out that, more accurately, they “rein-troduced and revitalized the [Latin] Caribbean connection,”264 because these tingeshad been present in the United States since at least the beginning of the twentiethcentury. Perhaps, instead of “marrying” jazz to Latin music, Bauzá facilitated a kind of“second honeymoon.” Nevertheless, Bauzá’s impact was fundamental; O’Farrill calledhim a “visionary” in his decision to “bring those jazz people in front, you know, in thefront line” to improvise over Cuban rhythms.265 And, based upon the deep structuralelements of Afro-Cuban music, the Machito band’s influence went farther: Machito,Graciela, and René Hernández played a major role in diffusing clave-based rhythms inNorth America. While North American music traditionally had constituted a richamalgam, Machito and his Afro-Cubans forged a more perfect union between African,Latin, and Anglo elements in the music of the United States.

Paving the way for the other New York mambo bands, and later, indirectly, for salsa,which developed during the 1970s in New York, Machito played a major role in thedevelopment of the Latin musical subculture that thrived in the United States duringthe second half of the twentieth century. Machito’s band was notable for its avowedpride in its African origins, demonstrated not only in its name, but also in how it fore-grounded African-based drumming and Afro-Cuban singing, and how it collaboratedwith black North American musicians. This pan-African stance helped subvert nega-tive stereotypes of Afro-Latin culture and served as a healing salve in the face ofracism, working in tandem with cognate developments in the Civil Rights and blacknationalist movements. Machito once said that playing for African American dancersin Harlem “was exciting,” because this “was black music . . . you didn’t need to make noexplanation [about our music] to a black person.”266 In some ways, Machito and his

The Afro-Cuban Impact on Music in the United States

262. Medina, “Machito,” 62.263. Watrous, “Mario Bauza, Band Leader, Dies; Champion of Latin Music Was 82,” New York

Times, 1993, accessed 31 August 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/1993/07/12/obituaries/mario-bauza-band-leader-dies-champion-of-latin-music-was-82.html.

264. Washburne, The Clave of Jazz, 77.265. Chico O’Farrill, interview by the author. Cuban ethnomusicologist Leonardo Acosta wrote that

Bauzá played a “leading role in the creation of Afro-Cuban jazz.” Acosta, Cubano Be, 98. Even New York-based bandleader Alberto Socarras, who was active before Machito and no stranger to jazz (he is creditedwith recording the first jazz flute solo), asserted that it never occurred to him to mix Cuban music andjazz; he considered them two separate things. Roberts, Latin Jazz, 37; Machito, interview by Max Salazar.

266. Machito, interview by Max Salazar.


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Afro-Cubans represented a continuation of big band jazz, which, of course, was dancemusic. Bauzá built on his background with Chick Webb and Cab Calloway, and cre-ated an organization that kept working—and kept fans dancing—well after the demiseof most swing bands. A connection to dancers, integral to music throughout theAfrican diaspora, was a pillar of Machito’s aesthetic; whereas the band has been highlyregarded for its Latin jazz innovations, Machito and his Afro-Cubans worked mainlyas a dance band. The jazz innovations, however, were never at odds with dancers: eventhe band’s adventurous bop experiments were grounded in the requirements of thedancing public.

While Machito’s music was rooted in African-based aesthetics, its magic was avail-able to everyone. Machito’s white fans, too, danced the mambo—some expertly. Latindance music was at the forefront of mainstream popular culture in the United States.Several white musicians became important performers of Latin dance music in thewake of Machito’s influence, the most notable of whom is salsa bandleader LarryHarlow, whose promoters heralded as “El Judío Maravilloso” (“the Marvelous Jew”).267

As African American exhibition dancer Ernest Ensley observed about the mambo:“Here you have a music whose lyrics are in Spanish, unintelligible to the averageAmerican. Yet from the ’40s through the ’70s, it became an integral part of theAmerican experience.”268

In symbiotic union with similar African-derived traditions long present in theUnited States, Machito’s Afro-Cubanisms played a significant role to transform therhythmic basis of North American music from a swing-feel that emphasized the back-beat to straight eighth notes and syncopated cells that emphasized the downbeat.269

Related to the clave, these syncopated cells were already present in black NorthAmerican culture, for example, in ragtime and “ham-bone” rhyme-songs, but as salsasuperstar Ray Barretto affirms, by the 1960s the “whole basis of American rhythm . . .changed jazz shuffle rhythm to a straight-ahead straight eighth approach, which isLatin.”270 Rhythm and blues musicians availed themselves of Cuban influences duringthe mambo boom; R&B luminary Johnny Otis even recorded “Mambo Boogie” withMachito’s rhythm section in 1951.271 Many hits in the ’50s not categorized as “Latin”were influenced by Afro-Cuban rhythms: for example Elvis Presley’s “It’s Now orNever” and the doo-wop hit “Little Darling” incorporate idiosyncratic re-workings ofCuban rhythms. Muddy Waters adopted clave-inflected patterns in his signature bluesstyle. The assimilation of Caribbean-tinged influences in popular music gainedmomentum with James Brown’s innovations in funk music, and later with develop-ments in disco and hip-hop.272

In the jazz sphere, drummer Art Blakey took the Gillespie/Pozo experiments to newheights, instigating collaborative drumming sessions such as his LP Orgy in Rhythm(1957).273 John Coltrane’s drummer Elvin Jones acknowledged his own absorption ofAfro-Cuban drumming, and his assimilation of this influence resulted in an especially

Paul Austerlitz

267. Other than Harlow, prominent whites in the New York Latin music scene have included trom-bonist Barry Rogers and trumpeter Marty Sheller.

268. Boggs, Salsiology, 149–52.269. Stewart astutely notes that Bauzá was not alone in learning the “greatest lesson” concerning the

swung backbeat of African American music: even Fletcher Henderson’s top-shelf musicians had to learnto swing after Louis Armstrong joined the band in 1924. There has, however, been “little analysis of thereverse development – the change . . . to ‘straighter’ rhythms.” See Stewart, “ ‘Funky Drummer,’ ” 293.

270. Roberts, Latin Tinge, 160; Stewart, “ ‘Funky Drummer,’ ” 293.271. Delannoy, ¡Caliente!: Une histoire du latin jazz, 96, 164; Lipsitz, Dangerous Crossroads, 81.272. While acknowledging the mambo’s impact, Stewart demonstrates the importance of dovetailing

New Orleans influences on these changes, documenting the brilliant contributions of James Brown’sdrummers, Clayton Fillyau, Clyde Stubblefield, and Jab’o Starks. See Stewart, “ ‘Funky Drummer,’ ” 295,300, 302–05.

273. Monson, “Art Blakey’s African Diaspora,” 340–45.


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rich musical fusion. Jones, already in his earliest recordings with Coltrane, adaptedclave-soaked patterns on the ride cymbal (for example in “Mr. Knight”).274 Jones’s per-formances on Coltrane’s influential Love Supreme album are derived largely from Afro-Cuban rhythms.275 However, Jones adapted these influences in his own idiom so that,while musical analysis demonstrates a direct Afro-Cuban link, the sonic result does notsound “Latin” to jazz-oriented ears. Another pervasive Cuban influence on music inthe United States has been the use of long sections of music using static harmonies(montuno-riffs, or vamps). Traditionally, North American music had utilized common-practice chord progressions, but beginning in the 1950s both jazz and dance musicincreasingly had sections that used prolonged static harmonies. Ray Santos remembersthat at one time jazz musicians often asked Latin musicians “why do you stay on onechord,” but later—after Horace Silver, Miles Davis, and other jazz innovators also “gotmodal”—they understood.276

The genius of Machito and his Afro-Cubans lies in its collaborative nature. Bauzá isbest understood in light of his personal and artistic profile, which was extraordinarilyhumble. After all, the band that was his brainchild was named after his brother-in-law,not himself. Musicologist Leonardo Acosta notes that despite playing a major rolelaunching the careers of Gillespie and Chano Pozo, Bauzá “stayed behind the scenesfor decades, respected. . . . [S]carcely given any serious attention by most critics . .Mario was incredibly modest.”277 While Bauzá was enamored of jazz improvisation, hewas aware of his limitations and remembered Chick Webb’s admonitions not to com-pete with master jazz improvisers and not to project himself as a jazz soloist.278 Bauzá’sgrounding in European classical music was in line with the longstanding roles ofLatino players in the United States as “music-stand musicians.” But Bauzá brought hispolished professionalism to the fore. His interpretive skills and formidable experiencesin Cuban and swing music informed his integrated vision for a new aesthetic thatcombined Afro-Cuban music with African American dance music and bebop, a centraltenet of the Afro-modernist aesthetic that took shape at mid-century. While Bauzárightly took credit for these innovations, he never claimed to be a master of clave. Theband’s clave-logic came from Machito, Graciela, René Hernández, and the percussion-ists. As the band’s front man, Machito also contributed his social skills and personablenature, which worked in tandem with his keen awareness of the barrio scene. Machito’seminent sociability was at the heart of the band’s aesthetic. The welcoming magnanim-ity that Machito expressed in his singing and personality contributed greatly to theband’s exuberant and inclusive air. As one musician remembers, even “in the mostadverse circ*mstances,” Machito “always had a wonderful smile for you, and he alwayshad something to share.” The band’s collaborative nature was founded upon this shar-ing spirit, which was “what Macho [Machito] was all about. Macho wasn’t the centerof attraction. His whole band . . . was ‘Machito.’ ”279

The band was a “family affair” (to invoke soul singer Sly Stone’s song) not onlybecause Machito, Bauzá, and Graciela were related, but also because that band’s musi-cal and social style was based upon an interactive and inclusive ethos that was centralto Afro-diasporic arts. The Machito band, while celebrating pan-African pride, also

The Afro-Cuban Impact on Music in the United States

274. Elvin Jones, personal communication with the author.275. Ibid.276. Ray Santos, interview by David Carp. This African-based influence dovetailed with jazz musi-

cians’ interest in other non-Western traditions, especially those emanating from Asia.277. Acosta, Del tambor al sintetizador, 101.278. Some have exaggerated Bauzá’s contributions, claiming him as a master improviser, arranger, or

composer. Except for pieces such as “Lona” and “Mambo Inn,” however, Bauzá rarely composed. And hisfew recorded improvisations are by not among his most important contributions; several of the recordedversions of “Tanga,” for example (including the one in this edition), feature essentially the same solo byBauzá, consisting of a repeated upper-register motif.

279. Miguel Quintana, interview on WKCR-FM; my emphasis.


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included white musicians and appealed to a wide cross-section of ethnicities. More -over, Machito’s band was an eminently regional exponent of North American culture,firmly grounded in New York City; although the band toured throughout UnitedStates and, in later years, Europe, Japan, and beyond, in its heyday the band workedmainly in Manhattan and the Bronx. Martiniquan scholars Bernabé and Glissant, whoespouse Caribbean cultural mixing, or creolité, provocatively state that while NorthAmericans often eschew cultural mixing or creolization, the northeastern states, withtheir Jewish, Mediterranean, and Caribbean immigrant populations, approach a cre-olité.280 Machito also spanned the distinctions of lowbrow and highbrow. Combiningbarrio street smarts with high-art trends, his band played for dancing, at jazz clubs, andin concert settings. African-based music and dance are founded upon call-and-response relationships in which all parties work together as a team, encoding and con-stituting cooperative social relations. Just as responsorial rhythms were central toMachito’s music, cooperation and collaboration were central to the band as a socialinstitution. As an Akan proverb states: “The extended family is a force.” The Machitofamily included not only members of the band, but also its fans. Dancing Jewish“mamboniks,” Cubans, Puerto Ricans, other Latinos, and African Americans all servedas muses for the band, since even in concert settings, undulating body movement wasthe inspiration behind the Machito sound. Art historian Robert Farris Thompsonstates that even when outwardly secular, Afro-Cuban music encodes an underlyingspirituality that makes it “religious music in disguise.”281 It is no accident that the orig-inal meaning of the word mambo is religious, and Machito’s interjection of the Yorùbá-Cuban priestly greeting “ ‘boru ‘buya” in the band’s theme song “Tanga” was not coinci-dental. It’s not too much to say that the Machito band’s euphoric sound was a blessingthat brought diverse groups together in a New York-bred inclusiveness. Machito andhis Afro-Cubans traversed racial and ethnic divides to pull disparate constituenciestogether in an avowedly pan-American family affair.

Paul Austerlitz

280. Bernabé and Glissant, “In Praise of Creoleness,” 894.281. Thompson, personal communication with the author.


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Why was Machito and his Afro-Cubans significant? ›

Under the direction of Bauzá, Machito and his Afro-Cubans created their trademark sounds by combining Cuban mambo and other Latin styles with swing and big band music. The band's name also served as a public acknowledgement of the members' African heritage and their infusion of African musical influences.

What is the history of Afro Cuban music? ›

Afro-Cuban music has deep roots in African ritual and rhythm. The genre emerged in the early 1940s with the Cuban musicians Mario Bauzá and Frank Grillo "Machito" in the band Machito and his Afro-Cubans in New York City.

Who is Machito's wife? ›

Personal life. Machito was somewhat short in stature, at 5 feet 4 inches (1.63 m) in height. A lifelong Roman Catholic, he married Puerto Rican Hilda Torres on January 17, 1940, at which time he changed his nickname from "Macho" to "Machito".

What did Cubans do during slavery? ›

Cuba's slavery system was gendered in that some labor was performed only by men, and some only by women. Enslaved women in the city of Havana, from the sixteenth century onwards, performed duties such as operating the town taverns, eating houses, and lodges, as well as working as laundresses and domestic laborers.

What is the Afro-Cuban religion? ›

The Regla de Ocha-Ifá, better known as Santería, is a religious system that emerged in Cuba as a result of the survival of the religions and cultures brought with the African Yoruba groups as they intertwined with Spanish Catholicism.

What are the basic elements of Afro-Cuban music? ›

Afro-Cuban jazz is recognizable by its complex rhythms. It typically features claves, timbales, conga, and bongo drums, layered with big band instruments.

Where are Afro-Cubans from? ›

Afro-Cubans are most prevalent in the eastern part of the island and in districts of Havana. Estimates of the percentage of people of African descent in the Cuban population vary enormously.

What was the significance of Cuban rebellion? ›

The immediate impact of the Cuban Revolution was the overthrow of Batista and the rise to power of the revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro. Cuba gradually became a communist government, supported by the U.S.S.R. At that time the Cold War between the capitalist and communist blocs was active.

Why was Cuba so important to Spanish imperialism? ›

Since its discovery by Christopher Columbus in 1493, Cuba was considered the "Pearl" of the Spanish Empire--not only for its beauty, but also its sugar plantations.

Who helped introduce Afro Cuban music? ›

Cuban composer Mario Bauzá is considered the pioneer of this genre along with his band Machito and the Afro-Cubans. He also introduced Latin rhythms to the New York jazz scene and was the composer of ''Tangá'', which is considered the first Latin jazz single.

What is the history of Afro Cuban dance? ›

Derived from the African religion Yoruba, Afro-Cuban dance is linked to enslaved West Africans in Cuba who used music and dance as a form of self-expression. Practitioners of Yoruba believe in many different deities called orishas.

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