THE DOZENS: TWELVE LATIN JAZZ CLASSICS by Mark Lomanno



         Percussionist,  artwork by Suzanne Cerny


Editor’s note: Pianist Mark Lommano first traveled to Cuba on a research grant, seeking to unravel the mysteries of the Cuban son. On his second trip, he came as a musician, performing at the Santiago Jazz Festival and working with Joaquin Pozo, the prominent conquero and bandleader, and the great-nephew of the legendary Chano Pozo. Back stateside, he has brought his world fusion experiences to bear on his work with The Mark Lomanno Afro-Cuban Project, as well as his continued scholarly work in the area of Latin music.

Here Mark picks twelve of his favorite Latin jazz performances, some well known, others neglected gems from the music’s past.


Duke Ellington: Caravan (1937)

Track

Caravan

Artist

Duke Ellington (piano)

CD

Ken Burns Jazz: Duke Ellington (Columbia/Legacy CK 61444)

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Musicians:

Duke Ellington (piano), Rex Stewart (cornet), Arthur Whetsol (trumpet), Cootie Williams (trumpet), Lawrence Brown (trombone), Joe "Tricky Sam" Nanton (trombone), Juan Tizol (valve trombone), Barney Bigard (clarinet), Johnny Hodges (clarinet), Otto Hardwick (alto sax), Harry Carney (baritone sax), Fred Guy (guitar), Billy Taylor (bass), Sonny Greer (drums).

Composed by Duke Ellington & Juan Tizol

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Recorded: New York, May 14, 1937

Albumcoverkenburnsjazz-dukeellington

Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

Ellington’s early contribution to the Latin jazz canon is a collaboration with valve trombonist Juan Tizol. “Caravan” combines the Afro-Cuban practice of elaboration over a repeating vamp section, and the American jazz tradition of passages with more harmonic variety. In this case, in the middle section Ellington references the oft-employed harmonic progression from George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” to contrast to the first theme, which is driven by a more rhythmic feel. Tizol continued to work as trombonist and collaborative composer in Ellington’s band for years to come, and the enormously popular “Caravan” stayed in Ellington’s repertoire for his entire career.

Reviewer: Mark Lomanno


Machito: Tanga

Track

Tanga

Group

Machito and his Orchestra

CD

The Original Mambo Kings: An Introduction to Afro-Cubop (Verve 513876)

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Musicians:

Charlie Parker (alto sax), Flip Phillips (tenor sax), Mario Bauza (trumpet),

Frank “Paquito” Davilla, Bob Woodlen (trumpet); Gene Johnson, Fred Skerritt (alto sax); Jose Madera (tenor sax) Leslie Johnakins (baritone sax); Rene Hernandez (piano); Roberto Rodriguez (bass); Luis Miranda (conga); Jose Mangual (bongo); Ubaldo Nieto (timbales)

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Composed by Mario Bauza. Arranged and conducted by Machito

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Recorded: New York, January 1949

Albumcovermachito-originalmambokings

Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

Written by Mario Bauza, the musician who brought Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo together, “Tanga” is a forgotten classic, which predated and anticipated the partnership of Afro-Cuban music and jazz that took place in the Gillespie and Kenton bands, among others. Joining the band as a guest soloist is the jazz tenor saxophonist Flip Phillips, who improvises over a repeating pattern played by the rest of the band. This manner of improvisation continues to be the norm for Afro-Cuban music, but at the time it would have been quite challenging for an American jazz musician. Nonetheless, Phillips gives a convincing performance, fitting in comfortably with the Machito Orchestra.

Reviewer: Mark Lomanno


Dizzy Gillespie: Manteca (live 1948)

Track

Manteca

Artist

Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet)

CD

Dizzy Gillespie And His Big Band In Concert — Featuring Chano Pozo (GNP/Crescendo 23)

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Musicians:

Dizzy Gillespie (trumpet),

and a big band featuring James Moody (tenor sax) and Chano Pozo, (congas)

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Composed by Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo

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Recorded: Recorded live in 1948

Albumcoverdizzygillespie-bigbandinconcert

Rating: 100/100 (learn more)


                Dizzy Gillespie at Birdland, photo by Marcel Fleiss

Often regarded as the quintessential representation of Latin jazz, “Manteca” was innovative among contemporary compositions for the heightened level of synthesis between Afro-Cuban music and American jazz. Introduced to Afro-Cuban music by trumpeter/composer Mario Bauza, Dizzy Gillespie sought to explore the music with his big band, adding the Cuban conguero Chano Pozo in September 1947. Until his untimely and mythic demise just over a year later, Chano Pozo made an indelible mark on both the jazz and Latin American music worlds. This track contrasts sections of more percussion-driven, rhythmically complex Afro-Cuban passages with passages that are more akin to the melodic and harmonic conventions of American jazz.

Reviewer: Mark Lomanno


Arsenio Rodriguez: Adivinalo

Track

Adivinalo

Artist

CD

Montuneando 1946-1950 (Tumbao 31)

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Musicians:

Arsenio Rodriguez (tres),

Carmelo Alvarez (trumpet), Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros (trumpet), Felix Chappotin (trumpet), Rene Scull (vocal), Carlos Ramirez (guitar, vocal), Antolin “Papa Kila” Suarez (bongos), Luis “Lili” Martinez (piano), Lazaro Prieto (bass), Felix Alfonso (conga)

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Composed by Arsenio Rodriguez

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Recorded: Havana, Cuba (c.1946-50)

Albumcoverarseniorodriguez-montuneando

Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

The contributions of Arsenio Rodriguez, the Cuban tres player and composer, to the development of Latin jazz have long been underappreciated. Rodriguez’s band featured innovative music, rooted in the Afro-Cuban tradition, without which modern Latin jazz and salsa would have been much different. This track is part of a compilation from Rodriguez’s best music. “Adivinalo” features trumpet and piano improvisations relying on chromaticism and “modern” jazz harmony. Along with Rodriguez, several other musicians who would become integral to the development of Latin jazz are on this album, including trumpeters Felix Chappotin and “Chocolate” Armenteros, and pianist Luis “Lili” Martinez. The percussion section drives this piece, which definitely captures the power of the Afro-Cuban tradition.

Reviewer: Mark Lomanno


Stan Kenton: The Peanut Vendor (1947)

Track

El Manisero (The Peanut Vendor)

Artist

Stan Kenton (piano)

CD

The Best of Stan Kenton (Capitol CDP 7243 8 31504 2 7)

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Musicians:

Stan Kenton (piano),

big band featuring Milt Bernhart (trombone) and Shelly Manne (drums)

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Composed by Moises Simons; arranged by Stan Kenton

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Albumcoverskentonbest

Rating: 93/100 (learn more)

More well known that the first popular American version recorded by Don Azpiazu’s Orchestra in 1931, this arrangement was the beginning of Kenton’s lifelong commitment to the exploration of Afro-Cuban music. Both the Azpiazu and Kenton renditions of this song, which celebrates the life of the pregonero (street vendor), were hugely popular in their respective eras. Because the Kenton band was already highly regarded, his recording reached a wider American audience. One of the most distinctive features of this track is the hypnotic repetition of the background—very common in Afro-Cuban music, but not in American jazz—over which soloists and percussionists elaborate and improvise varying patterns.

Reviewer: Mark Lomanno


Chico O’Farrill: Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite

Track

Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite

Group

Chico O’Farrill Orchestra

CD

Cuban Blues: The Chico O’Farrill Sessions (Verve 533256)

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Musicians:

Mario Bauza (trumpet), Harry "Sweets" Edison (trumpet), Charlie Parker (alto sax), Flip Phillips (tenor sax), Buddy Rich (drums), Machito (maracas),

Rene Hernandez (piano), Jose Mangual (percussion)

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Recorded: December 21, 1950

Albumcovercubanblues-chicoofarrillsessions

Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

Chico O’Farrill, an important Latin jazz pioneer, achieved success as a bandleader, composer and arranger. O’Farrill was also a trumpet player, and this extended composition features that instrument -- and was recorded several times, including versions with Clark Terry and Dizzy Gillespie as the soloist. This recording, overseen by Norman Granz for Verve Records, captures O’Farrill’s band at the pinnacle of its sound in the early 1950s. In addition to work with his own band, O’Farrill is responsible for many arrangements played by the Machito, Gillespie and Kenton bands. The “Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite” is one of O’Farrill’s masterpieces.

Reviewer: Mark Lomanno


Luiz Bonfá: Manhã De Carnaval

Track

Manhã De Carnaval

Artist

Luiz Bonfá (guitar)

CD

Black Orpheus: Original Movie Soundtrack (Fontana 830783)

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Musicians:

Luiz Bonfá (guitar), Antonio Carlos Jobim (piano, vocals), João Gilberto (guitar, vocals).

Composed by Luiz Bonfá

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Recorded: 1959

Albumcoverluizbonfa-blackorpheus

Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

Another recording whose popularity begat a resurgence of public interest in Latin American music, “Manhã De Carnaval ,” the theme song from the movie Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus), helped pave the way for bossa nova to take flight with the American public. This composition, sometimes known in English as "A Day in the Life of a Fool," has become part of the jazz canon, having been recorded countless times; however, this is the track in its original form. Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfá co-wrote the score for the film, which is a retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice tale from Greek mythology. The movie’s award-winning success and widespread popularity ignited the careers of the composers in America and worldwide.

Reviewer: Mark Lomanno


Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto: Só Danço Samba

Track

Só Danço Samba

Artist

Stan Getz (tenor sax) and João Gilberto (guitar vocals)

CD

Getz/Gilberto (Verve 521414)

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Musicians:

Stan Getz (tenor sax), João Gilberto (guitar vocals), Antonio Carlos Jobim (piano),

Tommy Williams (bass), Milton Banana (drums)

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Composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim

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Recorded: March 1963

Gilberto

Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

A lesser known track from a very famous album, “Só Danço Samba” features an excellent saxophone solo by Stan Getz, who was integral in popularizing the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim in the United States. This is Jobim’s composition (he also plays piano on this recording), with lyrics by the Brazilian poet Vinicius de Moraes, sung here by the guitarist Joao Gilberto. The mood of the song is ebullient and playful, capturing the unique swing in Brazilian bossa nova. The interaction between the musicians produces a magical result on what became one of the most successful jazz albums of all time.

Reviewer: Mark Lomanno


Cal Tjader: Soul Sauce (Guachi Guaro)

Track

Soul Sauce (Guachi Guaro)

Artist

Cal Tjader (vibes)

CD

Soul Sauce (Verve 27756)

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Musicians:

Cal Tjader (vibes), Willie Bobo (percussion),

Lonnie Hewitt (piano), John Hilliard (bass), Johnny Rae (drums), Armando Peraza (percussion)

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Composed by Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo; arranged by Cal Tjader

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Recorded: November 20, 1964

Albumcovercaltjader-soulsauce

Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

Quite possibly the most famous non-Latino Latin jazz musician, vibraphonist Cal Tjader recorded a very popular remake of Dizzy Gillespie’s and Chano Pozo’s “Guarachi Guaro” (or "Guachi Guaro" as Tjader calls it). Tjader’s band featured a style of Latin jazz that was more subdued than some of his contemporaries, although on this track the stellar cast of musicians—including percussionists Johnny Rae, Armando Peraza and Willie Bobo—pay homage to the song’s composers with a very lively performance. Lonnie Hewitt’s piano vamp may remind listeners of a similar one featured in Tito Puente’s song, “Oye Como Va.” Tjader’s virtuosity is at the forefront of this track—another great, groove-oriented bugalu of the early 1960s.

Reviewer: Mark Lomanno


Mongo Santamaria: Watermelon Man

Track

Watermelon Man

Artist

Mongo Santamaria (percussion)

CD

Watermelon Man (Milestone 47045)

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Musicians:

Mongo Santamaria (percussion),

Marty Sheller (tp) Pat Patrick (alto sax, flute), Bobby Capers (tenor sax, flute), Rodgers Grant (piano), Victor Venegas (bass), Frank Hernandez (drumset), Kalil Madi (percussion), Joseph Gorgas (percussion), “Kako” (percussion), “Chihuahua” Martinez (percussion, vocal)

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Composed by Herbie Hancock

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Albumcovermongosantamaria-watermelonman

Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

“Watermelon Man” was an enormously successful hit for both Mongo Santamaria and its composer, Herbie Hancock. The trumpet player, Marty Sheller, plays the only solo in a song that features a groove-oriented melody in an arrangement favoring more Latin percussion than the Hancock original. This song anticipated the bugalu movement in Latin jazz that would take hold later in the 1960s. Bugalu (or boogaloo) incorporated elements of Cuban and Puerto Rican music, as well as American soul and R&B.

Reviewer: Mark Lomanno


Carlos 'Patato' Valdes: Ingrato Corazon

Track

Ingrato Corazon

Artist

Carlos 'Patato' Valdes (percussion)

CD

Patato y Totico (Verve 259702)

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Musicians:

Carlos 'Patato' Valdes (percussion), Arsenio Rodriguez (tres),

Eugenio ‘Totico’ Arango (vocal), Israel ‘Cachao’ Lopez (bass), Papaito (sticks), Francisco ‘Panchin’ Valdez (sticks), Hector Cadavieco (vocal), Mario Cadavieco (vocal), Juan ‘Curba’ Dreke (vocal), Tony Mayari (vocal), Virgilio Marti (vocal)

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Arranged by Carlos “Patato” Valdes

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Recorded: 1967

Albumcovercarlospatatovaldes-patatoytotico

Rating: 95/100 (learn more)

This Verve record features another all-star cast that presents a rich tableau of Afro-Cuban offerings. Joining the conguero Carlos “Patato” Valdes is co-leader, vocalist Eugenio “Totico” Arango, tres player Arsenio Rodriguez, and the legendary bassist Israel “Cachao” Lopez. These musicians celebrate the sacred and secular roots of Afro-Cuban jazz with an album full of quintessential rumba tracks. “Ingrato Corazon” is a high-energy ensemble piece with solos by Rodriguez and “Patato,” but featuring the improvisatory vocals of “Totico,” backed by the members of the band singing a refrain in the traditional call-and-response format.

Reviewer: Mark Lomanno


Chucho Valdez: You Don’t Know What Love Is

Track

You Don’t Know What Love Is

Artist

Chucho Valdes (piano)

CD

New Conceptions (Blue Note 40496)

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Musicians:

Chucho Valdes (piano),

Roman Filiu O’Reilly (alto saxophone), Yaroldy Abreu Robles (congas), Lazaro Rivero Alarcon (bass), Ramses Rodriguez Baralt (drums)

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Composed by Don Raye; arranged by Jesus “Chucho” Valdes

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Recorded: May 2003

Albumcoverchuchovaldes-newconceptions

Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

As one of the most seminal figures in Latin jazz, pianist Jesus “Chucho” Valdes has been at the forefront of Latin American music innovation for over forty years. A founding member of Irakere, Valdes is one of three in a family of Cuban pianists (along with his father, Bebo, and son, “Chuchito”). This Blue Note album features reinterpretations of Cuban and American jazz standards. “You Don’t Know What Love Is” is arranged as a mambo, layered with polyrhythms and showcasing Valdes’s pianistic talent, along with an alto saxophone solo by Roman Filiu O'Reilly. Even the definition of mambo is challenged as the group settles into a funk-rock groove as the track progresses.

Reviewer: Mark Lomanno


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