Dizzy Gillespie: Tin Tin Deo (1956 live version)


                Dizzy Gillespie at Birdland, photo by Marcel Fleiss

Although Chano Pozo’s conga drums are missing from the ensemble (he died in 1948), this live performance tells of the legacy he and Gillespie fostered—grafting Afro-Cuban rhythms with straight-ahead jazz. This State Department tour brought the killer big band to South America. Baritone saxophonist Marty Flax played a significant anchoring role with his percussive attack, keeping the deep groove of this “chant” infused with vitality. His solo is gruff and heavy, but also lyrical. The delayed phrasing by Gillespie on the melody is offset by the pyrotechnic showcase he and the brass section display throughout.

November 07, 2007 · 0 comments

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Stan Kenton: Recuerdos

Composer-arranger Johnny Richards’ seven-part suite (the original LP omitted one part for space reasons) for an expanded Stan Kenton Orchestra is one of the band’s most memorable albums. Its six added percussionists provide a compelling Afro-Cuban setting for Richards’ brilliant compositions. The reflective “Recuerdos (Reminiscences)” features especially lyrical solos by altoist Lennie Niehaus, trumpeter Sam Noto, and trombonist Carl Fontana, whose tuneful improvisation is a masterpiece of melodic craftsmanship.

October 30, 2007 · 0 comments

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Dizzy Gillespie: Manteca (1947 version)


Dizzy Gillepsie, photo by Herb Snitzer

The “Latin tinge” in jazz dates back at least to Jelly Roll Morton, who claimed it was the “right seasoning” for the music. But Gillespie’s collaboration with Cuban percussionist Chano Pozo on the stage of Carnegie Hall in September 1947 would have jolted Morton off his piano stool. Pozo would be dead before the end of 1948 – killed in a fight over a bag of marijuana – but he left behind a handful of classic recordings before his passing. None is more spectacular than “Manteca,” built on a relentless vamp married to a stately swing bridge. Gillespie plays with unbridled passion; indeed the whole band seems pushed into overdrive by Pozo’s presence. Not just the ‘right seasoning’ here – rather a total immersion in the fiery currents of Afro-Cuban music. Sixty years later, you can still feel the heat.

October 26, 2007 · 2 comments

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Carlos 'Patato' Valdes: Ingrato Corazon

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.

October 25, 2007 · 0 comments

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Chucho Valdez: You Don’t Know What Love Is

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.

October 25, 2007 · 0 comments

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Arsenio Rodriguez: Adivinalo

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.

October 24, 2007 · 0 comments

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Chico O’Farrill: Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite

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.

October 24, 2007 · 1 comment

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Machito: Tanga

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.

October 24, 2007 · 0 comments

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Dizzy Gillespie: Manteca (live 1948)


                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.

October 24, 2007 · 0 comments

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Duke Ellington: Caravan (1937)

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.

October 24, 2007 · 1 comment

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Stan Kenton: The Peanut Vendor (alternative review)

A Cuban song that was the USA's first Latin crossover hit (1931) gets a facelift from the much-maligned Stan Kenton. Love him or loathe him, Kenton was one of jazz's great showmen, the C.B. (Cast of Thousands!) DeMille of big bands. Over a constantly repeated 2-chord vamp, trombonist Milt Bernhart and a fantastic trumpet section led by Buddy Childers make "The Peanut Vendor" the most thrilling entry in the Ofay-Cuban jazz sweepstakes. Skeptics are advised to turn up the volume and be prepared to levitate. (Not recommended while driving; may set off airbags or other passive restraint systems.) Viva vendedor!

October 24, 2007 · 0 comments

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Stan Kenton: The Peanut Vendor (1947)

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.

October 24, 2007 · 0 comments

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