Bobby’s Clave Chronicles

Afro-Cuban Jazz: The Journey

Afro-Cuban Jazz was born out of a cultural melting pot that is synonymous with the New York City experience. The music is completely multi-cultural and therefore all inclusive. To get at what I’ve just stated, you have to understand a little of the history of Cuba and its relationship with the United States and West Africa.

Cuba, the largest island in the Caribbean, had the most natural resources and became the crown jewel in the Spanish Empire from the 15th through the 19th centuries. Named after the Arawak Amer-Indian chief Cubanacan, Cuba’s native population was essentially wiped out by the end of the 16th century.

After Columbus landed on the Bahamian island of Guanahani on October 12, 1492 the brutal extermination of its natives began. With no immunity to the diseases being brought over from Europe, the Arawaks, Caribs and Tainos (the three main nations) died enmass. Columbus in his misconception that there was much gold to be found in the Caribbean, greatly exaggerated his claims to the Spanish court. On his return to the Caribbean in 1493 he arrived with fifteen ships and 1,500 men to, as we say in da’ Bronx, bogart the muther.” Bartolome De Las Casas, a young Catholic priest and crew member, documented this slaughter he called “The Black Death.”

De Las Casas’ book, The Devastation Of The West Indies, detailed the systematic atrocities committed by the Conquistadores. Disgusted by the horrors he witnessed: rape, murder, infanticide, slavery, theft, bribery and torture, De Las Cases made a decision that changed the course of history. Ironically the result of this decision is the reason we all shake our booties today.

In order to save the native population whom he viewed as “innocent uneducated souls to be saved,” De Las Casas proposed that the empire should instead import West Africans as slaves. According to De Las Casas they were “… a hardier stock of people suitable to the work ….” Man, what a guy this De Las Casas was, he gives with one hand and takes with the other!

In 1511, government authorized slavery officially commenced in the Caribbean with fifty African slaves being brought to the island of Hispaniola. When the Spanish realized there was little gold to be found in the Caribbean, they imported sugar from Africa and made Cuba their main refinery. With the importation of slave labor from the Yoruba, Arara, Efik nations of Nigeria, Ewe-Fon from Dahomey and Bantu from the Congo, the island soon became the largest sugar producer in the world. (Of course Spain would later find the gold they were looking for in Central and South America and also systematically wipe out the Maya and Inca empires.) What about Columbus? Well since the king, queen, court and investors were pissed-off at him because there really was so little gold to be found in the Caribbean, they decided to “reward him.” They threw him in jail. Columbus died in Vallodid, Spain, in total obscurity in 1506. What did Columbus really do? Wipe out a whole race of people. What did we do? Of course; give him a parade every year!

The West African peoples enslaved in Cuba brought with them an incredible wealth of highly developed religious beliefs, music and culture. Why did this culture survive in Cuba and not the United States? The principal reason was that Spain’s government mandated that all slaves had to be converted to Catholicism, thus treating them as religious equals. In Cuba, intermarriage, the ability to speak one’s native tongue, playing of drums and performance of songs and dances that came from the motherland were frequently allowed.

By stark contrast the US. Constitution stated that Blacks were only 5/8 human. Blacks were considered animals who no had no legitimate rights to the freedoms espoused by the so called founding forefathers and therefore beasts of burden. It  was against the law to intermarry, speak any African based languages, even to dance in public or sing African based melodies and/or drum. In 1879 when Blacks were freed in Cuba, many migrated to New Orleans bringing their island’s rich musical vocabulary to the mix which later came to be called Jazz.

Meanwhile back in Cuba, the Black work force was replaced by bringing in Chinese slaves who were not freed until 1886. Now you know why we have such great Chinese-Cuban restaurants in NYC!

By the end of the sixteenth century, West African, Southern Spanish, Middle Eastern and Arabic culture fused in eastern Cuba (oriente) in a music called “”Son.” Son is the mother of what today is known as “Salsa.” The tradition of Son showcases the vocalists ability to improvise on a given theme. You hear modern day Salsa singers do this in the montuno (call and response) section of a tune.

In late 19th century Havana and Matanzas a new music form was developing based on West African drumming, chants and dance traditions fused with Flamenco based vocal and dance styles with vendor songs In the slave quarters (solares), patios and docks people were celebrating the end of slavery with this new form known as the Rumba.

Meanwhile, the ongoing relationship between the U.S. and Cuba based on the free trade of sugar, tobacco and rum was at its height. In Havana’s 1930’s, prostitution, gambling and liquor were controlled by organized crime and the sound of jazz exploded from swanky hotels and nightclubs White American jazz musicians were getting the best jobs in the hotels, while only light skinned mulatto Cuban players were given the opportunity to work. Except for one extraordinary young Black virtuoso who would later spawn the creation of Afro-Cuban Jazz.

Prudencio Mario Bauzá was a young prodigy who had played clarinet in the Havana Philharmonic. At the age of twelve, he turned down a scholarship at La Scala in Milan, Italy because he knew there was no future at that time for a Black man in classical music.

Mario fell in love with jazz music he heard on the radio. In 1927 on a tour of New York City with pianist Antonio Maria Romeu he fell in love with Harlem. In 1930, he returned to New York to make it his permanent home and become a jazz musician. By 1933, he had switched to trumpet and became the musical director of famed drummer Chick Webb’s Orchestra. Arguably, the most potent force in Big Band jazz at the time. While in Webb’s band he discovered vocalist Ella Fitzgerald. In 1938 Mario turned down an offer by Duke Ellington and became Cab Calloway’s lead trumpeter. He brought trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie to the band and while Gillespie was his roommate, Mario tutored him on the intricacies of Afro-Cuban rhythm. By 1940, Mario had become the eminent jazz lead trumpeter in N.Y.C. Little did he know that he was soon to change musical history.

One day when Mario was in Calloway’s band, he played some recordings of Cuban Son for his bandmates. The musicians laughed mockingly at what they heard and referred to it derogatorily as hiIlbiIly music. Mario responded, “One day there will be an orchestra that will play Cuban music on the same level as the great American jazz big bands.”

In that instant Mario had articulated his vision to create a dream band, a combination of jazz players who could improvise and perform harmonically sophisticated arrangements with its engine powered by the complex polyrhythms of his native Cuba. His brother-in-law Frank Grillo (Machito) would be the orchestra’s vocalist and frontman. In 1940 Mario would be the musical director and chief arranger of the Machito Afro-Cubans.

By the mid 40’s the Machito Afro-Cubans broke new ground. As the first “fusion band,”” Mario brought together two old branches of an ancient African tree; jazz and Afro-Cuban music. His band was the first group to use the triumvarant of conga, bongo and timbales simultaneously They were the first to use the term “Afro,” actively raising the consciousness of Blacks in the U.S. to the African elements in this music and its ancestral ties. The Machito Afro-Cubans were the first multi-racial band employing Blacks, Latinos and Anglos. More importantly, The Afro-Cubans set a standard of professionalism and musical sophistication that gave Latinos in the 40’s pride in their multi-racial culture.

By the late 40’s, every major Jazz soloist of the day wanted to be featured with The Afro-Cubans, Thus began “Mambo Madness.”

The Machito Afro-Cubans under Mario’s direction epitomized the best of what our multi-cultural society can become. The genre they created, Afro-Cuban Jazz, represents the 500 year history of what happened in the New World. We carry on this legacy in American popular culture today. From the music of James Brown, Frank Sinatra, Santana, Celia Cruz, Tower of Power, Lauren Hill, Tito Puente, Duke Ellington, Frank Zappa, the list goes on and on. We all have something in common with this ancient African tree. As Mario’s drummer from 1988 till his death in 1993 at the ripe young age of 83, I am very fortunate to be part of this great legacy. I continue to learn and teach the great lessons of my culture and honor the past, not just remember it! As Mario’s godfather Arturo Andrade told him, Mario passed down to me: “”Remember the culture you represent. It is one born of suffering and inhumanity. The music that was born of this injustice represents the coming together of many great cultures that you carry inside of you and give to the people when you play. That is the triumph. This coming together lives in you and all of us through the music.”

“To know one’s ancestors is to live forever” – Bantu-Congolese proverb

This article originally appeared in the November/December 1999 issue of Inside Arts, the official magazine of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) and is reprinted here by permission of the magazine.

This installment of “Clave Chronicles” not only honors a legend of “La Tradicion” but also someone who became part of “Americana.”

Marco Rizo Ayala was born in Santiago de Cuba in 1920 where not only the music known as “Son” was flourishing, but also the instrument known as the bongo was born. Maestro Rizo’s first musical studies began with his father Sebastien who was a flautist with the Eastern Symphonic Orchestra, and taught the younger Rizo the art of Solfeggio (sight singing). “Being born in Santiago was something definitive. I grew up with the rhythmic potential of carnival song and dance, singing Sindo Garay’s songs and going to concerts given by stars such as Rachmaninoff.” After leading a jazz group that played popular tunes of the day on the CMKD radio station, Rizo in 1937 went to La Habana to continue his studies. He would soon become the pianist for the Philharmonic Orchestra of Havana concertizing with the likes of Toscanini, Stokowsky and Igor Stravinsky. 1937 was also the year Maestro Rizo would meet Cuba’s greatest composer, Ernesto Lecuona, becoming his protege and to date his greatest interpreter.

In 1940 Rizo came to New York City to launch his career as a concert pianist appearing at Town Hall to rave reviews and continued his musical education at the prestigious Julliard School. He immediately landed a job as a staff pianist at C.B.S. working on the radio show “Voz De Latino America,” but on October 15, 1951 Marco became part of American history when he began work as the musical director and pianist for the “I Love Lucy” show. For nine years Marco was responsible for conducting the Desi Arnaz Orchestra, wrote the incidental music and appeared many times on camera and is responsible for composing the now famous theme song. “We made history with that show. Desi was extremely creative. He developed the whole concept of using three TV cameras simultaneously, before that everyone just used one. He also thought of the idea that the actors, musicians, etc. should receive royalty payments when episodes where re-broadcast.
Marco Rizo But there were many struggles behind the scenes that the public was completely unaware of. “Although I was the Musical Director, because of studio politics and racism I was not to get screen credit; that would go to a staff musician at the network. There were some in the upper echelon that were not too happy that a Cuban had his own production company and had the highest rated show on television. I had to sell the rights to the theme song.”

Through this awkward time Marco continued his musical growth at UCLA. with Mario Castelnuevo-Tedesco and Igor Stravinsky, attaining a Masters degree in 1955. Some of his classmates were André Previn and Henry Mancini. At the same time he was making a name for himself as a film composer working for Columbia, Paramount, Republic and MGM and later worked as Bob Hope’s musical director. Other performers for whom Marco did orchestration work for were Carmen Miranda, Laurindo Almeida, Tito Guizar, Xavier Cougat, Yma Sumac, Danny Kaye, Katherine Dunham, Mario Bauzá and Paquito d’Rivera among others.

Maestro Rizo has composed numerous works for chamber ensemble and symphony orchestra including his latest work, “Cantata a la Virgen de la Caridad” which premiered at Lincoln Center and his “Sinfonia Cubana a José Martï which was premiered by the Cleveland Symphony. Other premieres include “The Suit Espanola” performed by the Symphonic Orchestra of Madrid as well as the ballet, “Nafligo,” which aired on TV in Cuba.

In the world of popular music he recorded albums for RCA, Capitol, Tico, Roulette and others as well as his own record company, Rizo records, showcasing his work in the field of Afro-Cuban jazz. His latest work was documenting the great classical piano tradition of the Caribbean. Of note is his last recording, a brilliant compendium of the piano compositions of Cuban composers; Saumell, Cervantes, Lecuona and Maestro Rizo. “I have striven to make Habaneras the definitive statement of Cuba’s classical music. It is by no means a complete statement. But here is the beginning of a chronicle of Cuba’s most outstanding classical music. My hope is that other musicians and audiences…begin to take it seriously as they do other classics of the world.”

Concert/Pop/Afro-Cuban jazz pianist, conductor, composer of symphonic works, movie soundtracks and the theme song for the most famous show in television history would be an impressive legacy for any artist. But in my opinion Marco Rizo’s greatest contribution was the one least known about him; that of educator.

In 1975 Marco realized that there was no effort at all being made to educate young people about the great musical legacy of the Caribbean and Latin America. He formed a non-profit organization, The South American Music Project (SAMPI) and began conducting workshops, seminars and concerts for young audiences across the country. His teaching style was simple, bring the essence of the music, rhythm, to children using percussion as a tool for nurturing understanding respect for the culture. He then would allow them to perform in concert with established and up and coming talents along with a great concert artist, himself. He was so good at it that the State Department asked him to go to Russia to do the same thing.

One of those “up and coming talents” was yours truly. In 1980, I first met El Maestro through a recommendation by another legend, bassist Victor Venegas who worked with Rizo from SAMPI’s early days. Working with a legendary figure when you are young can be an intimidating experience, but Marco was always more concerned with others, not himself. This provided a comfortable environment so that one could do their absolute best and be treated with respect. His philosophy was, “I wouldn’t have called you if I did not think you were capable.” With Marco Rizo, I started my career and as fate would have it the last performance of his career would be as the featured soloist with my ensemble Ascensíon – on August 30th, 1998 at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe to a standing room only crowd of his fans.

The epitome of professionalism, artistry, elegance, class and humility, a true unheralded warrior, he left us on September 8th, 1998 Candido Camero is living testimony to the history of Cuban music and modern jazz. Born in 1921 in La Habana’s colorful El Cerro barrio, he started his career playing bass, guitar and the mandolin sounding Cuban tres. During this period Havana was exploding with the sound of “Son”, the music that had arrived from Oriente (eastern Cuba) and is the foundation for what we call “Salsa” today. Of note was his work as a tres player with Conjunto Azul, a group which was led by the legendary percussionist/composer Luciano “Chano” Pozo. On bongo in this group was a boyhood friend who would later become noteworthy in his own right, Ramon “Mongo” Santamaria.

By 1952, Candido was being hailed by New York jazz critics as the greatest Cuban drummer to come to the US since the spectacular Chano Pozo took New York by storm before being killed in 1948.

In 1954 he was the featured soloist with Stan Kenton’s Big Band where he became known nationwide on their coast to coast tour. He was also featured in Duke Ellington‘s TV spectacular and album The Drum is a Woman. The Steve Allen Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Pat Boone Show, The Patty Page Show, etc. He is on hundreds of other recordings with such famed artists as Coleman Hawkins, Woody Herman, George Shearing, Errol Garner, Lionel Hampton, Tito Puente, Tony Bennett, etc. Candido has been featured in recent years in a PBS documentary on the life of Machito and a TV special on the life of Dizzy Gillespie. He is also featured on Volume III of the instructional video series Getting Started on Congas on Warner Bros. Video.

Candido‘s contributions to the world of percussion were recognized in 1960 by the World Book Encyclopedia and again in 1972. Today this living legend and ambassador for Cuban music and jazz continues to be active as a performer and recording artist having over fifty albums to his credit as a leader as well as being a first call studio musician and featured soloist.

Born Prudencio Mario Bauzá on April 28, 1911 Bauzá was raised in the Pogolotti neighborhood of Havana, Cuba. His father was a cigar maker and local baseball scout and his mother was a homemaker who was bed ridden. Bauzá was raised by his godfather, Arturo Andrade. Andrade was a cultured man who knew the art of solfege and taught local youngsters piano and music. Andrade noticed that at the age of six the precocious youngster could play on the piano whatever his students could sing. This led him to tutor Mario on music and he began his studies on oboe and bass clarinet. By the age of twelve he was performing with the Havana Philharmonic. By the age of sixteen he was playing with the legendary Cuban pianist and composer Antonio Maria Romeu in his charanga orchestra (Cuban flute and string ensemble) in 1927. It is with this group that he first came to the US to record in New York City.

This proved to be fortuitous. Bauzá discovered Harlem and the culture and music of black America. He also saw Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra at the Paramount Theater in NY. The featured saxophonist was Frank Traumbauer – who’s virtuosity was featured on the Gershwin commissioned piece “Rhapsody in Blue.” Bauzá went back to Cuba but vowed he would return to NYC to play Jazz.

He married his childhood sweetheart Estela, the sister of his boyhood friend Francisco Raul Gutierrez Grillo a.k.a. Machito. He retumed to NYC in 1930, and on the same boat was the Don Azpiazú Orchestra, the group that came to the US to introduce Cuban music to the American public. When they got to NY Azpiazú went downtown to perform and record EI Manisero/The Peanut Vendor. Bauzá went uptown to live with his cousin trumpeter Rene Endreira in Harlem. He began playing saxophone at house parties with pianist Lucky Roberts and began absorbing Black American culture. The same year yet another twist of fate would change his life and the course of jazz history. Antonio Machin, the vocalist with Azpiazú needed a trumpeter for his own quartet who was about to record for RCA Victor. Bauzá volunteered his services and learned how to play trumpet in 15 days.

These early recordings mark the beginning of Bauzá’s career as a trumpeter. By 1933, he became the lead trumpeter and musical director for Chick Webb’s Orchestra. While there he discovered and brought to the band vocalist Ella Fitzgerald. He composed and recorded with Webb, “Lona” which became the basis for Edgar Sampson’s “Stomping at the Savoy.” On the original Webb recording Bauzá is featured soloing on trumpet and clarinet! During this time Duke Ellington asked him to join his orchestra and Mario consistently refused. In 1938, he joined Cab Calloway’s Orchestra replacing Doc Cheatham as the lead trumpeter.

It was here that Bauzá would bring to the band a young trumpeter by the name of Dizzy Gillespie. In 1940, Bauzá formed the Machito Afro-Cubans with his brother-in-law Machito. This orchestra was the first to combine authentic Afro-Cuban rhythms with virtuosic Jazz improvisation, harmony and arranging. Although club owners consistently wanted to take the word “Afro” out of the band’s name Bauzá remained steadfast stating “Afro-Cuban music is what we represent, every black man comes from Africa. I have nothing to be ashamed of. Either you keep the name or we don’t play here.”

Thus, Bauzá in his own way was not only a champion of civil rights, but of black consciousness years before anyone else. The Machito Orchestra championed integration by having Blacks, Jews, Italians, Latinos, etc, as part of the band, another milestone in the Civil Rights movement. By the mid 40’s every major Jazz soloist wanted to record and or play with the Band Bauzá’s 1943 composition “Tanga” is acknowledged as the first true fusion tune perfectly marrying Afro-Cuban rhythm with Jazz.

In 1946 Bauzá introduced Cuban conguero Chano Pozo to Dizzy Gillespie thus furthering Dizzy’s education in Cuban rhythms. That same year, Bauzá led the Machito Orchestra in a concert at Town Hall that blew away the Stan Kenton Big Band. Kenton stated “This is the music of the future”. In 1948 the Orchestra recorded the first Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite commissioned by Norman Granz and composed by Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill which featured Charlie Parker, Buddy Rich and Flip Phillips. They also began an 18 year reign at the famed Palladium Ballroom; the home of the Mambo on West 53rd and Broadway.

It was common for the beboppers who frequented Birdland at West 52nd and Broadway to check out Machito. This further strenghtened the ties between Jazz and Afro-Cuban music influencing artists such as Art Blakey, Max Roach, Horace Silver, and a whole generation of “bopers and mambonicks”. Other extended works were recorded including the “Manteca Suite” and “Gillespiana.”

In the early 60s the Machito Orchestra traveled to Japan bringing clave conciousness with Jazz to a new audience. Their sophisticated blend of complex Cuban rhythms and Jazz influenced others including a young alumni of the band, Maestro Tito Puente.

By the 80s Bauzá had retired; his contributions forgotten in the Jazz and Latin community due to ignorance, racism and downright lack of respect for the past. But a new generation of players like Jon Faddis, Lew Soloff, Richie Cole, Bob James, Jerry Dodgion, Rene McLean, Chico Freeman, Ronnie Cuber, the late keyboardist Jorge Dalto and acknowledge masters like Doc Cheatham and Cannonball Adderley to name a few had passed through the ranks of the Machito Afro-Cubans under Bauzá’s leadership.

In the late 80’s, through the efforts of Dr. Martha Moreno-Vega and vocalist Sandra Rodriguez, Mario formed a new orchestra made up of the best younger and older players on the scene to bring the Afro-Cuban Jazz tradition back to the public eye and its proper place in Jazz history. In 1990 he recorded “Tanga,” a prolific five movement treatment of his 1943 composition. This led to 3 European tours and numerous stateside appearances.Mario’s great legacy was finally started to be known and acknowledged by the general public. Two subsequent recordings followed; “My Time Is Now ” and “944 Colombus Avenue”. Along with “Tanga” these recordings are considered to be the three finest examples of Big Band Afro Cuban Jazz to date. In 1993 after years of obscurity he finally graced the cover of DownBeat magazine at the ripe young age of 83.

© 1997 Little Cho’ Music – Bobby Sanabria and Jazz Corner. Any reproduction or use of this material is by permission only, gracias.

Clave: The Key
A Rhythmic Journey from Africa to the New World
Bobby Sanabria Solo Lecture Demonstration
Bobby Sanabria, master drummer, percussionist composer, arranger, educator and Grammy®-nominated recording artist, uses the five-beat rhythm of the clave as the “key” to unlock the roots of Afro-Cuban music and reveal the voices of the ancestors. Playing a wide variety of percussion instruments and a full drum set, he takes audiences on a poly-rhythmic musical journey through history. Starting from the beginnings of the European colonization of Africa in the 15th Century, he follows the slaves’ route and the music they brought with them into the New World.

Mr. Sanabria demonstrates how history, politics and religion influenced the rhythms of Africa to create the rich array of music styles we now call Latin music. Although he never shies away from the brutal realities and harsh conditions of slavery, his emphasis is on a shared musical tradition and a mutual respect for all cultures. Bringing us into present day America, he demonstrates how the five-beat clave remains at the core of such musical styles as Rock & Roll and Hip-Hop.

Against the on-going beat of the clave, Mr. Sanabria plays complex rhythms on various percussion instruments culminating with the drum set, while simultaneously speaking or singing. He never allows his audiences to lose sight (or the beat) of these five notes which, as he states, bind us all together. This charismatic performer leads audience members of all ages and cultures to participate enthusiastically in traditional West-African rooted “Call-and-Response.” People are up on their feet dancing, singing, shouting and clapping to the beat.

Mr. Sanabria highlights the important contributions of both the well-known and lesser-known musicians who made this music what it is today. When time allows, he supplements the live program with fascinating archival film footage of the players and dancers who made music history. Supplied reference materials include a glossary of terms, a definition of musical forms, a description of the various instruments, a bibliography and a discography for suggested reading and listening.

This program is of interest to all and may be tailored to suit particular age groups or areas of study. Students of music, history, sociology, Latin American, African American or Caribbean studies and the humanities will find it enlightening. For students of drums and percussion, Mr. Sanabria can present a more in-depth master-class clinic on the drumming techniques utilized in Afro-Cuban music.

Selected performances: Julliard School (NYC), Lincoln Center (NYC), The Open Center (NYC), Queens Theatre in the Park (NYC), the Painted Bride Arts Center (PA), the 92°d St. Y (NYC), the Vermont Jazz Center (VT), Symphony Space (NYC), Rhythm Magazine’s World Music Seminar (NYC), the KOSA ’98 Percussion Camp (VT), the Mid-West Band & Orchestra Clinic (IL), the 1997 International Association of Jazz Educators National Conference (NYC), the World Percussion Festival at the Berklee College of Music (MA), Aaron Davis Hall (NYC), Moravian College (PA), the Knitting Factory Satellite School Program (NYC).

Contact for Mr. Sanabria:
Bev Montie, The Roberto Ocasio Foundation
P.O. Box 81230; Cleveland, OH 44181 U.S.A.
440.572.2048 /