Caribbean Jazz


Afro Caribbean Jazz music finds its beginnings in Africa, Cuba, Brazil in particlur and in the Carribean and North America in general. With major influences from New Orleans, New York and Puetro Rico the basics of blending Jazz with the rhythms of Africa started in Cuba around the turn of the 20th century. By way of Africa the infectious rhythms found their way back around the world in less than 100 years.

I'm sure I left more than a few out. The real innovators are too many to consider mentioning however I'm working on it. Every part of the world has been touched by some portion of this music. The Experience Ensemble and myself are trying to contribute our small part to the overall legacy of:

Afro Caribbean Jazz

Author: Dwight Brewster

Composer and pianist Eddie Palmieri is the giant of Afro Caribbean Jazz. Rooted in Cuba's venerable forms, Palmieri has extended and developed the music as much or more than any of its modern practitioners.

Palmieri was born in El Barrio (Spanish Harlem, New York) and grew up in the Bronx. Through his older brother Charlie, who recognized inspiration early on, Eddie landed gigs with Tito Rodríguez and others before forming his own group. Eddie's style marries a soul-jazz funkiness (attributed to McCoy Tyner) with the traditional dance rhythms of Cuban pianists such as Luis Grinan. His choice of influences did not stop at mentors, however. The Palmieri band included, singer Ismael Quintana and trumpeter Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros and the sound of Barry Rogers. Palmieri is an inspired, disciplined composer-pianist with a consistently stellar band.

Arturo "Chico" O'Farrill is one of the most important figures when it comes to Afro-Caribbean music. This gentle and quiet man is one of music's unsung heroes. He has not only made a name for himself in the world of Latin music, but in the world of Jazz as well. So why is it that he has quietly slipped away? Not until recently has Chico come back on the scene. He has always been there, but it has been for the most part behind the scenes.

Chico covers everything from rumba to son, including bolero and cha cha cha, in a big band format. As usual the sound is great, which makes listening that much more of a pleasure. At a time when the focus is once again on the Latin "tinge", you just gotta give it a listen.

Some of the innovators included, we had the good fortune to see perform or even perform with in the band or on the same stage. Please remember there are plenty more like: Batacumbele, Francisco Aguabella, Candido Camero, Cubanismo, Herbie Mann, Clare Fischer just to name a few others.

For nearly 40 years, conguero and bandleader Ray Barretto has been one of the leading forces in Afro Caribbean Jazz. His hard, compelling playing style has graced the recordings of saxophonists Gene Ammons, Lou Donaldson, and Sonny Stitt, plus guitarists Wes Montgomery and Kenny Burrell.

With a musical heritage as deeply rooted in the bebop jam sessions held inHarlem during the late-'40s as in his Puerto Rican ancestry, Barretto has spent over four decades refining the integration of Afro-Caribbean rhythms with the improvisational elements of jazz. Few artists have been as successful over the years at fusing these two genres as Barretto, an undisputed master of this style. A pioneer of the salsa movement, Barretto achieved international superstardom and released nearly two dozen albums with the Fania label from thelate-'60s until salsa's popularity peaked in the mid-1980's. Ray is world renowned for merging Salsa and Jazz.

As we identify more musicians who were instrumental in the performance of Afro-Caribbean-Jazz we'll post them here.

Check back as we research what we need to add links and keep up with them all

In 1973 the Cuban band Irakere burst on the scene with a revolutionary sound quite unlike anything heard before. It soon gained popularity with US audiences, winning Grammys in 1980 and 1981. Founded and led by pianist Jesus "Chucho" Valdés, (son of the legendary pianist "Bebo" Valdés), Irakere seamlessly blends jazz and traditional Cuban music to an unprecedented degree.

For more information and music from Afro Caribbean Jazz musicians tune in to The World of Jazz on WBAI Radio featuring Dwight Brewster as host of "The World of Jazz" Click Here for details :

Mongo Santamaria concert is a mesmerizing spectacle for both eyes and ears, and even in his 70s, this seemingly ageless Cuban percussionist/bandleader could energize packed behemoth arenas such as the Hollywood Bowl. A master conguero, Santamaria at his best creates an incantory spell rooted in Cuban religious rituals, quietly seating himself before his congas and soloing with total command over the rhythmic spaces between the beats while his band pumps out an endless vamp. Santamaria's breakthrough into the mass market may have come as a result of a bad night at a Cuban nightclub in the Bronx in 1962. As the story goes, only three people showed up in the audience, so the musicians held a bull session in which the substitute pianist for the gig, Herbie Hancock, demonstrated his new blues tune, "Watermelon Man." Everyone gradually joined in, the number became a part of Mongo's repertoire, and when producer Orrin Keepnews heard it, he rushed the band into a studio and recorded a single that leaped to the number ten slot on the pop charts in 1963.

The success of Santamaria's cross-pollenization of jazz, R&B and Latin music on "Watermelon Man" and a string of Battle and Riverside albums led to a high-profile contract with Columbia that resulted in a wave of hot, danceable albums between 1965 and 1970. With a brighter, brassy sound propelled by trumpeter Marty Sheller's driving charts, often covering hits of the day, the Santamaria band perfectly reflected the mood of the go-go '60s, and Mongo continued to mix genres into the '70s. Since then, Santamaria returned to his Afro-Cuban base, recording for Vaya in the early '70s, teaming with Gillespie and Toots Thielemans for a live gig at Montreux for Pablo in 1980. He died on February 1, 2003 at Baptist Hospital in Miami, following a stroke.

Dwight Brewster created this study, click below for more information about him...
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Cal Tjader grew up around music and the theatre and even studied to be a dancer for a while. He decided to stick with music, and began to play drums with different small groups in California in the late 1940s. In 1949, Dave Brubeck hired him for his trio and Tjader recorded several 10" albums with Brubeck. He left Brubeck and joined George Shearing's combo in 1953, where he began performing on the vibes.

In 1954, Fantasy, Brubeck's label, approached Tjader about a recording contract, and the result was a string of over 30 albums, virtually all featuring Afro Caribbean Jazz music, over the next 10 years. His single of "Soul Sauce (Guachi Guara)" briefly reached the Top 40 charts. His Concord album, La Onda Va Bien won a Grammy award in 1979.

More Innovators
Joe Cuba
Pucho and the Latin Jazz Soul Brothers
Willie Bobo
McCoy Tyner
More on the way
Dizzy Gillespie is known world-wide for the creation, essence and evolution of Bebop Jazz. Most people don't know bebop in its pure form only lasted a few years. However, another legacy of his time began when he roomed with Mario Bauza.

Dizzy begun to take an interest in Afro-Caribbean music. This interest later developed into what we now know as Afro-Caribbean Jazz movement with Chanto Pozo. He later produced with composer and pianist Lalo Schifrin major works for the concert hall in this genre.

Mario Bauza is a visionary whose groundbreaking musical work will always echo the past, present and future of Afro-Caribbean Jazz. Widely recognized as a seminal figure in American music, Mario Bauza pioneered the fusion of Afro-Cuban and jazz music in the 1940s.

First working as a sideman with Cab Calloway, he went on to collaborate with Charlie Parker, Machito, and Dizzy Gillespie, inventing a new musical form of Afro-Cuban jazz. Largely responsible for the introduction of the mambo, cha-cha and rhumba to North America, Bauza, led one of the most sophisticated Latin Jazz ensembles of the '90s.

Tito Puente, The King of Latin Music: Four time Grammy Award Winner; featured motion picture performer; doctorate of arts & sciences; Internationally acclaimed world wide performer; there are not enough adjectives to describe Tito Puente.

His hit records and arrangements have become classics in Latin music as well as popular rock. Carlos Santana recorded two of his hits, while jazz greats such as
Buddy Morrow and Woody Herman collaborated with The King. He has a "star" in the Hollywood Walk of Fame, right in front of the Chinese Theater and two colleges, SUNY at Old Westbury and Hunter College, have both bestowed the King with honorary doctorates for his work in music and his help to young artists through his Tito Puente Scholarship Fund.

His arrangements are sought after globally. His inspiration is boundless. To promoters, a Tito Puente booking is a sure sell-out. To dancers, he is a guaranteed workout. To music lovers, he is the master. He began dancing in contests with his sister when he was only five years old. He was later known as a musical child prodigy as a young boy , growing up in "El Barrio" (East Harlem). He went through the Army, studied at Julliard and was named the King of Latin Music when he beat out the Mambo King Perez Prado in a public contest of bands. He has collaborated and cultivated some of the best singers and musicians of Latin music.
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