September 21, 2021- Today's Topic: Machito
Machito was one of the significant founding fathers of Latin Jazz and one of the most influential. He was born Francisco Raul Gutierrez Grillo in 1909 and raised in Havana Cuba.
He came to New York in 1937 and began recording with a variety of bands most notably the orchestra of Xavier Cugat. In 1940 he formed his own group Machito and the Afro-Cubans. His music director was Mario Bauza and together they were one of the first to combine cuban rhythms in a big band setting.
In 1942 the Afro-Cubans recorded the Mario Bauza composition Tanga which is considered the first latin jazz song based in-clave. The early success of Machito and the Afro-Cubans inspired a number of American bandleaders including Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Kenton who would both begin incorporating Afro-Cuban rhythms into their music.For over twenty years, starting in the mid-forties, Machito and the Afro-Cubans played every summer at the Concord Hotel in the Catskills.
When they weren’t in the Catskills they were one of the featured attractions at New York’s Palladium Ballroom. In addition to being so influential to other musicians, Machito and the band were responsible for many latin jazz “firsts.” The first important Descarga, which means Cuban Jam Session, happened at a Machito rehearsal in 1943. They were the first to establish the bongos, congas and timbales as the standard percussion unit for Afro-Cuban music.
Machito’s arrangers including Mario Bauza and Chico O’ Farrill established many arranging techniques that would be copied by others including Bauza’s 3-2 2-3 clave concept.
Many of the legendary latin percussionists worked with Machito including Luis Miranda, Chano Pozo, Carlos Vidal, Ubaldo Nieto, Jose Mangual, Armando Pereza, Chino Pozo, Candido,
Patato Valdes and Machito’s son Mario Grillo.
Machito passed away in 1984 but Mario, known as Machito Jr, continues to carry his father’s legacy forward.
In 1985, New York mayor Ed Koch named the intersection of East 111th Street and Third Avenue "Machito Square."