Greetings music fans. This week in jazz bloggery I am going to continue with “Latin Jazz” from last week. Since yesterday saw the Puerto Rican Day Parade in NYC I am going to focus a bit more on Puerto Rican musicians than Cubans. There are political issues this all brings up. I'm going to mention a few.
Musically, today is mostly about Tito Puente and Charlie and Eddie Palmieri but with a few others. I realized early on that there is way too much for one diary to discuss. Including last week’s on things more identified as Cuban, I suspect this is going to take four diaries. I am not going into Celia Cruz today nor am I really going to engage Fania records. I am not going into the more recent Latin Jazz artists like Jerry Gonzales or Michelle Camilo. Today is more about The Palladium Ballroom than Willie’s Steak House; The Copacabana and not SOB’s; La Lupe, not La India. I’ll get to all of that stuff sooner or later.
If you are discovering my diaries for the first time, I’ve been publishing a diary on Jazz here on daily Kos since mid February (the first one ain’t that great). I try to post the diaries on Sunday night, but I didn’t get things done in time yesterday…and then the wildings attacked the wall and I had to watch it twice. Some weeks ago, I wrote a diary on Brazilian music and last week was more Afro-Cuban. Next week will be something special for Father’s Day. In a couple of weeks I’ll get to back to my historical narrative about Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and Art Blakey. Most roads in Jazz lead to Blakey or Miles. More Latin music diaries will come.
Thank you to everyone for reading and listening and for your support. Thanks to the rescue rangers as well!
Puerto Rico became a commonwealth of the United States in 1917. The complexities of that issue I’m not going to dwell on today. However, it does create the situation where Puerto Ricans are citizens of The United States and are free to travel back and forth between the island and the mainland. Cubans and Puerto Ricans had been migrating to the US since the 1800s. Even Jose Marti, poet, writer, and leader of the Cuban Independence Movement, lived in exile in New York City in the 1880s. Cubans moved into Miami in small numbers, but the early migrants to Miami were wealthier Cubans establishing US-based businesses to work in conjunction with their Cuban-based offices. Cuban and Puerto Rican migrants often came to the US for employment where the industrial Northeast provided more potential work than the resort areas of Miami. From 1940-1960, approximately one million Puerto Ricans migrated from the Island to the mainland. Cubans don’t come close to numbers like that until the three big waves after the Revolution and the Port of Mariel issues in 1980.
But in those early years, before the waves of migration by either group, Cubans and Puerto Ricans simply played in each other’s bands in places like NY. Machito, Bauza, they played in the hot spots: The Palladium Ball Room, The Copacabana
Tito Rodriguez, January 4, 1923 – February 28, 1973.
The earliest recordings are hard to find. I’m not sure how much of the earliest stuff is in print and there wasn’t much to begin with. Tito Puente begins at the Palladium. Charlie Palmieri. It’s a big deal. But it’s really in the later 50s and into the 60s that the recordings are made.
That one is from 56 and is on the RCA label. RCA had offices in Cuba in the 50s too. After the revolution, RCA didn’t put out too many Latin recordings.
Of course part of the appeal of Latin music is its dance-ability. What is amazing to me is that, while there are things that stray from this, Latin jazz has maintained this dance-ability into the 21st century. You can also hear quite a bit of musical continuity between then and now. In some ways, it is through Latin groves that Jazz has retained some aspects of being “popular music.”
Ernesto Antonio "Tito" Puente, April 20, 1923 – June 1, 2000, was born to Puerto Rican migrants in New York City and grew up in Spanish Harlem. He served in the US Navy for three years during WWII and was able to use the GI Bill to go to Julliard to study music theory, composition, and piano. He worked with Machito in the late 40s filling in as the drummer. He was major part of the “Mambo Craze” which happens through the 50s. Because of this, and his longevity, he is known as “The King of Mambo” and “El Rey”, which means “The King.”
I wrote in the comments last week how often I think I’ve performed this next tune. I once calculated that A) I’ve been doing gigs on a regular basis since 1987. B) That’s @1400 week-ends. C) Keeping the math simple, let’s say it all averages out to one gig a weekend (it’s probably more, but there were dry spells too). D) I play this tune on maybe two thirds or 66% of my gigs. E) That’s around 920 times I have performed this tune. G) If I’m exaggerating then say it’s 700-800 times.
I had one day once where I had three gigs, I played this tune with a salsa band in the morning, a Latin jazz group in the afternoon (both at the opening of a grocery store in Newark, NJ), and then at some fancy club in Hoboken with a Santana cover band.
I will refuse to rehearse this tune unless you are paying me a lot of money. Funny thing is, I still like the song.
25 years ago, the great bassist Rufus Ried told me how he thought of “Green Dolphin Street” as a mode instead a series of chord changes. Rufus was playing in Stan Getz’s band with Kenny Baron at the time. I ain’t no Rufus Ried but I do understand what he means now. Oye Como Va is a mode, not a song.
Santana recorded this next one, Para Los Rumberos, as well.
As much as Santana’s cover version of those two tunes helped reinvigorate Tito’s career in the 1970s, you can’t underestimate what sort of financial boom that probably was. Ten years ago I hung out a few times with this nice Canadian dude who was involved in the industry. We were discussing representation for some fusion things I was doing. It didn’t pan out, but one night we had a meeting and he had to leave to go and meet with Peter Green…the founder of Fleetwood Mac and composer of Black Magic Woman. The profits from Black Magic Woman enabled Peter Green to still live a rock star like lifestyle in 2004. I’m not sure if Peter Green ever had a hit after he left Fleetwood Mac….and he left that band long before Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined.
1957’s Top Percussion is a really great record. Mongo Santamaria and Willie Bobo also play on it. Most of the record is the three percussionists and a bass player.
And then it includes this Jazz suite.
I’m not sure when this version was recorded, but I do believe the tune goes back to the Palladium
This clip is from 1965
“The King of the Timblaes” 1973
And here he is with the great La Lupe
La Lupe was born Guadalupe Victoria Yolí Raymond in Cuba on December 23 1939 and died in the Bronx on February 29, 1992. She had hits in Cuba, becoming a rising star in Cuba in the late 50s. She had become a star in Cuba by 1960, attracting international audiences. But by 1962 she was in exile in the USA. It was around this time that she was “discovered” by Mongo.
In the 60, she recorded frequently with Tito Puente. She had become the most popular Latin Singer in NYC in the 60s and eventually became the first Latin artist to sell out Madison Square Garden.
In 2001 I began a research project on Salsa. One thing I did in the early stages of the research was hang around the Salsa museum in Spanish Harlem. The museum itself is an interesting place; it’s a bit of a converted store front filled with memorabilia and albums. The great trumpeter Chocolate seemed to hold court while sitting outside, his grand children coming to visit. Joe Cuba stopped in once when I was there. And a woman who was a journalist passed by once and went on and on to me about La Lupe. In her opinion, Pattie Labelle and later Madonna stole a good bit of her shtick. (I have a hard time believing Madonna knew squat about La Lupe in 1983 or 84).
There are several recordings of La Lupe singing in English.
La Lupe was a devout Santera. From Wikipedia
A devout follower of Santería, she continued to practice her religion regardless of the influence, fortune, and fame she had acquired throughout the height of her career. Her record label, Fania Records, ended her contract in the late 1970s, perhaps simply because of falling sales. She retired in 1980, and found herself destitute by the early 1980s. In 1984 she injured her spine while trying to hang a curtain in her home; she initially used a wheelchair, then later a cane. An electrical fire made her homeless. After being healed at an evangelical Christian Crusade, La Lupe abandoned her Santería roots and became a born-again Christian. In 1991, she gave a concert at La Sinagoga in New York, singing Christian songs.I’ve heard stories of Santeros taking advantage of her. That is not statement about Santeria, it is a statement about religious leaders. I’ve seen Brazilian families in Newark and Hudson County manipulated by Umbandistas back in Sao Paulo in order to insure a cash flow. There are disingenuous peoples in all religions. If there were issues (and all accounts suggest that there were), it was about the people who were taking advantage of her and not the fact that they were Santeros. I’ve heard it suggested that the Evangelical group she later hooked up with also manipulated her.
La Lupe’s life is the one for whom a bio-pic deserves to be made. There was a kickstarter attempt to get financing for such a film. Apparently their efforts were successful.
Back to the Palladium…..
Charlie Palmieri, November 21, 1927 – September 12, 1988, was a NYC born Puerto Rican pianist and band leader who first major gig was playing with Tito Puente and the Copacabana from late 1947 until 1953. In the 50s he met Dominican born flautist Johnny Pacheco and used him in his group. Pacheco will become one of the most important musicians in Latin music and Salsa…but not yet…..
Palmieri is playing in the popular dance style at the time, Charanga. Much of the Charanga sound is based on the usage of the violins and flute in the group. Musicologically, Charanga is the bridge between 1950s Mambo and Salsa (which does not exist before 1966 unless you ret-con back and define things in the past with modern terms).
The group is called Charanga La Duboney, later dropping “charanga” from the name when styles change.
Charlie is much loved in Latin music world. As a pianist he is held in very high regard.
One of his last recordings…..
Now….there are a few things for which to take note. One is that Charanga fades in popularity during the early 60s. Another is that the Puerto Ricans who grew up in New York City in the 40s and 50s shared much space with African-Americans. These folks listened to the same R&B and Jazz and such. So as Motown began to hit for African Americans, Puerto Ricans discovered Boogalu.
There are some well know Bugaloos
Joe Cuba’s Bang bang
Pete “el conde” Rodriguez’s I Like It Like That
Mongo records the classic Herbie Hancock composition
And there is Ray Baretto
This is a long diary by my standards. Ray Baretto goes on hold until a 1970s and Salsa diary. (oy….I can see a baretto/celia cruz/larry harlow diary with no space for Willie Colon. There may be several more diaries on Latin music to some!)
Bugaloo as a style doesn’t last that long. Many musicians thought it was too simple and monotonous. But it has been recycled in Hip-Hop, Acid Jazz, and of course during the Latin Pop explosion of 1999…in a completely uncritical manner.
And then there's Eddie.
Eddie Palmieri was born on December 15, 1936. Like his brother Charlie, he is also a pianist.
From Eddie’s webpage
Eddie began his professional career as a pianist in the early ’50s with Eddie Forrester’s Orchestra. In 1955 he joined Johnny Segui’s band. He also spent a year with the Tito Rodriguez Orchestra before forming his own band, the legendary “La Perfecta” in 1961. La Perfecta was unique in that it featured a trombone section in place of trumpets (led by the late Barry Rogers), something that had been rarely done in latin music, demonstrating the early stages of Palmieri’s unorthodox means of orchestration. They were known as “the band with the crazy roaring elephants” because of the configuration of two trombones, flute, percussion, bass and a vocalist. With its one of a kind sound, La Perfecta soon joined the ranks of Machito, Tito Rodriguez and other major Latin orchestras of the day. Palmieri’s influences include not only his older brother Charlie but also Jesus Lopez, Lili Martinez and other Cuban players of the 1930s and 1940s; jazz luminaries such as Art Tatum, Bobby Timmons, Bill Evans, Horace Silver, Bud Powell and McCoy Tyner….He also got rid of the violins. This change in orchestration is rather significant as we approach Salsa.
From 1965’s Mambo Con Conga is Mozambique
There's so much music to get into that I’ve lost some of the politics I intended to write about. Not a big deal, I’ll do “The Spanish Harlem Renaissance” in the next diary I do on Latin music. But I have pointed out that there is a shift in representations of Latino to favor Puerto Ricans and down play many things Cubans in the years post the revolution. Most Cuban music is identified by its rhythms. Son, Descarga, Guairá, Guaguancó, these words refer to specific rhythmic patterns. Mozambique is also a rhythmic pattern. However, upon release of this reord, Palmieri’s record label asked him to stop recording “communist music” because calling something Mozambique was identifying it as Cuban. And this was 1965 not 1955.
Azucar Pa' Ti is one of Eddie’s classics.
Charlie is often held in higher regard than Eddie. I honestly can’t really figure out why. I’ve seen Eddie play several times. He is an inspiration and role model to me. Charlie is damn good too, but I missed out on ever seeing him perform.
Eddie also played with vibraphonist Cal Tjader
Cal Tjader, July 16, 1925 – May 5, 1982, is an interesting figure in Latin Jazz. He started playing Latin Jazz in the 1950s and made sure he used authentic Latin musicians as well as strong Jazz musicians in his group. He himself was a white guy from Missouri.
Cal’s style is somewhat in the cool jazz vein. He’s also been sampled a lot (as has a lot of bugaloo) and used in the Acid Jazz movements of the 90s into the 2000s. “Soul Sauce” was his biggest hit.
This next tune, Morning, is as close to a Latin Jazz “Standard” as any tune could be.
My Microsoft word document tells me I’m on page 8 already. I try to stop these things at 7 pages. There is so much left to discuss and to hear. I had intended to get into some of the politics, but I could only touch on a little. But there are a few things to bring up.
First, I really wanted to comment on the Puerto Rican Day parade in a larger regional context. Through the second half of the 1990s, I, along with a former friend, provided most of the music for the Newark City Councilmen’s floats in most of Newark’s ethnic pride parades. I have true stories about former Mayor Sharpe James that might get me sued for slander. I’ve met Corey Booker a few times before he was Mayor. The other council men might grunt “heres 10 bucks, buy the band some beers”, but Corey was the only one who ever introduced himself to the band and shook our hands. Also at the time I had an interesting relationship with Newark’s current Mayor, Louis Cantana. Booker would never remember me, Cantana would recognize me and remember exactly who I was from those days. As a councilman in the late 1990s, he used me in a campaign speech to point out to his constituents how Latino “Culture” was spreading beyond Latinos. I was the pianist in the Salsa band playing at his campaign event. He also didn’t know me very well at all….I’ll explain in a moment.
But I learned a few things about parades back then. And ethnic politics. Sunday, yesterday, was the Puerto Rican Day parade in NYC but also the Portuguese Festival in Newark. The Portuguese Festival has been called the largest weekend ethnic festival in the USA. I have been told that these two events occur on the same day on purpose. When I started doing the Parades, the Portuguese festival was n the weekend after Memorial Day and then it got moved to a week later. June 10th is Portuguese Day, so having the festival on the weekend closest to June 10th makes much sense. However, I was told the date was moved to this weekend precisely so that the Puerto Ricans of Newark won’t attend--in a city of @250,000, @90,000 are Latinos (probably including some Brazilians...these numbers are based on the 2000 census) and more than 45,000 of them are Puerto Rican. And the fact that there was a Cuban parade last week in Hudson County NJ, a parade that only became an annual thing in 2010, is a bit odd. September is Latino month, not June. In my opinion, the Cuba parade reflects the tensions between Puerto Ricans and Cubans. And much of this happens among the working class folks and not the middle class. Discrimination towards Puerto Ricans has often been different than that towards other Latinos, and it exists within Latino groups. It's f'ed up to ask people for their green card. It's maybe more f'ed up when that person is Puerto Rican. There’s too much to say, Im putting the rest on hold.
Always remember that when we get to the 60s, things Cuban are “hush hush” and really stay that way until 1980. One of the goals in this diary was to emphasize how the biggest performers, once we get into the 60s, are Puerto Rican. (Granted, La Lupe is Cuban and not Puerto Rican.) This is important to better understand things to come in the 1980s. But before we get there…a creative explosion comes.
There is this
Things like this
And absolutely things like this to come….
And that’s just a tiny bit of the 70s.
Speaking of the 70s, on the first day kindergarten in 1972, my mom took me to a woman’s home to watch me in the afternoon as she and my dad worked their jobs. There I met another kid who also started kindergarten that day and who was also dropped off for babysitting. He becomes my best friend throughout my childhood. We discover so much music together and remain…connected…today. He is my brother and while we don’t talk much anymore (he moved to Indiana many years ago. I stayed in Jersey and NYC), I love him unconditionally and know he feels the same. His father was born in Spanish Harlem to immigrants from Spain and his mother was also from NY and born to Puerto Rican immigrants.
I could say I love his parents second only to my own and I would not be lying. They are old school progressives from the 60s and taught both my friend Andres and I about such things. I would not be who I am had I not been absorbed into their family. Things Puerto Rican have been a part of my life since I was not yet 5 years old. I am not Latino. I am not Puerto Rican. But in certain company, I will not hesitate to say that I am Nuyorican. Just what that word means and when it originated, I’ll go into next time I write about Latin music. I may just have some insights on the word that most folks might not know. Puerto Rican poet Miguel Agrapin and I used to drink together 10 years ago in the East Village, I'll share with you what he had to say about the word.
Thanks for listening everyone. Sorry for the late posting if you had been expecting this last night. Next week is Father’s Day and I’m going to back to straight ahead jazz to talk about fathers and sons in Jazz. Please support your local Jazz musicians and all local live music.