September 22, 2021- Today's Topic: Mario Bauza
Along with Machito, Mario Bauza was one of the founding fathers of latin jazz. He was featured prominently yesterday during our feature on Machito but today we focus specifically
on Mario Bauza. He was born in Havana in 1911 and was a child prodigy on the clarinet and bass clarinet. So much so that he was featured with the Havana Symphony at the age of 11.
He first came to the United States in 1926 and stayed in Harlem where he was exposed to American jazz for the first time. It had a major effect on him and he vowed to become a jazz
musician in the future. When he returned to Havana he mastered the alto saxophone with the idea of one day returning to New York.
His opportunity came in an unexpected way. Don Azpiazu’s Havana Casino Orchestra had taken New York by storm with their hit tune The Peanut Vendor. Azpiazu needed a trumpet
player for a recording session but they had all returned to Cuba. Bauza bought a trumpet and taught himself to play it in two weeks and made the session. He stayed in New York and joined Chick Webb as lead trumpet and Music Director in 1933.
During this time he was instrumental in discovering Ella Fitzgerald and bringing her into the band. In 1938 he joined the trumpet section of Cab Calloway’s band which later included a young
Dizzy Gillespie. Dizzy’s exposure to Cuban music through his friendship with Bauza would eventually lead to the creation of Afro-Cuban Jazz.
After Cab Calloway, Bauza teamed up with Machito and the Afro-Cubans and became the band’s musical director. His composition Tanga was recorded in 1942 and is one of the earliest
examples of latin jazz. His use of in-clave and the development of the 3-2 2-3 approach was groundbreaking and highly influential.
He stayed with Machito until 1976 then fell into relative obscurity. He had never really gotten the recognition he deserved but that all changed in 1979 when there were several celebrations
that recognized his contributions. It kicked off a career revival that lasted the rest of his life.
During his final years he recorded four albums as a leader which cemented his legacy as one of the true giants of latin jazz.