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The first Jazz Bands in Cuba were born in the 20’s of the last Century. They soon substituted their North American homologues that came to the Island hired by the place owners or by the government and they played jazz together with the Cuban music. In 1929, the first big band called “Hermanos Castro” (Castro Brothers) was formed leaded by the saxophonist Manolo Castro.
From the 30’s on, other important bands were born such us: Los Curbelo, Havana Casino, Lecuona Cuban Boys and Riversai.
In 1932, the Cuban musician Armando Romeu forms his first Jazz band inspired by the arrangements of the North American masters Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson.

At the beginning of the 40’s and due to the world success of the Cuban music, the fusion between Jazz and Afro Cuban music took place in new York. In 1930, some Cuban musicians were living in New York already, among them the singer Miguelito Valdes and Mario Bauza (trumpet player), who worked with great musicians like Noble Sissie, Don Redman, Cab Calloway and Dizzy Gillespie, considered to be one of the Bop creators in the 40’s.

When Frank Guillo (Machito), Bauza’s brother in la, got to New York in 1937, he proposed Bauza to form a band to mix Jazz with Afro Cuban music. The band Machito y sus Afrocubans was born in 1941 directed by Mario Bauza.

Meanwhile, other historical Jazz band “La Bellamar” was created by Armando Romeu in Havana by the 40’s.

Another big band to remember is the one of the guitarist Isidro Perez with the participation of Chico O’Farrill, who created the first Cuban Bop Group “The Beboppers” with him playing the trumpet, Gustavo Mas playing the Saxophone, Rene Urbino in the Piano, Kiki Hernandez in the Contrabass and Daniel Perez playing the drums. When Bellamar Orchestra dissolved, Armando Romeu its director was hired by Tropicana Cabaret where he formed a big band with 3 trumpets, 3 Trombones, and 5 Saxophones and with the musicians Peruchin Justiz, Isidro Perez, Kiki Hernandez and Daniel Perez; this formation was the best rhythm section of a Cuban Jazz band according to the critics.

When Chano Pozo, important Cuban musician, appeared, he participated as soloist together with the Jazz quartet of the pianist Mario Santana and he was one of the stars of the super production “Congo Pantera” of the Tropicana Cabaret.

Another important musical event in the 40’s was the birth of the Feeling or Filin which tried to get closer to Jazz. There are great musicians in this genre: Jose Antonio Mendez and Cesar Portillo de la Luz.

Some of the most important Jazz bands of these times were: Hermanos Palau (Palau Brothers), Lebatard Brothers and Casino de la Playa.

The fabulous 50’s were not a musical boom, but as the Maffia tried Havana City to look like Las Vegas, the show business grew with the construction of new hotels and small night clubs where Jazz was played most of the time.

During these times, famous international Jazz stars came to Havana City: Cab Calloway, Woddy Herman, Tommy Dorsey, Nat King Cole, Sara Vaugahan, Tony Martin, enny Guoodman and Frank Sinatra.

Thanks to the Armando Romeu’s band, Tropicana Cabaret became the Cuban Jazz Center. In 1957 a group of musicians, disc jockeys and Jazz fans joined in Havana City to exchange experiences with North American Musicians. The main cede the Havana 1900 Cabaret and Tropicana. The funds collected were used by the Jazz Cuban Club to bring lots of Jazz musicians to the Island such us: Keny Drew, Eddie Shu and Philly Joe Jones.

In this decade it was also recorded the first Jazz LP entitled: “Cubano” (Cuban), a production of Norman Granz with the participation of important musicians like “el Negro Vivar”, Gustavo mas, Bebo Valdes, Kiki Hernandez, Guillermo Barreto and Rolando Alfonso. From 1957 to 1959 the discs “Descargas” or “Cuban Jam Sessions” were recorded. Those discs changed completely the Latin World in New York with the presence of Peruchin Justiz, Walfredo de los Reyes, Marcelino Valdes and Aristides Soto (Tata Guines).

When the Revolution triumphed in 1959, there were a lot of political, economical, social and cultural changes. New rhythms appeared in those years, the pachanga, pilon and Mozambique but they passed quickly.

The feeling authors and interpreters consolidated their steps and popularity and in the meantime, the influence of Bossa Nova, Rock and other streams got to the Island. The big Jazz bands decayed and almost disappeared and the genre kept alive in the small groups that played in night clubs and concerts.

In 1963, the first Jazz Festival was celebrated in Cuba in Payret Theatre of Havana City and all the groups, the singers Maggie Prior and Omara Portuondo, and the Jazz band of Leonardo Timor (the only survivor after Armando Romeu abandoned Tropicana Cabaret in 1961) participated in it.

By 1966, new Jazz and Latin Jazz groups appeared, as the ones of Chucho Valdes and Samuell Tellez. At the same time the ICAIC created the ICAIC Sonorous Experimentation Group directed by the composer and guitarist Leo Brower. This group mixed diverse musical genres: Afrocuban, Afrobrazilian, Jazz-Rock, from Asia and Europe.

Then the first Jazz quartets and quintets appeared and they participated in international Jazz Festivals and it was in the jazz Zamboree of Poland where two great Jazz musicians, Gerry Mullingan and Dave Brubeck listened to the quintet of Chucho Valdes.

In 1973 Chucho forms IRAKERE which was highly recognized by great musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Earl Hines, Stan Gets, David Gets, David Amram and the Jazz Historian Leonard Feather.

The next year the Columbia CBS sponsored a trip of IRAKERE around United States and its presentation in International Festival like the ones of Newport and Montreux. With these presentations a disc was recorded and it obtained the Grammy Award in 1979.

IRAKERE reigned in the Afro Cuban Jazz almost with no competence during most of t he 70’s. To the end of this decade, new groups like Afrocuba directed by Nicolas Reinoso and the quintet of Emilio Salvador successfully appeared.

By this time, the pianist Felipe Dulzaides returned to Havana City and he turned the elegant salon of the Riviera Hotel into the meeting center for Jazz musicians.

In 1979 the singer Boy Carcases organized a series of concerts which were the predecessors of the International Jazz Plaza Festival, first celebrated in 1980.

Jazz groups and soloists from Canada, United States, England, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Chile, Australia, Poland, Sweden and other countries participated in them. Important musicians like Dizzy Gillespie and Ronnie Scott have been present in those festivals. The Jazz Plaza Festivals contribute to show to the world a lot of Cuban young musicians who are great interpreters today like: Gonzalito Rubalcaba, Ernan Lopez-Nussa, Pucho Lopez, Javier Zalba, Roberto Alain Fonseca and Robertico Carcases.

Cuban musicians, residents in the Island or not have been nominated in several times or have received Grammy Awards for Latin Jazz; this is the case of the multi winner Chucho Valdes.
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