Bebo Valdés was born Dionisio Ramón Emilio Valdés Amaro on October 9, 1918 in Quivicán, Cuba. He started his career as a pianist in the nightclubs of Havana during the 1940s, replacing René Hernández as pianist and arranger in Julio Cueva’s band. In 1946 the band recorded Rareza del Siglo, one of his most famous mambos and from 1948 to 1957 he worked as pianist and arranger for the vedette Rita Montaner, who was the lead act in the Tropicana cabaret.
His orchestra, Sabor de Cuba, and that of Armando Valdés, alternated at the Tropicana, backing singers such as Benny Moré and Pío Leyva. Bebo played a role in the adaptation of the mambo into the big band format from the previously performed charangas during the late 1940s and 1950s. He developed a new rhythm to compete with Perez Prado’s mambo, called the batanga. He was also an important figure in the incipient Afro-Cuban jazz scene in Havana, taking part in sessions commissioned by American producer Norman Granz during 1952.
By the late 1950s he was recording with Nat “King” Cole and in 1960, along with Sabor de Cuba’s lead vocalist Rolando Laserie, Bebo defected from Cuba to Mexico. He then lived briefly in the United States before touring Europe, and eventually settled in Stockholm, spreading the techniques of Cuban music and Latin jazz. His career got a late boost in 1994 when he teamed up with saxophone player Paquito D’Rivera to release a CD called Bebo Rides Again. 2000 saw him in the film Calle 54 by Fernando Trueba giving his piano playing a wider audience and in 2003, Valdés and flamenco singer Diego El Cigala, recorded the album Lágrimas Negras (Black Tears).
During his career Bebo won seven Grammy Awards, His last musical production was recorded with his son in 2008, Bebo y Chucho Valdés: Juntos para Siempre (Together Forever). For that recording they won the Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Album.
Pianist, bandleader, composer and arranger Bebo Valdés, who led two famous big bands, was being treated for Alzheimer’s disease, which he had suffered for several years, when he passed away in Stockholm, Sweden, on March 22, 2013 at age 94.
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Jorge Dalto was born on July 7, 1948 in Roque Pérez, Argentina. During the mid-80s Jorge led the InterAmerican Band featuring his wife, Adela, on vocals. He continued to build his internationally-flavored sound, and collaborations with his wife blended their Latin and Brazilian backgrounds. He served as arranger for the Percussion Jazz Ensemble with Tito Puente, Carlos “Patato” Valdes and Alfredo De La Fe.
As a leader he recorded six albums since his debut recording Chevere in 1976 and another dozen as a sideman performing and recording with Tito Puente, Grover Washington, Fuse One, Spyro Gyra, George Benson, Dizzy Gillespie and Machito, Grant Green, Heaven and Earth, Willie Colón, Gato Barbieri, Bernard Purdie, Ronnie Foster, Tom Malone, Jerry Dodgion, Ernie Royal, Victor Paz, Rubén Blades, David Sanborn, Eric Gale, Steve Gadd, Bob Mintzer, Alan Rubin, Dave Valentin, Jay Beckenstein, Carlos Valdes, Buddy Williams, Stanley Banks, Phil Upchurch, Hubert Laws, Michael Brecker, Randy Brecker, Anthony Jackson, Harvey Mason and Frank Malabé.
Pop, jazz and Afro-Cuban pianist and former George Benson musical director Jorge Dalto passed away of cancer at the age of 39 on October 27, 1987.
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Irvin Mayfield, Jr. was born on born December 23, 1977 in New Orleans, Louisiana, the youngest of five brothers, three half-brothers and a half-sister. He received his first trumpet when he was in the fourth grade, asking his father for one after seeing the success a friend of his was having with girls by playing the instrument. Early in his public school education, he befriended fellow schoolmate Jason Marsalis. As a young man he attended and graduated from New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, declined a scholarship to Juilliard School of Music to attend the University of New Orleans, then dropped out during his first semester.
Mayfield began his musical career during the latter half of the 1980s, playing with the Algiers Brass Band, shared a New York City apartment with Wynton Marsalis for a brief period and helped found Los Hombres Calientes with Bill Summers, Jason Marsalis, Victor Atkins III, David Pulphus, and Yvette-Bostic Summers. Signing with Basin Street Records, the groups debut album garnerd much success and Irvin received national recognition.
As an educator Mayfield would go on to be an artist-in-residence and establish the Institute of Jazz Culture at Dillard University, found the sixteen-piece New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, accept a one-year appointment as Artistic Director of Jazz at Orchestra Hall, the five-concert jazz series of the Minnesota Orchestra, received The Chancellor’s Award from the University of New Orleans, and awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Dillard University,
Over the course of his still vibrant career, Mayfield has been a part of the Higher GroundHurricane Relief Benefit Concert in the aftermath of Katrina, and was nominated to the National Council on the Arts by President George W. Bush and was subsequently appointed to the post by President Obama in 2010, serving through 2014. He has performed at the White House and festivals around the country, was made a Cultural Ambassador of the City of New Orleans, has a club named after him in the Royal Sonesta Hotel and has recorded to date, twenty-five albums.
Grammy and Billboard Award-winning trumpeter Irvin Mayfield currently serves as Jazz Artist in Residence for the Apollo Theater, is Artistic Director of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and continues to perform, record and tour with his small groups and occasionally with Los Hombres Calientes.
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Robby Ameen was born on December 7, 1960 in New Haven, Connecticut of Lebanese origins and studied drums with Ed Blackwell and classical percussion with Fred Hinger. He would go on to graduate from Yale with a degree in Literature.
In 1985 he became a member of Ruben Blades’ Seis del Solar band, winning a Latin Grammy for best Salsa record Todos Vuelven Live, Vol. 1 and 2. He would have long-term residencies with Dave Valentin, Conrad Herwig’s Latin Side of…All Stars, Kip Hanrahan, and Jack Bruce and the Cuicoland Express. As a sideman he has recorded on other Grammy winning records including Ruben Blades and Seis del Solar’s Escenas and Brian Lynch’s Simpatico.
Robby has played with Dizzy Gillespie, Eddie Palmieri, Paul Simon, Mongo Santamaria, Carly Simon, Hilton Ruiz, Kirsty MacColl and Steve Swallow among others. As a session musician Ameen has recorded numerous jingles, film scores, and TV music, including the popular HBO series Sex and the City. In 2012, Ameen was the subject on an episode of the Emmy Award-winning Detroit Public Television series Arab American Stories.
As an educator, he co-authored with bassist Lincoln Goines the best-selling instructional book Funkifying the Clave: Afro-Cuban drums for Bass and Drums. He is an international clinician, percussion/drum festival participant and is currently on the faculty at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. Drummer and bandleader Robby Ameen is best known for the unique and powerful Afro-Cuban style he has created and is regarded as one of the world’s most prominent drummers in the area of Latin Jazz.
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Dizzy Gillespie was born John Birks Gillespie on October 21, 1917 in Cheraw, South Carolina, the youngest of nine children of James and Lottie Gillespie. His father, a local bandleader, made instruments available to the children. He started playing the piano at the age of four and taught himself how to play the trombone as well as the trumpet by the age of twelve. From the night he heard his idol, Roy Eldridge, play on the radio, he dreamed of becoming a jazz musician. Receiving a music scholarship to the Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina, he attended for two years before accompanying his family when they moved to Philadelphia.
Gillespie’s first professional job was with the Frank Fairfax Orchestra in 1935, after which he joined the respective orchestras of Edgar Hayes and Teddy Hill, essentially replacing Roy Eldridge as first trumpet in 1937 and making his first recording as part of the band on King Porter Stomp. He would move on to play with Cab Calloway, alongside Cozy Cole, Milt Hinton and Jonah Jones until an altercation with Calloway got him fired. During his period he started writing big band music for bandleaders like Woody Herman and Jimmy Dorsey while freelancing with a few bands – most notably Ella Fitzgerald’s orchestra, comprised of members of the late Chick Webb’s band, in 1942. Avoiding service in World War II, he joined the Earl Hines band followed by a stint with Billy Eckstine’s big band, got reunited with Charlie Parker and finally left to play with a small combo of quintet size.
A forerunner of the evolution of bebop along with Parker, Monk, Bud Powell, Kenny Clarke, and Oscar Pettiford, Dizzy helped shape a new vocabulary of musical phrases. They jammed at Minton’s Playhouse and Monroe’s Uptown House with compositions like Groovin’ High, Woody ‘n’ You, Salt Peanuts and A Night In Tunisia that also introduced Afro-Cuban rhythms.
As an educator Gillespie taught or influenced many of the young musicians on 52nd Street including Miles Davis, Max Roach, Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, Chuck Mangione and even balladeer Johnny Hartman about the new style of jazz, but after ambivalent or hostile reception in Billy Berg’s Los Angeles club, he decided to lead his own big band, though unsuccessful at his first attempt in 1945. He went on to work with Milt Jackson, John Coltrane, Lalo Schifrin, Ray Brown, Kenny Clarke, James Moody, J.J. Johnson and Yusef Lateef, whole appearing as a soloist for Norman Granz’s Jazz at the Philharmonic.
In 1948 Dizzy lost his ability to hit the B-flat above high C due to an automobile hitting the bicycle he was riding. He won the case, but the jury awarded him only $1000, in view of his high earnings up to that point. Not to be sidelined, he went on tour for the State Department earning himself the title Ambassador of Jazz. His new big band would tour the U.S. and record a live album at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival and featured pianist Mary Lou Williams.
Dizzy immersed himself in the Afro-Cuban movement and hired Chano Pozo and Mario Bauza to play in his bands on 52nd Street, the Palladium and the Apollo Theater. He co-wrote with Pozo the songs Manteca and Tin Tin Deo, commissioned George Russell’s Cubano Be, Cubano Bop, and discovered Arturo Sandoval while on a music researching trip to Cuba.
As his tone gradually faded in the last years in life his performances often focused more on his protégés, such as, Arturo Sandoval and Jon Faddis, all the while keeping his good-humored comedic routines a part of his live act. Dizzy would go on to give 300 performances in 27 countries, appeared in 100 U.S. cities in 31 states and the District of Columbia, headline three television specials, performed with two symphonies, and recorded four albums.
Gillespie put himself on the ballot as a write-in candidate of the 1964 Presidential election, published his autobiography, To Be or Not To Bop, was a vocal fixture in many of the John & Faith Hubley’s animated films, such as The Hole, The Hat and Voyage to Next. He led the United Nation Orchestra, toured with Flora Purim and David Sanchez in his band, received Grammy nominations, guested on The Muppet Show, Sesame Street and The Cosby Show and had a cameo on Stevie Wonder’s hit Do I Do and Quincy Jones’ Back On The Block.
Inducted into the Down Beat Magazine’s Jazz Hall of Fame, Dizzy was also honored by being crowned a traditional chief in Nigeria, received the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from France, and was named Regent Professor by the university of California, received fourteen honorary doctorates, received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the Polar Music Prize, a Hollywood Walk of Fame Star, the Kennedy Center Honors Award, and the Ameican Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Duke Ellington Award for 50 years of achievement. Composer, performer, bandleader and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie passed away of pancreatic cancer on January 6, 1993 in Englewood, New Jersey at the age of 75. In 2014, Gillespie was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
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