Mario Bauzá was born on April 28, 1911 in Havana, Cuba and was classically trained. By age nine he was playing clarinet in the Havana Philharmonic Orchestra and would stay there for the next three years. In 1925 he ventured to New York to record with Maestro Antonio Maria Romeu’s band “Charanga Francesca”. He was fourteen. Five years later he returned to New York and reputedly learned to play trumpet in two weeks to become a part of the Don Azpiazu Orchestra.
Bauzá became lead trumpeter and musical director for Chick Webb’s Orchestra by 1933, and it was during his time with Webb that Bauzá both met fellow trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and discovered and brought into the band singer Ella Fitzgerald. 1938 saw Bauzá joining Cab Calloway’s band, later convincing Calloway to hire Dizzy as well, with whom Bauzá would continue to collaborate even several years after he left Calloway’s band in 1940. The fusion of Bauzá’s Cuban musical heritage and Gillespie’s advancements in bebop eventually culminated in the development of cubop, one of the first forms of what is commonly referred to as Latin jazz.
Bauzá became musical director of Machito and his Afro-Cubans in 1941, a band led by his brother-in-law, Frank Grillo, also known as Machito, and in 1942 he brought a young timbales player named Tito Puente into the fold. For the next 30 years Bauzá remained director of the band up until 1976 where he began working sparingly leading his own Afro-Cuban orchestra through the eighties and into the early 90s, where his last band made a guest appearance on The Cosby Show.
Mario Bauzá, who died in New York City on July 11, 1993, was one of the first musicians to introduce Latin music to the United States by bringing Cuban musical styles into the New York jazz scene. He was one of the most influential figures in the development of Afro-Cuban music, and his innovative work and musical contributions have many jazz historians to call him the “Founding Father of Latin Jazz”.
Omar Sosa was born on April 10, 1965 in Camaguey, Cuba and began studying marimba at age eight, then switched to piano and studied jazz while attending the Escuela Nacional de Musica in Havana.
In 1993 Omar moved to Quito, Ecuador, then San Francisco, California two years later. The following years saw him deeply involved in the local Latin jazz scene and a long collaboration with percussionist John Santos. He made a series of recordings with producer Greg Landau, including the groundbreaking Oaktown Irawo, featuring Tower of Power drummer Dave Garibaldi, Cuban saxophonist Yosvany Terry and Cuban percussionist Jesus Diaz.
Omar works outside jazz and Afro-Cuban traditions incorporating Latin rhythms, North African percussions, spoken word, rap and classical music. He music ranges from big band, improvisation and world to free jazz and avant-garde.
Pianist, composer and bandleader Omar Sosa has recorded with Carlos “Patato” Valdes, Pancho Quinto and numerous world musicians, worked on several film scores, moved to Barcelona, Spain and won The 10th Annual Independent Music Awards in the Jazz Album category for Ceremony in 2011.
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