We all know that Jazz was created and cultivated in the United States and that Latin Jazz was created from the mind of Mario Buaza, before co-forming the Afro Cubans with Frank Grillo ‘Machito’ in the late 40’s. Latin Jazz was introduced through the music of Chano Pozo in the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra with the world famous song “Manteca”. In Cuba the mixture of Jazz with Latin instruments came in the form of Bebo Valdes and later the Cuban Jam Sessions of the late 50’s well after Afro Cuban Jazz had been introduced in the states by Machito & The Afro Cubans. Latin Jazz became a rage with Jazz musicians in the 50’s and 60’s basically by adding one Latin percussionist. Some of these musicians included Candido, Ray Barretto, Francisco Aguabella, Patato, Carlos Vidal, Armando Peraza, Ray Mantilla, as well as others.
Tito Puente, Cal T’Jader, Mongo Santamaria, Candido, Noro Morales, Chico O’Farrill and many others would start to record full LP’s in this exciting genre and while many Latinos, like Ray Barretto insisted that it was all Jazz, the ‘jazzers’ knew it was Latin Jazz (with the use of congas and/or bongos). Meanwhile, there was a different Latin Jazz coming out of places like Brazil that did not use Latin percussion but being from a Latin country was considered Latin Jazz also. For me that is Jazz and not Latin Jazz for the purpose of my article. If Latin Jazz was Jazz then why weren’t Latinos getting equal airplay at Jazz radio stations?
Tracking and writing about Latin Jazz since the 80’s I saw the re-birth of Latin Jazz with Salsa musicians, from the Salsa Romantica era, looking for a way to voice their instrument and stretch themselves as musicians and turning to Latin Jazz. You now had Irakere (probably one of the greatest Latin Jazz bands of all time and what I call the University of Latin Jazz with the alumni that included Chucho Valdes, Paquito D’ Rivera and Arturo Sandoval), from Cuba, making a big name for themselves by being signed to CBS Records. By the 80’s Concord Records had one of the next big names, from the Cal T’Jader band, named Poncho Sanchez and independents surfaced like Papo Vazquez, Dave Valentin (for so many years with the GRP label), Ray Vega, Bongo Logic, Shades Of Jade and Bobby Matos. Many non-Latinos recorded Latin Jazz throughout the decades and some have spent their careers doing Latin Jazz like Pucho & The Latin Soul Brothers, Clare Fischer, Dave Samuels, Steve Khan
Each year since the mid-80’s we have seen some great Latin Jazz recordings done by both Latinos and non-Latinos and over the last few years we have been seeing the ratio of Latino and non-Latinos very close to even.
We also have been seeing a huge absence of the artists we had grown to seeing on a regular basis originally on the record shelves but now mostly online. We see re-issues from time to time but where are the constant names we all loved like Papo Vazquez, Ray Mantilla, Arturo Sandoval, Paquito D’ Rivera, Chembo Corniel, Bobby Sanabria, John Santos, Nestor Torres, Giovanni Hidalgo, Hilario Duran, Little Johnny Rivero, Oskar Cartaya, Bobby Rodriguez, Julio Padron, Ray Vega, Rebeca Mauleon, Jane Bunnett, David Sanchez, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Edy Martinez, Johnny Blas, Irakere, Mango, Tito D’ Gracia, Tony Lujan, Mitch Frohman (alone or with his Bronx Horns), Brian Lynch, Conrad Herwig, Pete Rodriguez, Chuchito Valdes, Ralph Irizarry, Arturo Stable, Steve Kroon, Eliseo Borrero, Charlie Sepulveda, Arturo O’Farrill and his Big Band, Miguel Zenon, Calixto Oviedo, Henry Brun & The Latin Playerz, Pedro Guzman, Orlando Poleo, Pete Escovedo, Willie Rodriguez, Mark Levine, Snowboy & The Latin Section, Sammy Figueroa, Luis Marin, Edsel Gomez, Yosvany Terry, Elio Villafranca, Mike Freeman, Chris Washburne & S.Y.O.T.O.S., Manuel Valera, Harvey Swartz, the Estrada Brothers, Luis Conte, Luis Perdomo, Wendell Rivera, Victor Rendon, Susie Hansen, Luis Bonilla, Jazz On The Latin side all Stars, Paoli Mejias, Andy Duran, Steve Turre and so many more that can be present with all the new recordings that are coming out.
You have so many Salseros that have done Latin Jazz like Oscar Hernandez, Joe Gonzalez (just this year), Tommy Villariny del Sur Al Norte, Edwin Clemente, Jose Luis Cortes, Enrique Lazaga (just this year), Papo Lucca, Artie Webb, Raul Agraz, Andy Gonzalez, Bobby Valentin, Pedro Bermudez
With all that said we do see some awesome recordings coming out each year from legendary names along with the new artists and this year is no different. This year’s list has 9 debuts, first time Salseros Machito Jr, and Enrique Lazaga recorded Latin Jazz and 8 were non-Latinos.
Here are the 2019 Best Latin Jazz CD’s we heard this year:
1-Carlos Henriquez- Dizzy Con Clave
2-Siguarajazz- De Pelicula
3-John Rodriguez- Brutal
4-Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet- The Rhythm Of Invention
5-Oscar Hernandez & Alma Libre- Love The Moment
6-Poncho Sanchez- Trane’s Delight
7-Chucho Valdes- Bata Jazz 2
8-Bill O’Connell and The Afro Caribbean Ensemble- Wind Off The Hudson
9-Steve Khan- Patchwork
10-Gunter Brock- Entre Amigos
11-Machito Jr. & Cubology- For My Grandsons
12-GC and The Cuban Cowboys
13-Michel Camilo- Essence
14-Joe Gonzalez- 62nd & 10th
15-Carlos Sarduy- Luz
16-El Comite- So What?
17-Andy Williams & Alabama All Stars- De La Habana A Alabama
18-Patricio Bonilla- Volando Bajito
19-Classico Latino- Havana Classico
20-Samuel Torres- Alegria
21-Humberto Ramirez- 8 Doors
22-Trombeatz- A Caribbean Thing
23-Ryan Timoffe Timba Jazz- Cuban Safari
24-Cuban Jazz Report
25-Juan Alamo & Marijazz- Ruta Panoramica
27-Chemi Nakai- Ascendent
28-The Cuban Latin Jazz- Juntos Por Siempre
29-Owen Watt & Bobby Carcasses- Carlito’s Tune
30-Sr. Ortegon- The Latin Experience