Mambo Madness with the Spanish Harlem Orchestra

July 25, 2013
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Spanish Harlem Orchestra photo credit:  Atael Weissman/ Latin Jazz Network

Spanish Harlem Orchestra
photo credit: Atael Weissman/ Latin Jazz Network

This Sunday, July 28, the award-winning Spanish Harlem Orchestra presents a dance concert in the Sculpture Garden of the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, CA.

<--break->Titled “Remembering the Palladium Days,”  the show is a tribute to the great mambo/Latin jazz bands that packed New York City’s Palladium Ballroom with dancers from 1948 to 1966.  The bands of Arsenio Rodriguez, Tito Puente, Machito and Tito Rodriguez popularized dances like the mambo and the cha cha cha at the Palladium’s Wednesday night dance contests, and the dance craze spread from there to the rest of the US.  By the late 1950s, nearly every middle-class home in America had at least one mambo record.

The Spanish Harlem Orchestra (SHO) played Jazz Alley in Seattle this past May to sold-out crowds.  Here’s more about the band in a nicely done video from WHYY.

Listen for the SHO and more on Jazz Caliente, Thursdays at 2pm on KPLU’s Mid Day Jazz…and don’t forget your dancing shoes!


Jazz Caliente celebrates Jazz April

April 18, 2013
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Tito Puente  1923-2000 credit:

Tito Puente 1923-2000

We’ve been celebrating Jazz April (Jazz Appreciation Month + International Jazz Day April 30) by posting birthday remembrances of the legendary jazz artists who were born this month.

Latin Jazz innovators, percussionists and bandleaders are well-represented in April too:  Tito Puente, pictured above, was born on April 20, 1923.  Others include Mongo Santamaria 4/7/17, Candido Camero 4/22/21, and Ray Barretto 4/29/29.

Here they all are for your listening and dancing pleasure:

Listen for the Latin Jazz masters on Jazz Caliente, Thursdays at 2pm on KPLU’s Mid Day Jazz!

Latin Jazz Birthday: Willie Bobo

February 28, 2013
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Willie Bobo
credit:, Mosaic Images

Willie Bobo  1934-1983

William Correa was born to Puerto Rican parents in Brooklyn, and was raised surrounded by music in El Barrio.

At 14 he began learning to play bongos, later graduating to conga, timbales and trap drums.  In the late 1940s, when the Machito orchestra played at various New York venues , Willie became his bandboy just so he could gain admission.  Willie would often sit in on bongos during the last set of the night.   When Cuban percussionists Mongo Santamaría and Armando Peraza came to the United States, Bobo’s serious drum studies began.

“I was Mongo’s English interpreter…in return he showed me the different shades of sounds the drum is capable of producing.”

His childhood nickname was “Babalu.”  During a recording session with jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams she called him “Willie Bobo” and the name stuck.

He went on to work with Tito Puente, George Shearing,  and Cal Tjader before starting his own band to make the 1960s Latin boogaloo hits “Spanish Grease” and “Fried Neckbones.”   In 1969 he surprised everyone by moving to the West Coast.  He became a regular on Bill Cosby’s TV shows, and one of his last appearances featured Cosby at the 1983 Playboy Jazz Festival.

Listen for Willie Bobo and more on Jazz Caliente, Thursdays at 2pm on KPLU’s Mid Day Jazz.

Posted with thanks to Max Salazar and Latin Beat Magazine.

A Cuban Christmas

December 20, 2012
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Noche Buena Bailable Cubana

Christmas Eve is celebrated in Cuba, not Christmas Day.  

It’s called Noche Buena, and it includes food, music, dancing and gatherings.

A traditional Cuban Noche Buena feast consists of plenty of roast pig (yes, a whole one), black beans and rice, fried plantains and yucca with garlic.  To wash it all down:  mojitos, cuba libres, or a sidra (sparkling hard cider).  Desserts include rice pudding and rum cake.  I can feel the food coma starting already.

Music-wise, before the Castro years, Cuban bands simply mambo-fied the Christmas standards.  Of late, good Latin Jazz Christmas recordings are sadly few and far between.  You’ll hear Christmas tunes from one of the best collections featuring Arturo Sandoval, Sheila E. and Poncho Sanchez on Jazz Caliente this Thursday afternoon at 2pm on KPLU’s  Mid Day Jazz.

In the meantime, enjoy this song about going into the forest to find a Christmas tree (“Arbolito”) from Tito Puente and Cuba’s Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz.

Feliz Navidad!

Timbales provide the beat for Cuban dances

November 1, 2012
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Bobby Sanabria on timbales
credit: TOM EHRLICH © 2008

The drums known as timbales are yet another example of the uniquely Cuban inclination to mix European instrumentation with African rhythms.  Timbales fuel Cuban dances like the Danzón and the Mambo, and are widely used in Salsa music, Latin jazz and rock.

Timbales evolved from the European tympani, as a more portable version of the kettle-drum.  They’re tunable, played with sticks or hands, and you can play the shells, too–they even have a name for the specific rhythm played on the outside of the drum:  cáscara (shell, husk).

Timbale sets include the larger drum called the hembra (female), the smaller drum called the macho (male) and usually have at least one cowbell and a cymbal attached to the stand.

Here’s a lesson from the very talented George Ortiz, timbalero for Poncho Sanchez’s band:

And Tito Puente, El Rey (the King) of Timbales, shows us all how it’s done:

Hear timbales, Poncho Sanchez, Tito Puente and more on Jazz Caliente, Thursdays at 2pm on KPLU’s Mid Day Jazz.

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    Robin’s Nest

    A blog about Jazz, Blues, Latin Jazz, New Orleans, musician's stories and more. My name is Robin Lloyd and I've been involved in jazz radio and the music business for over 30 years. This is my personal blog.

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