North America / United States / New York
Mario Bauza, Pioneer of Afro-Cuban jazz in New York, Clarinetist, saxophonist, trumpeter and arranger
Mario Bauzá (Havana, April 28, 1911 – Manhattan, July 11, 1993) was a Cuban saxophonist, clarinetist, trumpeter, arranger and composer.
Known above all for having been the musical director of the Machito orchestra (of whom he was also a brother-in-law), he was a pioneer of what is now known as Afro-Cuban jazz.
Bauzá played the clarinet in the Havana Philharmonic Orchestra. However, after traveling to New York in 1927 with the Antonio María Romeu orchestra, he was so impressed by the Big Bands of Paul Whiteman, Fletcher Henderson and Tommy Dorsey, and by the Harlem music revues, that in 1930 he decided to emigrate definitively to USA.
During the trip, he became friends with Antonio Machín. Mario Bauzá would return on the same boat in which Don Aspiazu’s orchestra was travelling, who immediately began the arrangements to record El manisero.
Upon arriving in New York, Bauzá went to live in Harlem with his cousin, the trumpeter René Endreira. Bauzá began playing the saxophone at house parties with pianist Lucky Roberts and began to absorb African-American culture.
Between 1930 and 1931, he was a trumpeter in the Antonio Machín quartet and made important recordings with this group in New York City. Anecdotally, it is said that he had learned to play the trumpet in just two weeks.
His first jobs were with the orchestras of Cass Carr, Noble Sissle and Sam Wooding.
In 1933 he entered Chick Webb’s orchestra as first trumpet, where he ended up as music director. He then worked with Don Redman and Fletcher Henderson, eventually landing Cab Calloway.
Being in that band, Mario brought the young trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie to the orchestra.
Bauzá married Estela Gutiérrez, sister of Francisco Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo, known as Machito.
On December 3, 1940, he debuted with Machito at the Park Plaza, a dance hall, with the Afro-Cubans, later working for almost four years at the La Conga club.
Bauzá works for Machito as artistic director, taking care of the arrangements and hiring the musicians.
The style of the Afro-Cubans mixes the son montuno of Cuba with features of swing bands.
Thanks to this, musicians like Dizzy Gillespie or James Moody introduced Afro-Cuban rhythms into jazz, starting in 1947.
He became interested in jazz when he heard Frankie Trumbauer play the saxophone performing Rhapsody in blue with the Paul Whiteman orchestra.
In the forties, Mario will develop the sound of Afro-Cuban jazz. His work as a clarinetist, trumpeter, saxophonist and arranger in the Machito orchestra constitutes one of the main pillars in the emergence and development of that Cuban genre.