Mario Bauzá [1911-1993]
Born in Cuba, Mario Bauzá was a child prodigy on the clarinet. As a 9-year-old, he played in the Havana Philharmonic and also performed with popular dance bands.
Bauzá first traveled to New York for a recording session in 1925 and returned there in 1930 to play trumpet with Cuban bandleader Don Aspiazu. He is said to have learned to play the trumpet in just a few weeks in order to take the job with Aspiazu.
In New York, Bauzá caught the attention of jazz musicians and soon got gigs with local Jazz bands, including those of Noble Sissle, Chick Webb, Fletcher Henderson, and Cab Calloway, playing both saxophone and trumpet. He helped trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie get a job in Cab Calloway’s band and the two musicians formed a close friendship. Bauzá recommended that Gillespie recruit Cuban drummer Chano Pozo for his own band and the three of them collaborated to develop a style called “cubop” (Afro-Cuban music mixed with bebop).
Bauzá is best known for his work with Machito and his Afro-Cubans, a band led by his brother in law, Frank “Machito” Grillo. As musical director from 1941 to 1976, Bauzá helped them to shape a unique synthesis of jazz and Afro-Cuban dance music. One of Machito’s biggest hits, Tanga, was composed and arranged by Bauzá.
Mario Bauzá continued to perform, arrange, direct and mentor younger generations of musicians until his death in 1993.