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11/18/99

A discographic profile of the popular Cuban bandleader, singer and composer.


Profile: Machito by John Child (John_Child@descarga.com)

MACHITO (Francisco Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo) (b Francisco Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo, 16 Feb. '08, Jesús María district, Havana, Cuba, though accounts of his date and place of birth vary; d 15 Apr. '84, London) Bandleader, singer, maracas player, composer. Raised in Cuba, son of cigar manufacturer; as a child sang and danced with father's employees. Met group Sexteto Rendención; they split to form Los Jovenes Rendención, asked him to join on maracas and singing. Worked with several bands '28-37; to NYC singing with La Estrella Habanera; recorded '37-9 with Conjunto Moderno (with whom he made his recording debut), Cuarteto Caney (sides featuring Machito collected on Cuarteto Caney 1939-40 '91, Perfidia '94, both on Tumbao, and Cuarteto Caney 1936-1939 '96 on Harlequin), Orquesta Hatuey; appeared with others incl. Noro Morales (with whom he made his recording debut as a lead singer), Pupi Campo.

Formed band with Mario Bauzá '39, split up; joined Orquesta Siboney led by violinist/reeds player Alberto Iznaga (b 25 Jul. '06, Havana), recorded eight sides with Xavier Cugat, five of which are compiled on Xavier Cugat And His Orchestra 1940-42 '91 on Tumbao. Formed own Afro-Cubans late '40 with trumpets and saxes frontline and Cuban rhythm section: 'The monicker was one of the bravest acts in the history of the civil rights movement,' wrote percussionist Bobby Sanabria. Band debuted at NYC's Park Plaza Ballroom 3 Dec. '40. Bauzá returned as mus. dir. '41-75, introducing jazz innovations. Recorded for Decca '41-2: Machito and his Afro-Cubans - 1941 '89 on Palladium, incl. hit 78 "Sopa de Pichon" (composed by Machito), was a reissue of a Decca 12 inch LP (itself a composite of an eight track 10 inch LP plus four 78 sides all recorded over two sessions '41-2, with timbalero Tito Puente participating in latter); Cuban Rhythms '92 on Tumbao collected Los Reyes del Ritmo and four cuts from Cuban Nights , both Decca 10 inch LPs, by singer Miguelito Valdés (just venturing on a solo career after leaving Cugat) accompanied by Machito and his Afro-Cubans recorded in two days '42 to beat a national musicians strike.

While he was in US Army Apr.-Oct. '43, replaced on lead vocals by Puerto Rican Polito Galíndez (d 22 Feb. '84, Mexico) and sister Graciela Grillo Pérez (b 23 Aug. '15, Jesús María district, Havana; joined all-women Orquesta Anacaona '33; with whom she recorded for RCA '34, performed in NYC '37 and Paris '38); after discharge due to injury, Galíndez departed, Graciela remained until '75. Recorded for Verne, Coda, Continental, Clef, Mercury, etc. '40s: Baila Baila Baila 1943-1948 '99 on Harlequin includes rare transcription sessions made for World Broadcasting System featuring piano solos by Joe Loco (band member summer '43-Dec. '45) and vocals by Galíndez, plus a side from the '42 Decca sessions with Valdés; Guampampiro '97 on Tumbao collects Verne sides '45-7 incl. Valdés singing lead on six tracks; Machito orchestra, along with Tito Rodríguez and Arsenio Rodríguez, accompanied Chano Pozo's vocals and conga playing on his second session for Gabriel Oller's Coda label Feb. '47; this material collected on Legendary Sessions '92 on Tumbao; Freezelandia '97 on Tumbao compiles '47-9 material; Tremendo Cumban '53 on Tropical (Seeco's budget imprint; reissued as Dance Date With Machito '88 on Palladium) was probably earlier Continental sides; "Mucho Macho" Machito '78 on Pablo (reissued '91) collects Clef recordings of band's authentic Afro-Cuban sound '48-9; Machito and his Afro-Cubans '96 on Harlequin compiles transcription discs and a live broadcast '48-50.

Band became key outfit in Afro-Cuban jazz/Cubop movement; played NYC Town Hall concert '47 or '48 (accounts vary), sharing bill with Stan Kenton; Dexter Gordon said to be first jazz musician to solo with band at NYC's Ebony Club c '47; band sessioned with Howard McGhee and Brew Moore on Roost 78 "Cubop City - parts 1 & 2" '48: "arguably the first true Latin jazz recording," wrote John Storm Roberts; with Charlie Parker (see South of the Border) on records such as "Mango Mangüe," "Okidoke" '48-9; 10 inch LP Afro-Cuban Suite '50 also featured Flip Phillips, Buddy Rich, Harry Edison; this material compiled on The Original Mambo Kings - An Introduction To Afro-Cubop '93 on Verve; Cubop City '92 on Tumbao collects sessions recorded at NYC's Royal Roost and Bop City nightclubs '49-50 featuring McGhee, Moore and Phillips; Carambola '92 on Tumbao compiles three live broadcasts from NYC's Birdland club '51 featuring Zoot Sims and Moore.

Signed with Tico/Roulette '54; highly regarded Roulette title Kenya '57 (aka Latin Soul Plus Jazz '73 on Tico), incl. Doc Cheatham, Joe Newman, Cannonball Adderley, Eddie Bert (trombone; b 16 May '22, Yonkers, NY; a Kenton alumnus; later played with Elliot Lawrence, Thad Jones, Mingus, etc), and With Flute To Boot late '58 on Roulette (aka Super Mann on Trip), featuring Herbie Mann, both reissued on Palladium '88-9. Though much of the band's work was not so jazz-oriented, there were fine dance LPs incl. Mambo Holiday '52 on Harmony/Columbia (incl. in recommended collection Tremendo Cumban '91 on Tumbao), This Is Machito and his Afro-Cubans '54 on Seeco (reissued '88 on Palladium as Machito Plays Mambo & Cha Cha Chá ), Cha Cha Chá At The Palladium (reissued on Palladium '88), Asia Minor , Si-Si, No-No , The Sun Also Rises , Mi Amigo, Machito (incl. Ray Santos's glorious "Sunny Ray"), Irving Berlin In Latin America , A Night Out , all on Tico '54-60, Machito At The Concord Hotel late '50s on Coral. During the '50s Machito band performed free gigs in NYC's Central Park in an attempt to pacify youth gang wars.

During early '60s flute and strings dominated charanga/pachanga craze Machito continued churning out brass and reeds-led big band albums on GNP and Tico. Made Machito At The Crescendo and The World's Greatest Latin Band on GNP '61-2 in Hollywood, followed by three Tico LPs '62-3: The New Sound Of Machito , Machito's Variedades!!! (reissued by P-Vine '94) and Tremendo Cumban!! incl. Panamanian reed player Mauricio Smith providing flute solos "as a sop to the pachangueros," according to John Storm Roberts. Band made historic visit to Japan '62. Reunion '63 was a superb reunion with Miguelito Valdés; band backed Puerto Rican songstress Ruth Fernández on Es De Borinquen '63; Graciela was showcased on Esta Es Graciela '64 and on band's Tico finale Intimo y Sentimental '65. Many of the Tico titles have been reissued during the '90s.

Mid-'60s to mid-'70s (period of '66-9 boogaloo fad, then small group dominated típico revival leading to the mid-'70s salsa boom) were relatively lean years with limited recorded output, LPs incl. Mucho Mucho Machito mid-'60s on United Artists (Palladium reissue '89; also issued as Yo Soy La Rumba on WS Latino '93) with revered sonero/composer Marcelino Guerra (he and Galíndez shared lead vocals with the Second Afro-Cubans led by Luis Varona, previously Machito's pianist from Jan. to summer '43; aggregation said to have been organised that year by Bauzá, became Marcelino Guerra Orchestra '45 incl. Doc Cheatham, mus. dir./ arr./ esteemed pianist Gilberto Ayala, a Machito band member from '40 until drafted Jan. '43, when replaced by Varona; some regard the Guerra Orch. as the most outstanding Afro-Cuban big band of the '40s; recorded for Verne and Coda [as Orquesta Batamu]; gigs dried up, Guerra joined Merchant Marine; band became Gilberto Ayala y su Orquesta c '52), Machito Goes Memphis '68 on RCA (Latinized soul hits), Soul Of Machito '69 (P-Vine reissue '94) on George Goldner's hit-making boogaloo/Latin soul Cotique label, Machito '72 on Mericana incl. Alfredo 'Chocolate' Armenteros, arr. by Chico O'Farrill; band backed Tito Rodríguez at his last public appearance '73.

When the salsa boom began, it was pretty much the style he had been playing all along. He also assumed the role of social worker in the early '70s: helping the underprivileged, elderly and drug addicts. Machito band performed O'Farrill's suite "Oro, Incienso y Mirra" with Dizzy Gillespie at NYC's St. Patrick's Cathedral on 5 Jan. '75; later recorded as half of Grammy-nominated Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods '75 on Pablo with Gillespie. Against Bauzá's advice (which he later admitted was erroneous), Machito was persuaded by his son Mario Grillo (timbales player; b 17 Mar. '56, NYC) to organise an octet '75 to replace Ray Barretto for performances in Paris and Hamburg, which successfully paved the way for Afro-Cuban jazz in Europe; split with Bauzá late '75; son Mario replaced Bauza as mus. dir. on Grammy nom. Fireworks '77 on Coco and subsequent albums; further European engagements followed and a record deal with the Dutch Timeless label. Last three LPs Machito and his Salsa Big Band 1982 (won Grammy), Live At North Sea '82 and Machito!!! '83 made in Holland on Timeless, all incl. Chocolate.

Band was in residence at Ronnie Scott's club when he suffered a cardiac arrest, five days later he died of a cerebral haemorrhage. Career commemorated in the film Machito: A Latin Jazz Legacy '87 dir./prod. by Carlos Ortiz, featuring Parker, Puente, Barretto, Gillespie; it premiered at London's NFT Nov. '87 and was broadcast on UK's Channel 4 Jan. '89. Jammin' In The Bronx '96 on Tropijazz features a concert tribute to Machito recorded at the Hostos Community College Arts & Culture Center on 19 Oct. '95 with the Machito Orch. (dir. by Mario Grillo; personnel incl. Chocolate, José Mangual Sr. [1924-1998], Jimmy Bosch, Mauricio Smith, Carlos 'Patato' Valdez), Papo Vásquez Latin Jazz Group and an all-star Latin ensemble incl. Chucho Valdés, Giovanni Hidalgo, Dave Valentín, others.

Coinciding with their 60th anniversary, the Machito Orch. are enjoying a renaissance thanks to the the US Swing revival; and 25 years after first performing in Europe, Mario Grillo will be taking the rich Machito legacy into the new millennium with a scheduled tour incl. dates in Amsterdam, Paris, Hamburg, Helsinki, Stockholm and Copenhagen during Jan./Feb. 2000.

(John Storm Roberts' quotes from his book Latin Jazz '99)


-This is a revised version of one of over 130 Latin music entries written by John Child (John_Child@descarga.com) for The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 2nd Edition, edit. Donald Clarke; Penguin Books; 1998; 1524 pages; US$22.95, UK£16.99.

They are published on the Descarga website by kind permission of Mr. Donald Clarke.



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