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4/23/00

A discographic profile of the much respected Panamanian Flautist, reeds player, musical director, composer, arranger, guitarist, keyboardist, percussionist and chorus singer.


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

SMITH, Mauricio

(b 11 July '31, Colón, Panama; father Trinidadian, mother Panamanian) Flautist, reeds player, musical director (for other leaders and occasionally himself), composer, arranger, guitarist, keyboardist, percussionist and chorus singer; equally at home in various genres, incl. classical, Latin, calypso, jazz, R&B, pop, show music, movie scores, zouk and compas. His work as a leader and mus. dir. in the Latin field tends to incorporate his diverse influences, particularly from his R&B and jazz experience, whilst remaining firmly anchored to his Afro-Latin/Caribbean roots. Began flute tuition at age seven with his dad David Nathaniel Smith, flautist with the Colón Classical Orchestra; started formal music studies in sixth grade, playing trumpet. Opted for a musical career '49, returning to flute tuition in earnest; soon joined Colón's fire department band and subsequently commenced nightclub work as a saxophonist. Continued formal music education at the National Conservatory of Music '51; performed with the Banda Republicana and sundry dance orchestras. Organised the Onda Popular Orchestra. Became a much in demand musician in various fields, working with international Latin names like Miguelito Valdés, Vicentico Valdés, Beny Moré and Rolando La Serie as well as local folkloric artists. Made debut LP Mauricio Smith y su Quinteto '58.

Relocated to NYC '61 during the flute and strings dominated charanga/ pachanga craze; initial gig there was in a calypso band with compatriot Frank Anderson on keyboard. Shortly afterwards he gigged with Lou Pérez's charanga band. Recruited to the Machito band; provided flute and solos to their Tico albums The New Sound Of Machito (reissued '95), Machito's Variedades!!! (featuring Anderson on organ; entire LP incl. in CD Ritmo Pa' Gozar '96 on Caney) and Tremendo Cumban!! '62-3. Made Latin fusion solo album Flauta Nova '62 on Tico featuring the stunning "Doug's Room" co-authored by Smith and Mario Bauzá. ("Doug's Room" had a new lease of life in Japanese and UK clubs during the '90s because of its inclusion in the outstanding Suite Espagnole 1 '94, the first in a series of Japanese compilations on P-Vine.) Played flute on two tracks on Mongo Santamaría's Watermelon Man '63 on Battle (recorded Feb. '63). Lead a shortlived organ trio before a brief stint with the Tito Rodríguez orchestra. "I joined Tito Rodríguez in July '63 and was musical director when we played for a show at the Puerto Rico theatre in the Bronx," remembers Smith. "I recorded one 45 with Tito Rodríguez that was not released. I quit the band in December '63 to join César Concepción in Puerto Rico as lead alto and arranger. However I did not record with César Concepción. While in Puerto Rico in 1964 I played with the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra and the Philharmonic. I went back to New York in October 1964. Joined with Machito for a tour of South America, December '64 to March '65. When Tito Rodríguez broke up his band he called me to play with him with my band to accompany him wherever he played, we did Puerto Rico summer of '66 and '67 and also concerts in Chicago." Released another solo project, the pop LP Bitter Acid '66 on Mainstream produced by Joe Cain. Sessioned on Candido's Brujer’as' de Candido/ Candido's Latin McGuffa's Dust c '66 on Tico. Participated in producer Al Santiago's unreleased avant-garde Four Bass Hit Latin jam session mid-'60s and his adventurous production Saxofobia Vol.1 '71 on Mañana (reissued as part of Saxofobia Plus '93 on Mucho Music) by Orlando Marín's band "La Saxofónica" featuring a five saxophone frontline; Smith doubled on flute and wrote two charts. Sessioned on Mongo Santamaría's Soul Bag c '68 on Columbia: "Playing flute duets with Hubert Laws on the Fifth Dimension tune 'Up, Up And Away'," adds Smith.

He guested on flute on Louie Ramírez's notable Típico '74 on UA Latino (reissued '98 on WS Latino). Returned to the Machito band for the two Grammy-nominated albums Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods '75 on Pablo with Dizzy Gillespie (Chico O'Farrill conducted and arr.) and Fireworks '77 on Coco. Played triangle (!) on Puerto Rican bandleader/ trumpeter Louie Colón's Pelu y Pelao c '75 on El Sonido (later contributed a chart to Louie Colón '80 on TH). Became mus. dir. and sideman with fellow Panamanian Azuquita's band Melao, working on the funk tinged Pura Salsa '75 on Vaya (LP featured Kako, Barry Rogers and Louie Ramírez; Smith wrote all the arrs. and co-authored the notable cut "California"), Salsa En Vivo '80 on Az (a live recording in Paris), Salsa Internacional 83 '83 on Polydor (half recorded in Paris; Smith penned three charts) and 2 Campeones '84 on Celluloid, a collaboration with Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran with three arrs. by Smith. Played flute on Louie Ramírez y sus Amigos '78 on Cotique, providing a solo to a cover of the Beatles song "Because" (arr. as a Cuban danzón by Sonny Bravo); album featured lead singers Azuquita, Adalberto Santiago and future Panamanian superstar Rubén Blades. Sessioned on Willie Colón's Fania productions El Baquine de Angelitos Negros '77 (TV salsa ballet soundtrack conducted by Marty Sheller), Solo '79, Grammy nominated Corazón Guerrero '82 and Tiempo Pa' Matar '84. Played on and arr. the romántico B side of Jimmy Sabater'sTo Be With You (song can be heard on Joe Cuba Presents the Velvet Voice of Jimmy Sabater, among other albums) '77 on Salsa; the album incl. complete Latin Hustle dance instructions! (A common link between the albums Típico , Pelu y Pelao , Pura Salsa and To Be With You was producer Bobby Marín.) Guested on Fuego '77 '78 on Alegre by the young band of the same name; this Al Santiago production marked the recording debut of future Libre and Jimmy Bosch lead vocalist Frankie Vázquez. During the charanga explosion in the second half of the '70s Smith played flute on the Orquesta Novel albums Salud, Dinero y Amor and Canta y Encanta '78-9 and produced Charanga America's debut album George Maysonet and Charanga America '78 on El Sonido, which spawned the big hit "Ayudame San Antonio." He played clarinet in the style of '30s-40s calypso on Knockdown Calypsoes '79 (reissued '90) on Rounder by Trinidadian calypsonian Growling Tiger (b Neville Marcano, 5 Mar. '16, Diego Martin, Trinidad; d '93, Trinidad). Smith comments: "After recording with Tiger, I recorded with and did arrangements for many other calypso and soca artists like Arrow, etc." New York made soca albums often lack full personnel details; those crediting Smith on sax incl. Nature '82 by Explainer (b Winston Henry, 13 Nov. '48, East Dry River, Port of Spain, Trinidad) and Dance Anyway You Want '82 and Party In Space '83 by King Swallow (b Rupert Philo, c '42, Willikies, Antigua), all on Charlie's.

He arr. and conducted the standout track "Africa Linda" on Tito Puente's Ce' Magnifique '81 on Tico, one of four compositions contributed by the album's lead vocalist Azuquita. ("With Tito Puente I did a few tours to the West Coast and to Panama," recalls Smith.) Sessioned on La India de Oriente '81 on Guajiro (whole LP incl. in CD Lo Mejor de La India de Oriente, Vol. 1 '91 on SAR/ Guajiro) by veteran female Cuban singer La India de Oriente (arr./ piano: Alfredo Valdés Jr.; prod./ hand percussion: Roberto Torres); Close Encounters Of The Latin Kind '81 on Neon by Julio Gutiérrez and his Charanga All-Stars (reissued '92) and Don Gonzalo Fernández' Repicao! '82 on Toboga (reissued '93), playing alto flute on Fernández' composition "Llanuras Africanas." Amongst the four arrangers of Noche Caliente II '83 on K-Tel, the second in the trio of albums regarded as the genesis of salsa romántica trend, featuring lead vocalists Tito Allen, Johnny Rivera and Meñique (Miguel Barcasnegras, also a Panamanian). Played flute on Roberto Torres' Corazón de Pueblo '84 on SAR. He composed, authored most of the arrs. and performed on the original score for León Ichaso's low budget movie Crossover Dreams '85 starring Rubén Blades (soundtrack album released '86 on Elektra). Sessioned on Sexy Salsa '89 and Sexy Salsa Vol. 2 '92 on El Mayor, all-star instrumental covers of salsa romántica hits prod. and dir. by Louie Ramírez. Played flute on Joe Cuba's comeback album Steppin' Out...Again! '95 on Tiffany. Performed with the Machito Orch.(dir. by Mario Grillo) on Jammin' In The Bronx '96 on Tropijazz featuring a concert tribute to Machito recorded at the Hostos Community College Arts & Culture Centre on 19 Oct. '95. Participated in Al Santiago's last round-up of the Alegre All-Stars, or Nearly New Alegre All-Stars as Al dubbed them, at NYC's S.O.B.'s club on 17 June '96 to celebrate the band's 35th anniversary. Released solo CD Madera '96 on Wenmar, aptly subtitled LR&B Jazz (Latin R&B jazz) to reflect the effective fusion of genres on the album; personnel incl. '90s salsa/ tropical hit-making producer Sergio George on keyboards together with his regular bassist, the innovative Rubén Rodríguez. Appeared in the original line-up of Jimmy Bosch's band at S.O.B.'s on 11 April '96 (he'd worked with Bosch previously in Cachao's group); subsequently sessioned on Bosch's solo debut Soneando Trombón '98 on RykoLatino and toured Europe with his band Dec. '98/ Jan. '99 and again July '99. Donated his time and talent as a tenor sax player to the CD and video Chucho Valdés Live '98 on RMM (recorded 17 Oct. '96 at the Hostos Community College Arts & Culture Centre) to raise money for the Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center. Sessioned on Y Sigue El Montuno '98 on Caimán by Héctor Casanova and the Rodríguez & Rendón Latin Jazz Orchestra album Havana Blues '98 on Palmetto. During '99 he guested on flute with the Chico O'Farrill Afro-Cuban Jazz Big Band on the critically acclaimed Heart Of A Legend on Milestone and sessioned on the soon to be released Legends of the Conga Drum project on Chesky featuring Candido, Patato and Giovanni Hidalgo: "Imagine ten congas, a tres, a bass and one flute!" says Smith. Following his departure from Bosch's band he said in Dec. '99: "I'm reworking my group and getting it ready to go back into the New York club scene."

In addition to those mentioned, Smith has written arrs. for numerous important Latin and Caribbean names incl. Myrta Silva (he also appeared on her TV show in Puerto Rico), Cortijo, Kito Vélez, Joey Pastrana, Bobby Capó, Tabou Combo, Kassav (with whom he performed in his father's native country of Trinidad; played sax and arr. brass on their Majestic Zouk '89). During '99 he sessioned on Euphrasine's Blues by Jacob Desvarieux from Kassav. (Smith adds: "I did a lot of recordings and gigs with many other Latin groups and bandleaders like Ray Barretto, Kako and many others, but details are very sketchy.") His non-Latin areas of activity have incl. stints in pit orchestras for the shows No No Nanette , Doctor Jazz , The First , Raisin , The Natalie Cole Show and Purlie ; NBC TV's Saturday Night Live (he was a founder member of the show's orchestra); extra in Not Ready For Prime Time Players ; as well as working with jazz and pop names like Clark Terry, Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington, Chubby Checker, Eartha Kitt, Harry Belafonte, Sylvester and David Byrne.


MAIN SOURCES:

My record collection.
Liner notes to Madera by Gabe Romero.
Article Salsa Hitmen: Mauricio Smith by Max Salazar, Latin Beat Oct. '91.
Unrecorded dressing room conversation with Mauricio Smith at London's Jazz Café on 16th December 1998 during Jimmy Bosch's European tour.
E-mail feedback from Mauricio Smith on 13th June and 18/19th December 1999.



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