Machito and his Afro-Cubans. Selected Transcriptions.
The Music of the United States of America series, edited by Mark Clague and Gayle Magee (coeditors-in-chief) and Andrew Thomas Kuster (executive editor), has added the music of Machito and his Afro-Cubans to its impressively diverse volumes. As the twenty-sixth volume of the series, Machito and his Afro-Cubans: Selected Transcriptions is the first dedicated to Latin music of the United States, and the series editors made an excellent choice based on their own criteria in selecting the music of this formative and ground-breaking Latin big band. The volume encompasses Machito and his Afro-Cubans' golden era (1941-61) and, indeed, the golden era of Afro-Cuban dance music and jazz. It also makes available for the first time a historical edition of this repertory to include a detailed account of the founding members' musical careers, the band's professional and musical trajectory, as well as the music's significance to American music history. Conductor, composer, and arranger |ere Laukkanen is the principal transcriber for this edition, and ethnomusicologist Paul Austerlitz is the author of the edition's essay, "The Afro-Cuban Impact on Music in the United States: Mario Bauza and Machito."
Austerlitz's essay gives a comprehensive overview of the music, beginning with its place in the broader historical narrative of music and culture of the Caribbean Basin dating back to die nineteenth century and including New Orleans. More than a significant representative of Latin music and dance of mid-twentieth-century United States history, the music of Machito and his Afro-Cubans is part of a much longer and complex history of African diasporic groups whose intersections and collaborations were formative in the early development of danzon, jazz, and other national and transnational musical repertories of the Americas. In other words, Machito and his Afro-Cubans are as much a part of jazz history in the United States as they are a part of the history of Cuban music in the diaspora. Austerlitz's discussion in this regard includes an explanation of clave s ("the foundational rhythmic concept within Afro-Cuban Music," p. liii) importance to Cuban music performance practice, and its relationship to similar rhythmic cells in African and other Afro-Caribbean musical and dance repertories. After summarizing Cuba's major African-derived music genres, the author discusses the circulation of Cuban popular music in North America via not only the recording and film industries, but also American foreign-policy initiatives to engage Latin America in the decades leading to and following World War II.
Biographical information follows on the two leading figures of the band: "Machito" or Francisco Raul Perez Gutierrez (1908-1984) and his brother-in-law Mario Bauza (1911-1993). Their stories are part of the histories of immigration from the Caribbean to New York City, and the forging of African diasporic communities among black Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and African Americans. Bauza, in particular, immersed himself in the black swing-band culture of Harlem following his decision to leave Havana, in part because of the limitations Cuban racism placed on black musicians, even those like Bauza who had formal training. It was his musical and professional experiences in bands such as those led by Chick Webb and Cab Calloway that Bauza would soon draw on when he collaborated with his brother-in-law to create the Machito and his Afro-Cubans band. In spite of the band's articulation of racial pride in its name, Bauza faced practical challenges in directing his arrangers, including John Bartee, to phrase melodic and harmonic passages in accordance with clave-based rhythmic principles, while simultaneously incorporating jazz elements such as extended harmonic voicings. It is this musical challenge of combining performance practices from Afro-Cuban and jazz music that this volume sheds the most important light.
For example, Laukkanen's transcriptions of Tanga, recorded in 1950, and Que vengan los rumberos, recorded in 1941, demonstrate notable differences in phrasing, tonal content, harmonic structures, and voicings. Arranged by the band's tenor saxophonist, Jose "Pin" Madera (1911-2001), Que vengan los rumberos contains mostly typical clave-based phrasing for the saxophone and trumpet sections wherein the two-side receives harmonic and melodic emphasis on strong beats and the three-side receives emphasis on syncopated beats (e.g., mm. 7-8, 17-18, 37-38). The less conventional stress 011 beat two of the three-side in measures 10, 22, 28, and so on, along with conventional triadic voicings in the saxophone and trumpet sections, lend to this piece a more Americanized or commercial jazz sound. Austerlitz, however, rightly points out that the bongo player (unidentified) provides "kaleidoscopic counterpoint with Machito's inspiraciones" (sung improvisations, p. xxvi) to form an interwoven rhythmic-melodic texture so characteristic of Afro-Cuban traditional music, which Cuban ethnologist Fernando Ortiz described as remplissage (Fernando Ortiz, Los bailes y el teatro de nos negros en el folklore de Cuba [Havana: Editorial Letras Cubanas, 1993], 97-100). By December 1941 the band began to play in downtown clubs in Manhattan for mostly non-Latino audiences, while continuing to perform for Latino audiences in East Harlem. Indeed, Austerlitz's essav provides insight into the band's performance contexts and audiences to further interpret the significance of its early style, and the trajectory of its popularity among jazz music audiences.
Tango, on the other hand, is a tour de force of jazz and Afro-Cuban modernist aesthetics, which the musicians in the band, notes Austerlitz, "forged aurally and collaboratively" (p. xxxii). The transcription for this piece, taken from a live radio broadcast of the band performing in New York City, is a wonderful resource for close readings of early Latin jazz's defining characteristics. Preceding all seven transcriptions is a brief listing of the music's composer, lyricist, and primary recorded source for the transcription, as well as the recording's date, location, personnel, instrumentation, and form, followed by a summary of the piece's background. These introductions to the transcriptions are mostly accurate. For Tanga, Austerlitz and Laukkanen analyze its form as ternary based on a C Mixolvdian (mm. 1-42), 1) Mixolydian (mm. 43-112), and C Mixolydian (mm. 113-247). While the C Mixolydian identification is accurate, it seems that the middle section might best be identified as based on the F[sharp] Aeolian mode instead of D Mixolydian. For one, this section prominently features a G[sharp] in the first trumpet in measures 65-68, while the bass and piano two-bar ostinati outline F[sharp]-minor and E-major chords. The modal interrelationship of a sharp-four or flat-five, that is, between the root notes of the C Mixolydian and F[sharp] Aeolian, further supports analyzing the middle section accordingly, since this interval was the quintessential sound of jazz's modernist aesthetic at the time.
The next transcription in the volume, Hall of the Mambo King, recorded in 1949, is another example of the band's music at its height of popularity. It also represents the style of mambo music that the band popularized and became associated, along with the styles of Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez, with New York City. As Austerlitz points out, the arrangement exemplifies the inventiveness of arranger Pin Madera and bandleader Bauza; based on the melody from act 2 of Peer Gynt, op. 23 (1875), by Edvard Grieg (1843-1907), the arrangement juxtaposes sections of swung jazz eighth-notes with even eighth-notes clave-based phrasing. Mango mangue is another musical and historical record of the Machito band's significance to postwar jazz and Latin music of the United States. Arranged by the band's Cuban pianist Rene Hernandez (1914-1977), Mango mangue as recorded in New York City in December 1948 features Charlie Parker as guest soloist. Austerlitz's essay provides important insight into the circumstances of the Machito band's changing membership. In this instance, Hernandez replaced Joe Loco after he was drafted into the United States military in 1945. Hernandez had already established himself in Havana as one of the most sought after arrangers of Cuban big-band dance music. Once in New York City his contributions to the Machito band's music were formative, especially his inventiveness in composing bass parts that lent the music an intense kinetic danceability. Austerlitz also discusses Hernandez's use of the baritone saxophone to double bass parts and widen the voicings for the saxophone section as well as his mastery of writing clave-phrased parts.
Regarding the transcription of Mango mangue, Austerlitz considers it to be "perhaps the most dazzling piece included in this edition" (p. xxxvii) because it highlights the dual mastery of Charlie Parker's bebop-based solo work and Hernandez's impeccable clave-based arranging. Indeed, jazz educators should make extensive use of this transcription on both accounts. The overall form of the piece is essentially divided into two large sections, the first featuring Parker playing the main themes alternating with orchestral interludes, and the second starting at measure 143, which features two-bar call-response alternations between sung choruses and Parker's improvisations. The chorus's phrasing is almost a literal iteration of .3-2 clave, accompanied by the band's Cuban rhythm section of bongos, congas, and timbales playing typically Afro-Cuban percussion patterns. Over this typical Afro-Cuban musical texture is Parker's musical flights on top, giving jazz educators and students a clear notational perspective on what is Latin and what is jazz in this wonderful fusion of black performance aesthetics.
Laukkanen and Austerlitz's choice to include in this series Frenzy from the Machito orchestra's landmark album Kenya: AfroCuban Jazz, recorded in December 1957 for Roulette (SR-52006 , LP) gives further credence to the notion that Machito and his Afro-Cubans are an integral part of American music excellence. The arrangement, prepared by Ahmad Khatab Salim, features jazz musicians Joe Newman (trumpet) and Cannonball Adderley (alto saxophone). Cuban percussionist Candido Camero takes an extended conga solo for the last section of the arrangement, the transcription of which provides jazz drummers and percussion students in general insight into rhythmic figurations characteristic of Afro-Cuban percussion performance practice. Moreover, the political circumstances in titling the album Kenya, as explained in the LP's liner notes, and relayed by Austerlitz ("in homage to the struggle against colonialism in .Africa," p. xiv), frames this band's historical relevance within the context of the centurylong African diasporic struggle against European and American political hegemony, making this volume an important resource for scholars and students of Black/African diasporic studies as well.
The bolero Caso perdido exemplifies the full musical range of the band, which included lead vocalist Felipa Graciela Perez Gutierrez (1915-2010). Graciela joined the orchestra when Machito was drafted into United States military service in 1943. She remained with the band and sang its bolero pieces, including Caso perdido, which was recorded in 1961. Its arrangement, prepared by Cuban Arturo "Chico" O'Farrill (1921-2001), features exquisitely lush harmonic voicings orchestrated for two alto saxophones, two tenor saxophones, one baritone saxophone, and four trumpets in addition to the Latin rhythm section. Like Bauza, O'Farrill had received formal training in classical music and composition, and was hired by Bauza in 1949 to be one of the band's staff arrangers. He prepared primarily modernist arrangements of Cuban boleros for Graciela to sing. Perhaps O'Farrill's best-known arrangement for the Machito band is The Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite, which the orchestra recorded in 1950 for the Clef label.
It is perhaps fitting that the last transcription of the volume is The Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite, given the weight it carries in the Machito band's oeuvre in terms of its immense musical scope and stellar lineup. As a piece of large-scale concert music (ca. 17 minutes), it takes the listener through an impressively comprehensive journey through varying styles of Cuban and jazz music. In addition to the virtuosic tour de force of the Machito band members, the music also features soloists Charlie Parker (alto saxophone), "Flip" Phillips (tenor saxophone), Harry "Sweets" Edison (trumpet), and Buddy Rich (drums). The first of the suite's movements is a bolero that creates a sense of wonder and relaxation. The second movement, a mambo, moves the listener into faster tempos, asymmetrical breaks, and familiar mambo-like orchestrated figures. Parker's solo follows with characteristically bebop scalar motion as the saxophone and rhythm sections provide typical mambo-based ostinatos. Unlike the transcription for Mango mangiie, in which Parker's solo is transcribed note-by-note, Laukkanen chose not to transcribe the featured solos in The Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite, which is a pity because it takes away from the comprehensiveness of the transcription and the consistency established with the prior transcriptions. What is especially curious is the lack of an explanation by the editors for his decision not to include the solos in the transcription.
The third and fourth movements, a bolero and Afro-Cuban guiro. display contrasting textures and rhythmic complexes, the transition between which the musicians execute in the most seamless manner. Dense harmonic voicings, such as the F7 ###chord with |j 11 and f 9 at measure 372, contribute to the score's jazz modernist inflections. The next movement, labeled "AfroCuban," returns to a slow tempo based on another typical Afro-Cuban rhythm known as afro in Cuban popular music. This brief movement features soloists Parker and Phillips followed by Rich's snare solo, which then leads to the next movement, a "medium-fast swing" (p. 312) featuring soloists Phillips and Parker. The movement concludes with the return of soloist Rich. A rumba guaguaneo is next, followed by a movement that is curiously labelled "rumba abierta mozambique" (p. 349). Although "rumba abierta" is a historically accurate term, "mozambique" as an appellation for a Cuban rhythm dates from the early 1960s in Cuba. Some editorial explanation given in a footnote for its use would have been appropriate, lest the reader be misled.
In spite of its several inaccuracies and inconsistencies-noted here in Tanga and The Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite-this volume makes a far-reaching contribution to the musicological study of the music of the United States, Cuba, and the African diaspora. Laukkanen's transcriptions are beautifully formatted; the content of Austerlitz's essay is extensively cited with primary (mostly interviews) and secondary sources; and the editing is almost flawless. The volume's readership will range from the aficionado and professional musician, composer, and arranger to university students at the undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as musicologists and scholars of related fields and disciplines.
Machito and his Afro-Cubans: Selected Transcriptions goes far in revealing the extent to which Latin musicians, composers, and arrangers were immersed in the modern jazz scene in New York City. By the same token, the volume's transcriptions document the presence of some of jazz's leading musicians in the production and recording of Machito's band during the heyday of bebop and mambo. The place of Afro-Latin music and culture is cemented in the story of America's classical music: jazz. No longer should Latin jazz be made to persist in the discursive margins of jazz historiography and education. This volume serves as a clarion call to all current jazz scholars, educators, and band directors to recognize the music of Machito, his contemporaries, and successors as integral to the history of jazz itself. No longer can the lack of historical editions of the music be an excuse for excluding it from the center of historical narratives about jazz. This volume should also compel music publishers to produce and market Latin jazz in the form of director's scores and parts for the jazz education market to enrich high school and university programs. And, not only to enrich these programs, but to attract new students and audiences of Latino and other ethnic backgrounds. This is indeed a timely call for more editions such as this volume, given the current acerbic political rhetoric toward Latinos and immigrants in general in the United States, not to mention the growing jazz programs throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. As musicians such as Dafnis Prieto, David Sanchez, and other jazz musicians from the Caribbean and Latin America continue to earn recognition for their contributions to jazz music's ongoing development, the more recognition of their Latino predecessors needs to be actively put forth in all formats but especially in the education of today's, and future generations of, jazz musicians.
David F. Garcia
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill