Puerto Rican-born valve trombonist Juan Tizol was a major force in Duke Ellington's orchestra. With his classical training, an ability to transpose on the spot, skills as a copyist, sight-reader, proofreader of scores and as a composer, he was indispensable to the band.
He also was the practical joker of the outfit, employing tricks involving firecrackers and itching powder. This led to the famous on-stage dispute that resulted in bassist Charles Mingus being fired from the orchestra.
Tizol was also quite possibly the father of Latin Jazz, as his compositions for Ellington like "Porto Rican Chaos" and "Caravan" pre-date both Mario Bauza's "Tanga" and the Dizzy Gillespie/Chano Pozo landmark "Manteca."
Author Basilio Serrano is an educator and historian who highlights the contributions of Puerto Rican musicians. The book Juan Tizol-His Caravan Through American Life and Culture provides a look at a rich and overlooked history.
CD Compilation: Tito Puente Quatro
Tito Puente was a King (El Rey) of Latin Jazz and dance music, performing and recording prolifically for 50 years. With this 5 CD set, Tito Puente Quatro: The Definitive Collection it's possible to track the history of this music in the US from its beginnings as novelty acts, through the mambo mania years, to the intricate mixture of Latin and jazz that finally won respect from the jazz leaders of the day. The collection includes 4 of Puente's albums from 1956 to 1960, another disc of alternate takes, and extensive liner notes, photos and artwork.
Listen for historic and modern Latin Jazz on Jazz Caliente, Thursdays at 2pm on KPLU's Mid Day Jazz!