CHANO POZO:MASTER PERCUSSIONIST

Discussion in 'Honoring Black Ancestors' started by Isaiah, Mar 4, 2005.

  1. Isaiah

    Isaiah Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    It was in the Afro-rich port cities of Cuba--La Habana, Matanzas, and Santiago--that the conga drum flourished. As the years progressed, a cross-pollination of Spanish and African musical influences emerged, fusing rumba flamenca--music culled by the gypsies of Southern Spain--with West African rhythms. It gave rise to the popular song-and-dance complex known as rumba. The Yoruba religious practices of Ifa, and its sacred two-headed hourglass shaped batá drums, forged with Catholicism to create santería. Centuries evolved and legendary drummers, singers and dancers became the griots of a new Afro-Spanish reality. Rumberos such as Malanga and Mulenze were the Buddy Boldens of the conga drum, who in the 1800s cast the mold for today's rumba. In the 20th century, the name that rings out as pivotal in taking the rumba from the streets to stage was an eccentric composer/singer/dancer/conguero named Luciano "Chano" Pozo.

    "Chano brought to jazz a vocabulary of West African culture," states trap drummer and Latin music scholar Bobby Sanabria in a phone conversation from his home in NYC. "Chano was an initiate in the santería and abakuá religions. He performed chants that most people were hearing for the first time through live performance and recordings. It was a unique way of throwing Africa--the roots of jazz--in everybody's face."

    "Chano was a great entertainer," continues Sanabria. "Everybody I've ever talked to about Pozo speaks about his spectacular mesmerizing performances. Dancing and singing while playing his drum at the same time. Chano influenced a generation of drummers in New York City, especially Ray Barretto."

    Born on January 17, 1915 in the Verdado neighborhood of Havana, Pozo grew up in poverty. He lost his mother at age 8 and moved to the tough tenement of El Africa in the barrio Pueblo Nuevo. He loved to sing, dance and play his drum and was quite young when he performed in the comparsas (carnival troupes) around Havana. He eventually led the elegantly dressed Los Dandys from barrio Belén and garnered major notoriety penning songs that ushered in the conga dance rage of the early 1940s. He was much talked about and elevated the energy of the orchestras, rumbas and carnival comparsas (troupes) that he played with.

    Between 1944-46 Chano performed on RHC-Cadena Azul radio network and did a variety of recording sessions with the house band-Conjunto Azul--that included trumpeter Felix Chappotín and singer Marcelino Guerra. In 1946, they recorded 10 sides for SEECO Records that became quite popular. But it was his song El Pin Pin, about the victory of the Allies over Germany and Japan that was the rage.

    In December of that year, Miguelito Valdés flew to Havana and organized a recording session for Musicraft that included Chano Pozo. Valdés was a big star after stints with Casino De La Playa and Xavier Cugat, and invited Pozo to come to New York City. Given his volatile temper, the timing was good, since Pozo had burnt a lot of bridges, including getting shot over a royalty dispute.

    The scene for Afro-Cuban music was percolating in NYC with pivotal performers Arsenio Rodríguez, Machito & his Afro-Cubans, Olga Guillot, Marcelino Guerra and others residing in the big apple. The fusion of Afro-Cuban percussion with jazz started surfacing at jam sessions around 1945 with Diego Iborra (chiquitico) sitting in on bongó at the Three Deuces with Dizzy Gillespie's quintet featuring Charlie Parker.

    Gillespie put the word out that he wanted one of those tom tom players but none of the musicians he tried quite clicked. In the summer of 1947 he was preparing a concert at Carnegie Hall and Bauzá took Gillespie to meet Pozo at his apartment on Lenox Avenue. It was a revelation for Gillespie, who appreciated the variety of sounds Pozo got out of the conga and invited him to join his big band.

    "Gillespie's band did not want Pozo at first," commented Sanabria. "He was not a welcome addition and most of the guys complained. They didn't understand why Dizzy would bring him in. But what Pozo made the African American musicians realize was their own Africanism. That was part of Dizzy Gillespie's genius, who for some unknown reason realized this was the missing link in jazz."

    Pozo didn't understand 4/4 swing. He was used to the 2/4 clave patterns and there were rhythmic clashes. This caused havoc and bassist Ray Brown even quit because Pozo couldn't find the groove. Replaced by Al McKibbon, they soon were swimming in new territories and on September 29, 1947 took Carnegie Hall by storm with bebop and a centerpiece written by George Russell for his Afro-Cuban Suite called Cubano Be, Cubano Bop that featured Pozo performing a solo section.

    "Pozo had no concept of what the swing feel in jazz was," stated Sanabria. "Mario Bauzá told me that Pozo used to come to him almost in tears because the guys were talking about him and say, 'I don't understand, what is this swing?' Bauzá equated swing with sabor in Cuban music but also the importance of understanding African American rhythms. Pozo played in a straight eighth-note style that did not swing the tumbao. That was a later innovation by Sabú Martínez and Ray Barretto."

    From there, Dizzy Gillespie and his orchestra with Chano Pozo became the talk of the town. Much like bebop had liberated the harmonic thinking of jazz, these Afro-Cuban experiments were now freeing up and expanding jazz rhythms. Signed to RCA Victor, Gillespie recorded the big band in December of 1947 and included a tune that Pozo had brought to him. With the aid of arranger Gil Fuller, and Gillespie adding a bridge, the song became Manteca.

    This led to the meteoric rise of Pozo. The success of this recording took them around the world and across the country where they were met by bebop fans crowding to hear these new sounds.

    But destiny dealt Chano Pozo a fatal blow. His congas were stolen when they were touring the south. Returning to NYC to buy some drums, he decided to hang out in Harlem. Unfortunately, he was murdered a few days later as a result of an alleged drug deal gone sour.

    Like a prophet, Pozo soon had disciples who followed in his footsteps. Pivotal congueros Sabú Martínez (who took Pozo's place in Gillespie's band), Cándido Camero, Mongo Santamaría, Carlos "Patato" Valdés, Armando Peraza, Ray Barretto and others who refined the swing. His death was a tragedy but Chano Pozo and Dizzy Gillespie helped mold a new lexicon of possibilities anda new direction in jazz.

    "Pozo was the missing link in jazz and Gillespie had the vision to put him and his drum back into the mix. It bonded jazz and Afro-Cuban music and all of us that play this music are eternally grateful," concludes Sanabria.





    FOR MORE, CLICK ON THE WEBSITE ADDRESS


    http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0FXV/is_9_11/ai_80902500
     
  2. Sun Ship

    Sun Ship Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    The great congero Chano Pozo

    Chano Pozo

    [​IMG]

    Thank you Brother Isaiah, for that wonderful excerpt, about the life of one of the world’s greatest percussionist.

    I once read that Brother Chano was part of the African secret societies in Cuba and was a practitioner of the Lucumi religion. Also he was just three (3) generations out of Africa (I guess having grandparents who were African born).

    How many times have I listen to Manteca and "tin tin deo" .

    I once knew this Puerto Rican sister, who was an excellent congero, who had an album of some rare recordings of Chano Pozo, playing and chanting. There's also suppose to be a 3 CD set released not too long ago, of all Chano Pozo recordings. I need to get hold of that collection.

    Here is another photo of this great hero of African rhythm.


    [​IMG]


    Thanks again!

    Peace,
    Brother Sun Ship:cool:
     
  3. Isaiah

    Isaiah Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Brother Sun, the photos are always what's missing from my posts, man, and I can't do nothin' but thank you profusely for bringing the right touch to this article!(smile!) Thanks a million, brother! Glad you dug the mention of this brother's name, because this article cannot do him enough justice...

    Peace!
    Isaiah
     
  4. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    THis is an awsome thread, thanks for posting it brotha :drums:
     
  5. Sun Ship

    Sun Ship Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Brother Isaiah, dig this bio about Chano Pozo...

    Drumming thunder


    by josh kun


    BEFORE CUBAN CONGA legend Chano Pozo died in 1948, he belonged to two worlds. The descendant of West African slaves brought to Cuba in the 18th century to harvest the island's sugar crop, Pozo grew up in a communal apartment complex that had once been a slave quarter. He practiced the Yoruba religion, was schooled in Lucumí chants, and was a member of a secret brotherhood of Abakua, the Cuban "leopard society" founded to preserve the values and beliefs of Africans from Cameroon and Nigeria. He also saw himself in Shangó, the Yoruban god of thunder who draped himself in red robes and appeared to his disciples by dancing on their heads as two bolts of lightening. Pozo waved a red handkerchief over his drum and, once his songs started to bring in some money, paraded around his poor Havana neighborhood in a red satin robe – Shangó gone barrio fabulous.

    Pozo's other world was '40s bebop New York City, where he took off his shirt on the stage of the Rumba Matinee club, greased his chest and arms with oil, and chanted and drummed his way into the history of jazz. Though he was not the first Afro-Cuban to think about the merger of Cuban rhythms and bebop improvisation, he was the first to give it a compositional future, finding a way to really put Cuba into Dizzy Gillespie and George Russell's "Cubana Be, Cubana Bop" and to help create bebop standards synonymous with urban African America that were structured around Lucumí chants that Pozo grew up singing.

    As Jordi Pujol tells us in his liner notes to Chano Pozo: El Tambor de Cuba (Tumbao Cuban Classics), when Pozo died, both of his worlds had an explanation. New York said he had been shot by someone he had beaten up over a batch of bad pot. Havana said he was being punished for disobeying Shangó by never being formally initiated into Santería (the Afro-Cuban mix of Yoruba with New World Christianity) before he left the island for New York. New York may have had the body and some witnesses, but Havana had the real proof: Pozo died just as the festivity of Shangó was about to begin.

    In her 1982 poem for Pozo, "I See Chano Pozo," Jayne Cortez called Pozo a "connector of two worlds," the Atlantic island link between African tradition in Cuba and the New World modernity forced by the slave trade that would turn the 2/4 rhythms of the Afro-Cuban conga drum into the 4/4 Afro-American drums of bop. The drum had all the stories wrapped into its skin. Chano used his hands to release them, to turn them from dried flesh and silence into living rhythm and pounded memory. "You go see the slave castles, you go see the massacres," Cortez wrote. "You go conjurate, you go mediate, you go to the cemetery of drums, return and tell us about it."

    As you can hear throughout the three CDs that make up Chano Pozo: El Tambor de Cuba – which at long last make available nearly everything Pozo touched from his early Cuban orquesta recordings in 1939 up through his 1947-48 New York "cubop" sessions with Gillespie, Milt Jackson, and James Moody – Pozo went, returned, and didn't just tell us about what he saw but turned it into songs that would keep the dead alive by giving them new identities year after year. They emerged in the Havana street comparsas, or carnival bands, that Pozo reigned over in the '30s when blacks weren't allowed to play Cuban dance halls. They emerged in the Orquesta Casino de la Playa with Miguelito Valdés singing the foundational Pozo rumbas "Blen, Blen, Blen" and "Ariñañara." They emerged when Pozo led his own groups and orchestras in the '40s. And they emerged in Carnegie Hall, where Pozo sat in the front row of the bandstand in his gray suit and black tie next to Gillespie, pulsing through Charlie Parker's "Relaxin' at Camarillo."

    No matter what musical conversations he was invited into, Pozo (to riff on a famous Gillespie remark) was always speaking African. Unlike compatriots Valdés and Desi Arnaz, whose lighter skin helped them reach commercial success on Broadway and in popular orchestras, there was no mistaking Pozo's blackness and no mistaking his intent to put the African past and the Afro-Cuban present in the face of American jazz. "Chano's concept came from Africa," Russell is quoted as saying in the box's notes. "When I heard it, it sounded on fire to me."

    In the Abakua society, the symbol for the coming of death is a tree with wilted branches hanging down from its leaves. The trunk of the tree extends down into a root that is a perfect quartered circle. It looks like the face of a drum, the circle that caps the conga and contains the rhythms that connect one world to another.
     
  6. Sekhemu

    Sekhemu Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Brotha Sun Ship! thank you for sharing this important page of history with us. I hope all our sisters and brothers who find themselves called to the path laid out by the creator, comes to appreciate the great "work" done by this brother.

    Ashe!
     
  7. Sun Ship

    Sun Ship Well-Known Member MEMBER

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    Ashe!!

    Brother Sekhemu, you know some of our people look everywhere for our ancestral ties and sometimes they are right under our African noses!!

    Thanks for acknowledging this brothers creative existence, along with me and of course brother Isaiah. Maybe we all can keep the great ancestral circle alive.

    Thanks again,

    Ase! (Ashe!)
     
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