WBGO Playdate

WBGO’s Playdate: Salsa Meets Jazz

Bobby Sanabria Playdate WBGO

This a bonus audio extra from Playdate Show #3, “Mambo Inn” by Mario Bauzá's Afro-Cuban Orchestra with trumpeter Arturo Sandoval.  Show #3, which streams Feb. 18, features Bauzá and an interview with his drummer, Bobby Sanabria (pictured left, photo courtesy TAMA drums/Jeff Sacks). For more Playdate, click here.

The “Salsa Meets Jazz” series began as a weekly jam for Latin and “straight-ahead” jazz musicians, and evolved into one of the most admired meetings of musical minds in Lower Manhattan!

Every Monday night for three decades, New York's Village Gate nightclub displayed the message that jazz and salsa were more alike than different, and expert musicians came from both sides to entertain an eclectic audience.

Robert Palmer of the New York Times reflected on the series in 1984, stating that “The jazz musician plays on the chords, the structure, the thematic material. The Latin-jazz improviser plays from the clave, the underlying pattern of rhythmic organization that knits Cuban-derived pop and jazz together.”

Originally hosted by Puerto Rican vocalist Hector Lavoe, the series featured experts of Latin jazz, such as flutist Nestor Torres, bassist Andy Gonzalez, vocalist Cecilia Cruz, and pianist Eddie Palmieri, paired with prominent “straight-ahead” jazz musicians, including trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, saxophonist Dexter Gordon and pianist McCoy Tyner.

August 20, 1990, when this version of "Mambo Inn" was recorded, was a “very special night,” as drummer Bobby Sanabria recalls. The concert's featured soloist was Cuban trumpet superstar Arturo Sandoval, making his first performance in the United States after leaving Cuba.

Mario Bauzá served as Musical Director for Machito from 1941 until Machito died in 1984.

“It didn’t get any better than playing with Mario Bauzá,” recalls Sanabria. “He was the one that created the genre, had the idea of fusing the jazz arranging technique and the virtuosity of the jazz soloist with pure, unadulterated, authentic Afro-Cuban rhythms.”

Another track from this concert is featured on Playdate Show #3: it is known to many Latin jazz fans as "Frenzy." Written by Bauzá and René Hernández, it appears on the Machito album Kenya, recorded in 1957. This album, which features jazz greats Cannonball Adderley and Joe Newman in addition to Machito and Bauzá's own all-stars, is widely considered a classic of Latin jazz.

But according to Sanabria, this track - with its fast-paced, clave-propelled rumba abierta rhythm, is in fact, a composition called “Wild Jungle.” He has confirmed that the titles were mislabeled - both when the Kenya was the LP was pressed  in 1958, and when it was remastered on CD in 2000. 

Sanabria should know - not only did he play with Bauzá and Machito, he recreated Kenya live onstage in an unforgettable concert at the Manhattan School of Music in 2008. The resulting recording, which features the Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra he leads at the school and percussionist Candido Camero - a veteran of the 1957 session - was nominated for a Grammy Award. For more on Sanabria's 2008 Kenya, click here.

Support comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, New Jersey State Council on the Arts and WBGO.

Playdate funders

Produced for WBGO by Alexander Ariff,
with Becca Pulliam and Duke Markos, Executive Producer Josh Jackson.

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