Jelly Roll Morton
Born Ferdinand LaMothe, the well-known pianist and composer
of rags traced his roots to Haiti on both sides, was raised
by Cuban godparents, and learned habaneras from his Mexican
guitar teacher (Fernández, 20). He stated, famously,
that if the music did not have a "Spanish tinge"
it was not truly jazz.
The father of bebop, John Birks Gillespie is considered
one of the most important pioneers of Afro-Cuban jazz. He met
Mario Bauzá while playing with the Cab Calloway orchestra.
In 1947 he asked Mario for a Cuban percussionist ("one
of those tom-tom players")to add to his band. Bauzá
introduced him to Chano Pozo, a conguero and vocalist.
"El Rey" of Latin music, Tito was one of its best
known percussionists, composers and bandleaders for fifty
years. Tito's popularity lasted and even increased through
the changes of the 60's that brought about the salsa movement.
His fame continued to rise into the 90's when he played with
three bands: the Latin Jazz Ensemble, the Golden Latin Jazz
All-Stars, and the Tropijazz All-Stars.
In 1973 Paquito D'Rivera, Chucho Valdés, Arturo
Sandoval and other top Cuban jazz musicians broke away from
the Orquesta Cubana de Música Moderna to form Irakere,
Cuba's #1 Latin jazz band. Based on traditional Cuban melodies
and a strong dose of sacred African music, Irakere also incorporates
Classical music as a basis for improvisation.