Machito

Machito

Machito (December 3, 1909April 15, 1984), born Francisco Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo in Havana, Cuba, was an influential Latin jazz musician.

Machito played a huge role in the history of Latin jazz. His bands of the 1940s, especially the band named the Afro-Cubans, were among the first to fuse Afro-Cuban rhythms with jazz improvisation. Machito was the front man, singer, conductor, and maraca player of the Afro-Cubans and its successors. Machito's brother-in-law Mario Bauza, the musical director, influenced Machito to hire jazz-oriented arrangers.

The son of a cigar manufacturer, Machito became a professional musician in Cuba in his teens before he emigrated to America in 1937 as a vocalist with La Estrella Habanera. He worked with several Latin artists and orchestras in the late '30s, recording with the then-dominant Latin bandleader Xavier Cugat. After an earlier, aborted attempt to launch a band with Bauza, Machito founded the Afro-Cubans in 1940, taking on Bauza the following year as music director where he remained for 35 years. Machito's son Mario Grillo later took over the position.

In 1983, he won a Grammy Award in the Best Latin Recording category for "Machito & His Salsa Big Band '82".

More recently, the song "Mambo Mucho Mambo" has featured on the sound track for the game Grand Theft Auto Vice City.

Machito died during a concert in London, England in 1984, suffering a fatal stroke while playing Ronnie Scott's club. A documentary film by Carlo Ortiz, Machito: A Latin Jazz Legacy, was released in 1987.

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