Jazz Caliente: Honoring The Elders

Nov 19, 2016

Latin jazz musicians believe in showing respect to the elders and originators of the music.  This week we feature 95-year-old conga drum master Candido Camero and we remember Cuban composer, arranger and bandleader Chico O'Farrill.

Best known by only his first name, Candido came to the U.S. from Cuba in 1946.  First working with pianist Billy Taylor, then with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, he expanded the use of Cuban percussion in jazz by using a three-drum combination and tuning the drums so that he could play melodies.  

He became the best-known conguero in the U.S., even appearing on the "Ed Sullivan Show" and the "Jackie Gleason Show."  He's a 2008 NEA Jazz Master, a 2001 Latin Jazz USA Lifetime Acheivement Award winner, and was the first recipient of the Jazz Education Network's LeJENd of Latin Jazz Award in 2014.

On November 18, Candido played his final performance.  After 70 years in the business, he's retiring.  The send-off, "Candido:  The Last Musical Journey," was held at Aaron Davis Hall at City College Center for the Arts in New York, and featured Bobby Sanabria's Multiverse Big Band, guitarist David Oquendo, and more.  A fitting tribute to this Latin jazz maestro.

Chico O'Farrill
Credit allaboutjazz.com

Chico O'Farrill returns home

Composer, arranger and  bandleader Arturo "Chico" O'Farrill left Cuba in 1948 to continue his classical music training at Juilliard.  Benny Goodman hired him as an arranger, and Chico went on to be a pioneer of "Cubop"- a mixture of Cuban percussion with American be-bop.  

His last visit to Cuba was in 1958, and in his later years he yearned to see his homeland.  Chico died in 2001.

Chico's son, Arturo O'Farrill will travel with his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra to Cuba in mid-December to bury his father's ashes in Havana's Colon Cemetery, and to play a memorial concert at Havana's Basilica de San Francisco.  

Also, congratulations to Arturo O'Farrill and his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra for winning the Best Latin Jazz Album award at the Latin Grammys for their album "Cuba:  The Conversation Continues."