Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b Francisco Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo, 16 February 1908, Jesús Maria district, Havana, Cuba, though accounts of his date and place of birth vary; d 15 April 1984, London) Bandleader, singer, maracas player, composer. Raised in Cuba, son of cigar manufacturer, as a child he sang and danced with his father's employees. He met a group called Sexteto Rendencion; when they split to form Los Jovenes Rendencion they asked him to join on maracas and singing. He worked with several bands '28-37; to NYC singing with La Estrella Habanera; made record debut '37-9 with Conjunto Moderno, also recording with Cuarteto Caney (sides featuring Machito collected on Cuarteto Caney [1939-1940] '91 and Perfidia '94, both on Tumbao) and Orquesta Hatuey; appeared with others including Noro Morales (with whom he made his record debut as a lead singer) and Pupi Campo. He formed a band with Mario Bauzá  '39, split up; joined Orquesta Siboney led by violinist/reeds player Alberto Iznaga (b 25 July 1906, Havana), recorded eight sides with Xavier Cugat, five of which are compiled on Xavier Cugat And His Orchestra 1940-42 '91 on Tumbao. Then he formed his own Afro-Cubans late '40 with trumpets-and-saxes front line and a Cuban rhythm section: 'The monicker was one of the bravest acts in the history of the civil rights movement,' wrote percussionist Bobby Sanabria. Bauzá  was music director '41-75. Decca records '41-2 have been reissued many times including Machito And His Afro-Cubans -- 1941 '89 on Palladium, including hit 78 'Sopa de Pichon' (composed by Machito), two sessions with timbalero Tito Puente on the latter; Cuban Rhythms '92 on Tumbao collected cuts from Decca 10-inch LPs Los Reyes del Ritmo and Cuban Nights by singer Miguelito Valdés (just venturing on a solo career after leaving Cugat) accompanied by Machito and his Afro-Cubans, recorded in two days '42 to beat a national musicians' strike.

While he was in the US Army '43 he was replaced on lead vocals by Puerto Rican Polito Galindez (d 22 February 1984, Mexico) and his foster sister Graciela Peréz-Gutierrez (b 23 August 1915, Havana; d 7 April 2010, Manhattan). They were both raised by her parents; Graciela had recorded with all-women Orquesta Anacaona for RCA '34, performed in NYC '37 and Paris '38, and became a huge star in her own right. After Machito's discharge Galindez departed and Graciela remained until '75. The band recorded for Verne, Continental, Clef, Coda, Mercury, etc in the '40s: the Machito orchestra along with Tito Rodriguez and Arsenio Rodriguez accompanied Chano Pozo's vocals and conga playing on his second session for Gabriel Oller's Coda label in February '47, this material collected on Legendary Sessions '92 on Tumbao; 'Mucho Macho' Machito '78 on Pablo (reissued '90s) collects the Clef recordings of the band's authentic Afro-Cuban sound '48-9; Machito And His Afro-Cubans '96 on Harlequin compiles transcriptions made for radio and a live broadcast '48-50. The band became a key outfit in the Afro-Cuban jazz/Cubop movement, playing an NYC Town Hall concert sharing the bill with Stan Kenton; Dexter Gordon is said to be first jazz musician to solo with the band, at NYC's Ebony Club c.1947; the band linked with Howard McGhee and Brew Moore on a Roost 78 'Cubop City -- Parts 1 And 2' '48; with Charlie Parker on records such as 'Mango Mangüe' and 'Okidoke' '48-9; 10-inch LP Afro-Cuban Suite '50 also featured Flip Phillips, Buddy Rich and Harry Edison, this material compiled on The Original Mambo Kings -- An Introduction To Afro-Cubop '93 on Verve. Cubop City '92 on Tumbao collects sessions recorded at NYC's Royal Roost and Bop City night clubs '49-50 featuring McGhee, Moore and Phillips; Carambola '92 on Tumbao compiles three live broadcasts from NYC's Birdland club '51 featuring Zoot Sims and Moore. The band signed with Tico/Roulette '54; Roulette titles Kenya c.1957 (aka Latin Soul Plus Jazz '73 on Tico, reissued '88 on UK Caliente label) included Doc Cheatham, Joe Newman, Cannonball Adderley, Eddie Bert (trombone; b 16 May 1922, Yonkers, NY; d 27 September 2012; later played with Elliot Lawrence, Thad Jones, Charles Mingus etc), and With Flute To Boot late '58 featuring Herbie Mann both reissued on Palladium '88-9. Though much of the band's work was not so jazz-oriented, fine dance LPs included Mambo Holiday '52 on Harmony/Columbia (included in collection Tremendo Cumban '91 on Tumbao), Tremendo Cumban on Tropical and This Is Machito And His Afro-Cubans on Seeco (both mid-'50s, on Palladium '88 as Dance Date With Machito and Machito Plays Mambo & Cha Cha Chá respectively), Cha Cha Chá  At The Palladium (also on Palladium '88), Asia Minor, Si-Si, No-No, The Sun Also Shines, Mi Amigo, Machito, Irving Berlin In Latin America and A Night Out were all on Tico '54-60, Machito At The Concord Hotel late '50s on Coral.

During the '50s Machito played free gigs in NYC's Central Park, helping to pacify youth gangs. During the flute- and-strings charanga/pachanga craze early '60s Machito continued churning out brass-and-reeds-led big-band albums on GNP and Tico including Panamanian flautist/saxist Mauricio Smith '61-3; Smith first performed on Machito At The Crescendo and The World's Greatest Latin Band on GNP '61-2, made during a stop-off in Hollywood en route to Japan, followed by three Tico LPs '62-3: The New Sound Of Machito (reissued '95), Machito's Variedades!!! (reissued by P-Vine '94) and Tremendo Cumban!! (Smith made his own Tico LP Nova Flute '63.) Reunion '63 was a superb reunion with Miguelito Valdés; Graciela was showcased for a second time on the band's Tico finale Intimo y Sentimental '65 (reissued '92).

The mid-'60s to mid-'70s were relatively lean years for Machito, the period of the boogaloo fad, then a tipico revival dominated by small groups, leading to the salsa boom, which turned out to be pretty much what Machito had been playing all along. Albums included Mucho Mucho Machito mid-'60s on United Artists (Palladium reissue '89) with revered sonero/composer Marcelino Guerra (he and Galindez had shared lead vocals with Luis Varona's Second Afro-Cubans, said to have been organized by Bauzá  '43; this became the Marcelino Guerra Orchestra '45 including Doc Cheatham, music director/pianist Gilberto Ayala, regarded by some as the most outstanding Afro-Cuban big band of the '40s, recording for Verne and disbanding '47 when Guerra joined the Merchant Marine). Machito Goes Memphis '68 on RCA Latinized soul hits; Soul Of Machito '69 on George Goldner's hit-making boogaloo/Latin soul Cotique label was reissued by P-Vine '94; Machito '72 on Mericana included Alfredo 'Chocolate' Armenteros, arranged by Chico O'Farrill; the band backed Tito Rodriguez at his last public appearance '73. Machito also assumed the role of social worker in the early '70s, helping the underprivileged, elderly and drug addicts. The band performed O'Farrill's suite 'Oro, Incienso y Mirra' with Dizzy Gillespie at NYC's St Patrick's Cathedral on 5 January 1975; later recorded as half of the Grammy-nominated Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods '75 on Pablo with Gillespie.

Against Bauzá's better judgement (he later admitted he'd been wrong) Machito was persuaded by his son Mario Grillo (timbales player; b 1956, NYC) to organize an octet '75 to replace Ray Barretto for performances in Paris and Hamburg, which successfully paved the way for Afro-Cuban jazz in Europe; Machito and Bauzá  split late that year, Mario becoming music director on the Grammy-nominated Fireworks '77 on Coco and subsequent albums; further European engagements followed and a record deal with the Dutch Timeless label. Machito's last three albums Machito And His Salsa Big Band 1982 (won a Grammy), Live At North Sea '82 and Machito!!! '83 were made in Holland on Timeless, all including Armenteros. The band was in residence at Ronnie Scott's club when he had a heart attack anddied of a stroke five days later. His career was commemorated in the film Machito: A Latin Jazz Legacy '87 produced and directed by Carlos Ortiz, featuring Parker, Puente, Barretto, Gillespie, premièred on UK TV.