Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


ARMENTEROS, Alfredo 'Chocolate'

(b 4 April 1928, Ranchuelo, Santa Clara, Las Villas Province, Cuba; d 6 January 2016) Trumpet, flugelhorn, bandleader, composer, arranger, producer. From musical family, began studies with municipal orchestra at age eleven; first visited Havana with a comparsa carnival group, relocated there a year later; soon invited to join Septeto Habanero; made recording debut '49 with René Alvarez y su Conjunto Los Astros (formed '48 by singer/composer René Alvarez: b 1918, San Antonio de Los Baños, Cuba; Yumbale '95 on Tumbao compiles '48-50 recordings by Los Astros). Recorded with Arsenio Rodriguez '49 after the bandleader heard him playing with Los Astros mid-'49, tracks featuring him collected on A Todo Los Barrios '74 (reissued '92) on BMG, Montuneando 1946-50 '93 and Dundunbanza 1946-51 '94 on Tumbao. He acquired the nickname Chocolate with bandleader/pianist/composer Julio Gutiérrez: a 'gorgeous young lady' confused him with the 1932 world featherweight champ Kid Chocolate. He did radio and TV staff work; substituted '53 for the ill Calixto Leicea (trumpet/composer b 1910, Matanzas Province, Cuba) as first trumpet with Cuban institution La Sonora Matancera; led brass section of his cousin Beny Moré's band '53-6; played and recorded with Cuban artists including singer/composer Joseito Fernández (b 1908, Havana, Cuba; d 1979, Cuba; writer of the international hit 'Guajira Guantanamera'), singer/composer/bandleader Cheo Marquetti (1909-67), singer Rolando La Serie, bandleader/pianist Bebo Valdés and Chico O'Farrill, and played on Nat Cole album Cole Español, made in Cuba.

He made his USA debut late '50s in NYC's Palladium Ballroom with José Fajardo; worked for Puerto Rican bandleader César Concepcion; played and recorded with Machito (who first invited him to join his band in Venezuela '52), Mongo Santamaria, Orlando Marin, Johnny Pacheco, Tico All Stars, both Eddie and Charlie Palmieri, Joe Quijano and Ismael Rivera, etc. Debut on LP as leader (of small conjunto Los Contemporarios), co-arr. (with pianist Javier Vázquez) and composer of three tracks was Chocolate Aqui '74 on Carib Musicana, with vocals by Cuban veteran Marcelino Guerra and younger Justo Betancourt. A leading exponent of the septeto trumpet style (see Son), he recorded in this format with Grupo Folklorico y Experimental Nuevayorquino and Armando Sánchez y su Septeto Son de la Loma (Caliente Hot '77 on New World); teamed with Roberto Torres on Roberto Torres y Chocolate Juntos '74 on Mericana; fronted a trumpet- and trombone-led conjunto on Chocolate Caliente '75 (prod. by Louie Ramirez) on Mericana and Chocolate En El Rincon '76 on Salsoul. Contributed improvisations to With A Touch Of Brass '75 by the charanga Tipica Novel (later called Orquesta Novel), won the Latin NY magazine award for Best Trumpeter of the Year '76. Joined La Sonora Matancera for five years '76; while appearing with them in Caracas '79 he played on Se Empato El Sonero by Sonero Cl sico del Caribe, veteran Venezuelan musicians who specialized in the Cuban septeto style. He re-created the trumpet style of '30s-40s Trinidad calypso, backing Growling Tiger on Knockdown Calypsos '79 on Rounder. He once more fronted a band on three tipico (typical, traditional) Cuban LPs produced by Roberto Torres for his SAR label: Prefiero El Son, Y Sigo Con Mi Son and Chocolate Dice '80-2. He was house musician with SAR and related Guajiro and Toboga labels, recording with Torres, Papaito, Henry Fiol, many others including SAR All Stars; then went to new Caimán label for his own Latin jazz sets Chocolate en Sexteto '83, Rompiendo Hielo! '84 and Chocolate y Amigos (latter released '95).

He made three LPs on the Dutch Timeless label '82-3 with the Machito Salsa Big Band as well as Eastern Rebellion 4 '84 with pianist Cedar Walton's sextet including trombonist Curtis Fuller. He sessioned on Caimán releases: Super All-Star '84, septeto style Pionero del Son '84 by Alfredo Valdés and Con Tumbao '85 by Los Guaracheros de Oriente. He played on Cachao's classics Cachao y su Descarga '77 Vol. 1 '76 and Dos, Vol. 2 '77 on Salsoul; appeared in feature-length documentary Cachao: Como Su Ritmo No Hay Dos '92; played on Paquito D'Rivera Presents 40 Years Of Cuban Jam Session '93 and Cachao's Grammy-winning Master Sessions Volume 1 '94, Grammy-nominated Master Sessions Volume II '95; sessioned on Estrellas Caimán's Descarga In New York '95 on Caimán, Carnaval '95 on Ventorillo by A. J. Diaz and his Dancing Jazz Grupo Kabioselé.