Chano Pozo was attributed, by Dizzy Gillespie in his own memoirs: To Be Or Not To Bop, this sentiment regarding the workings of what is now referred to as “Latin Jazz.” (Remember, this is Diz translating...)
Deehee no peek pani, me no peek Angli, bo peek African.
Both speak African. Danny Barker, our own keeper of memory was present and characteristically observant of this mix.
This excerpt is from a one-on-one interview – possibly with Jack Buerkle – recorded around the same time period as the Xavier Lectures, the mid-1970's. Danny mentions several names that I was not familiar with: Cuban vocalist – Miguelito Valdes, Jose 'Pupi' Campo, and from Puerto Rico, The Morales Bothers – Esy, Humberto, and Noro Morales.
The Havana born percussionist, Chano Pozo is pivotal in the story of Jazz. Dizzy Gillespie was fascinated with this bold and eager tempered musician who's training centered around the traditional religious drumming of Cuba's slave descendants; Luciano Pozo y Gonzales was a “bridge man.” Dizzy's own words:
Chano taught us all multirhythm; we learned from the master. On the bus, he'd give me a drum,
(bassist) Al McKibbon a drum, and he'd take a drum. Another guy would have a cowbell, and he'd give everybody a rhythm. We'd see how all the rhythms tied into one another, and everybody was playing something different. We'd be on the road in a bus, riding down the road, and we'd play all down the highway. He'd teach us some of those Cuban chants and things like that.
Dizzy Gillespie was introduced to Chano Pozo by the Cuban virtuoso, Mario Bauza whose influence on the New York scene of the 1930's was significantly potent. Dizzy's inclusion of Pozo into his band in 1947 produced the classics Manteca
and Tin Tin Deo.
It is unfortunate that these recordings are still referred to, and perhaps relegated as, “Latin Jazz.” It would seem apparent that both Dizzy and Danny saw just how much of their lives paralleled that of their Spanish speaking peers. The reality that Chano Pozo exhibited some of the same brilliance and excess of Charlie Parker was, at least, intriguing to the southern-born men who would seemingly be separated only by nationality which in completeness, was denied to them.
Chano Pozo was shot to death at close range on December 2nd 1948, in a Harlem barroom. Danny Barker tries his best to sum up the short life of “the master” Chano.
Peace & Pops,
Maison Musique, New Orleans
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