Did you know that Latin jazz originated in New York City as a result of the blending of Afro-Cuban, Afro-Puerto Rican and African American cultures?

Jazz bands dominated New Orleans in the 1930s, while Afro-Cubans were traveling across the Gulf to share their own mix of Spanish, Caribbean and African rhythms.

Jazz and Afro-Cuban music collided when…

In New York, Cuban-born trumpeter Mario Bauzá fell in love with jazz playing in the legendary Cab Calloway band. But his Cuban roots had him imagining his own big band with an Afro-Cuban rhythm section.

Mario formed his band, which he referred to as a pie, with “jazz in the top and African-Cuban rhythms at the bottom.”

In the 40s, American jazz icon Dizzy Gillespie worked with Cuban percussionist Chano Pozo to establish this combined sound as ‘Afro-Cuban jazz.’

And it grew in popularity throughout the 50s. But revolution and tensions between Cuba and the U.S. made it difficult for musicians to leave the island and continue this cultural exchange.

Before the demise of Afro-Cuban jazz, Nuyoricans brought new life to the genre. Musicians like Títo Puente, Eddie Palmieri and Willie Bobo injected their Puerto Rican rhythms and, eventually, Afro-Cuban jazz morphed into ‘Latin jazz.’

Today, Latin Jazz has its own Grammy category, and musicians like Yissy Garcia and Daymé Arocena continue to elevate it. 

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