Chano Pozo Day

January 7, 1915 – December 3, 1948

A tribute to the influential Cuban percussionist

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Percussionist Luciano Pozo y Gonzales (“Chano Pozo”) was born on January 7, 1915 in Havana, Cuba.

Pozo worked in street dance groups in his early days and as a choreographer for hotel revues.

Although he did not know how to formally write music, he was skilled at composing songs, singing out the melodies for a copyist to transcribe; several of his tunes caught on in Cuba including “Paraparampampin” (which was in the repertoire of several New York Cuban orchestras) and “Nague” which became a hit for Machito.

During 1940-43, Pozo led El Conjunto And with his brother.

After meeting Mario Bauza, Pozo was encouraged to come to the U.S., arriving in New York in May 1946.

He struggled for a period as a conga player and a dancer, leading three obscure record dates during February-March 1947 before Bauza introduced Pozo to Dizzy Gillespie who soon hired him for his big band.

Pozo made a strong impression at Gillespie’s September 29, 1947 Carnegie Hall concert and in December he recorded “Algo Bueno,” “Cool Breeze,” “Cubana Be,” and “Cubana Bop” with Gillespie, cutting four more numbers at a second session that included a number that he co-wrote with Gillespie, “Manteca.”

Chano Pozo was the first conga player to be regularly featured with an American jazz big band; he also co-composed “Tin Tin Deo” and “Guachi Guaro” with Gillespie and recorded on dates led by Milt Jackson, Tadd Dameron and James Moody.

Pozo’s life ended tragically when he was shot during a fight when he was a month shy of turning 34.

No film exists of Chano Pozo, who is featured here on the original studio version of “Manteca” with the Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra.

-Scott Yanow

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