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The Afro-Cubans were a Latin jazz band founded by Machito in 1940; often billed as Machito and his Afro-Cubans. Their musical director, and an important musical innovator, was Mario Bauzá, Machito's brother-in-law.
The Afro-Cubans combined Cuban music with orchestrations derived from swing. As well, the Afro-Cubans played with and incorporated the music of many important figures in contemporary jazz, including Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Flip Phillips, and Buddy Rich; but the association went both ways, as the Latin rhythms of the Afro-Cubans strongly influenced the jazz scene in New York.
After making some early 78s for Decca, the Afro-Cubans began to increase in popularity towards the end of World War II, appearing with—and no doubt influencing -- Stan Kenton's orchestra. (Machito played maracas on Kenton's recordings of "The Peanut Vendor" and "Cuban Carnival") and recorded for Mercury and Clef. On Bauzá's urging, Machito's band featured a galaxy of American jazz soloists on its recordings from 1948 to 1960, including Charlie Parker (heard memorably on "No Noise"), Dizzy Gillespie, Flip Phillips, Howard McGhee, Buddy Rich, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Cannonball Adderley, Herbie Mann, Curtis Fuller and Johnny Griffin. Playing regularly at New York's Palladium, Machito's band reached its peak of popularity during the mambo craze of the 1950s, survived the upheavals of the '60s and despite the loss of Bauzá in 1976, continued to work frequently in the '60s, '70s, and early '80s when the term "salsa" came into use. The band recorded for Pablo (in tandem with Gillespie) and Timeless in its later years.
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