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Varis Leichtman Studio

Roots & Rhythms of Latin Jazz, with Bobby Sanabria

Week 3: The Breakthrough – Mario Bauzá and The Machito Afro-Cubans

Can’t commit to a full course? Single classes are now available at Swing University for $35 each (fees may apply).

“…you see, this was a new concept in interpreting Cuban music with as much (harmonic) richness as possible. You have to understand how important this was. It made every other band that came after, followers.”  – Chico O’Farrill

Cuban born trumpeter, clarinetist, alto saxophonist, Mario Bauzá had been a child prodigy becoming a member of the Havana Philharmonic as a teenager and a featured clarinetist with pianist Antonio Maria Romeu’s Charanga Orchestra. His arrival to NYC in 1926 at the age of 15 with Romeu changed his life as he was inspired by two things – Harlem, and the Paul Whitman Orchestra performing Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue. His return in 1930 led to him becoming drummer Chick Webb’s lead trumpeter and musical director eventually working with Cab Calloway where he mentored Dizzy Gillespie. Mario’s dream? To form an orchestra that would fuse authentic Afro-Cuban rhythms with the elegance, power, and harmonic sophistication of a jazz big band. In Spanish Harlem in 1939 his dream would be realized when with his brother-in-law, vocalist Frank “Machito” Grillo they would  form the Machito Afro-Cubans. We will explore the incredible musical innovations of this groundbreaking orchestra as well as the many musicians, composers, arrangers that the orchestra gave rise to like Tito Puente and Ray Santos, and those that were influenced by it like Dizzy Gillespie, Chano Pozo, and Charlie Parker.

Visitor Info

Frederick P. Rose Hall, 5th floor

Broadway and 60th Street


Customer Service


Price Info

$35 per person