A talented section player who rarely soloed, Mario Bauzá's main importance to music was behind the scenes as one of the main instigators of Afro-Cuban jazz, the potent mixture of Latin rhythms with jazz improvisation. A multi-instrumentalist, Bauzá played clarinet and oboe with the Havana Philharmonic before moving to New York in 1930. During a stint with Noble Sissle in 1932, he switched to trumpet. As musical director with Chick Webb (1933-1938), Bauzá helped convince the drummer of the potential greatness of Ella Fitzgerald. He was with Don Redman during 1938-1939, and then Cab Calloway (1939-1941). Bauzá was largely responsible for Calloway hiring Dizzy Gillespie, and in 1947 he would introduce Gillespie to Chano Pozo. Bauzá became the longtime musical director of his brother-in-law Machito's orchestra (1941-1976), encouraging Machito to add jazz solos to his music. In the 1980s and early '90s as the head of his own Afro-Cuban orchestra, Mario Bauzá (who had long since given up playing trumpet) recorded three excellent albums of his arrangements and finally received some recognition for his important contributions to music.
- by Scott Yanow
All Music Group