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Bridges

Chapter 3: Looking Back: Dizzy Gillespie & Chano Pozo: Champions of Latin Jazz

[ENTER CANDIDO CAMERO: WALKING ON STAGE TOWARD CONGAS]

In the late 1940s, a handful of Cuban conga players arrived in New York, and began transforming popular music almost immediately. One, was Candido Camero.

[CANDIDO BEGINS PLAYING MANTECA MELODY ON CONGAS]

Along with his peers, congueros like Mongo Santamaria and Armando Peraza, Candido would introduce the US to an entirely new level of conga mastery.

[CONGA BREAK]

The instrument itself would be at the heart of a new fusion in Jazz, created by one of the Afro-Cubans greatest fans, Dizzy Gillespie.

[FOOTAGE: MONTAGE GILLESPIE PLAYING TRUMPET]

As a founder of Bebop, Gillespie had already revolutionized Jazz... but he saw one aspect of it as stubbornly resistant to change.

WASHBURNE: In his autobiography he said, "you know, the rhythm of Jazz was boring..." in the sense that it was ding-di-gi-ding-di-gi-ding for the most part.

[CONTEMPORARY FOOTAGE: CANDIDO PLAYING MANTECA ON CONGA]

With an upcoming concert with his Big Band at Carnegie Hall late in 1947, Gillespie asked Bauzá to suggest someone to play, in Gillespie's words, "one of those tom-toms."

[MUSIC: POZO CHANTING AND STILL: CHANO POZO]

Bauzá introduced him to Chano Pozo, who had recently arrived in New York from Cuba, where he was a successful songwriter, showman, and conga player.

[STILLS: CHANO POZO]

He had risen out of one of the roughest tenements in Havana.

SANABRIA: (VO) Chano's a street dude, man. He'll cut you, he'll bitch slap you, (OC) Chano was so famous for getting into fights, etcetera. He had like a bullet lodged near his spine; they couldn't get the bullet out.

[STILLS: CHANO POZO]

SANABRIA: (VO) You got this guy, who's like pure street, (OC) but he's got all of this incredible folkloric knowledge and mystical knowledge and rhythmic knowledge.

[STILL: CARNEGIE HALL]

At Carnegie Hall, Chano Pozo performed in a two-part number written to feature his playing, "Cubana Be, Cubana Bop."

[MUSIC BREAK]

RAY SANTOS: Chano's appearance went over very big.

WASHBURNE: People went absolutely nuts.

COLON: So, the band that did the most way-out Afro-Cuban Jazz was Dizzy's!

[STILL: CHANO AND DIZZY IN DRESSING ROOM]

Afterward, Dizzy asked Chano to stay with the band. Not everyone was pleased.

SANABRIA: Most of the musicians in the band, they were all African-American, did not want him in the band.

[STILL: DIZZY PLAYING MARACAS]

SANABRIA: (VO) Jungle Music... we're beyond that.

[STILLS: CHANO POZO]

Communication wasn't easy. Chano didn't speak English. No one in the band spoke Spanish.

But a bridge between cultures was found in music, when Chano approached Dizzy with a tune he'd made up, "Manteca."

DIZZY GILLESPIE: (ARCHIVE INTERVIEW) He said, "Dizzy, first the bajo" — the bass. He gave me the bass lick. I wrote that down, bi-di-bi-di-bi-bom-bim-BOM.

[CONTEMPORARY / RECREATION: BASS TIGHT SHOT]

GILLESPIE: (ARCHIVE INTERVIEW) And then he said, "after that goes, uhm, saxo -saxophone: bom-bim, bom-bim...

[CONTEMPORARY / RECREATION: SAXOPHONES TIGHT SHOT]

GILLESPIE: (ARCHIVE INTERVIEW) The trombone: bom-pu-bibi-pi-bom...

[CONTEMPORARY / RECREATION: TROMBONE TIGHT SHOT]

GILLESPIE: (ARCHIVE INTERVIEW) And the trumpets -aaahhhh!

[CONTEMPORARY / RECREATION: TRUMPET TIGHT SHOT]

GILLESPIE: (ARCHIVE INTERVIEW) And all this was going at the same time and it sure sounded good to me.

[CONTEMPORARY / RECREATION: MANTECA]

[STILL: CHANO POZO]

Arturo Sandoval: (VO) "Manteca" is probably (OC) one of the most, you know, distinctive tunes. Really it identifies what is Afro-Cuban Jazz, all about.

[STILLS: DIZZY GILLESPIE]

SANABRIA: (VO) Now Dizzy wasn't the first one to create what we call Afro-Cuban Jazz, or Latin Jazz, (OC) That title goes to the Machito Afro-Cubans, but Dizzy was the first person to champion it, outside of the realm of (VO) the close knit society of those musicians that were from the culture.

[CONTEMPORARY FOOTAGE: CANDIDO PLAYS MANTECA ON CONGA]

SANDOVAL: (OC) Unfortunately one year later, somebody killed Chano in a bar in Harlem. (VO) But he left such a great impression on Dizzy. Dizzy never stopped to talk about Chano.

[CONTEMPORARY FOOTAGE: CANDIDO ENDS MANTECA, WALKS OFF STAGE]

FADE TO BLACK

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