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Restoring the Bronx-Cuba Music Connection

August 2017, Jazz on the Tube brought Havana jazz educator Camilo Moreira to New York City and the Bronx to experience US jazz and meet his Latin jazz “uncles” and “cousins” in the U.S. first hand for the first time. (Camilo has been up before but always with heavy work loads that didn’t permit him to do any of his own explorations.)

Bobby Sanabria kindly took us around the Bronx to learn about the mostly unknown history of this most important and under-appreciated hotbed for musical innovation in America. We also hit the clubs and other resources like the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center, the Bronx Music Heritage Center and the Schomburg Center in Harlem.

The Bronx: One of the most innovative music communities on earth.

Coltrane, Monk, Miles, Dizzy, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Herbie Hancock, and others all found audiences in the borough’s vast network of live music venues as did Machito, Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, Celia Cruz, Mongo Santamaria, and many others.

Bobby Sanabria, Mike Amadeo, and Camilo at Casa Amadeo. Amadeo, proprietor of the oldest Latin music store in the Bronx, is the author of over 300 songs written for and performed by the likes of Celia Cruz, Danny Rivera and Cheito Gonzalez.

An original mint condition disk of the super hit of 1930, “El Manisero” (The Peanut Vendor), the first million seller in Latin music history.

The remaining facade of one of over one hundred live theaters, concert halls and night clubs that used to dot the Bronx.

The South Bronx in 1976 when presidential Jimmy Carter candidate visited for a photo op. Devastated by highways built through the community, bank redlining, the heroin epidemic launched by the Vietnam War and calculated government neglect, this immigrant and working class community was plunged into social and economic chaos. The sense of unease felt by the outsiders, including New York City’s mayor at the time, is palpable in this photo.

The Puerto Rican community fought back against long odds on many fronts. The “Three Sisters” (Las Tres Hermanas) Evelina Lopez Antonetty, Lillian Lopez, and Elba Cabrera took leadership roles in the arts, libraries and the public school system demanding and winning equal treatment for the Bronx.

Bobby shares some details of the history of the Bronx’s Puerto Rican community at the Bronx Music Heritage Center where he is Co-Artistic Director.

Camilo stands with Las Tres Hermanas in front
of the Casita Maria Community Center.

Here’s the text of the plaque Camilo is standing in front of in the first picture:

This neighborhood has been the incubator to more different styles of music than any other area in New York City. A home for Jazz, Doo Wop, R&B, and Latin music in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s, the area continues to be a home to many of the innovators of Hip Hop.

On any given night from the 1940’s through the 60’s, one could see and hear jazz legends such as Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Maxine Sullivan, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, Charlie Parker, Helen Merrill, Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins, Nancy Wilson, Henry “Red” Allen and Elmo Hope perform in any one of the area’s many music venues.

These clubs, such as Blue Morocco, Club 845, The Tropicana, The McKinley Theater, Freddie’s, The Embassy Ballroom and The Hunt’s Point Palace also gave rise to Doo-Wop and R&B greats such as the Chantels, The Crickets, The Limelighters, Arthur Crier, The Chords, The Morrisania Revue, The Wrens, Mickey and Sylvia and the Jimmy Castor Bunch. Local Latin Jazz and Salsa stars who could also be heard here included Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, Machito, Celia Cruz and Mongo Santamaria.

These celebrated musicians lived, worked and played here and pioneered new genres of music and dance that continue to inspire future generations.

More about Camilo Moriera

More about Bobby Sanabria

More about Mike Amadeo

Click here: The emergency in Puerto Rico is not over: How to help

– Ken McCarthy
Jazz on the Tube


Osain del Monte
Mike Amadeo of Casa Amadeo

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