Frank "Machito" Grillo

Real Name:
Francisco Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo
Profile:
Francisco Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo (February, 16, 1912, Havana, Cuba - † April 15, 1984, London, England)

He is one of the most criminally underrated artists in the landscape of Afro-Caribbean music. A musical genius and mercurial bandleader whom Tito Puente himself called el maestro - the master. Now, this volume in the La Herencia series allows us to rediscover and cherish the legacy of Francisco Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo.

Everything about Machito was unique and different. He was one of the few Afro-Cuban singers who performed both coro (chorus) and inspiraciones (verses) within the same tune. He shared vocal duties with his sister, Graciela Pérez-Grillo, creating mellifluous harmonies that are instantly recognizable. Most importantly, Machito infused every song in his dozens of albums with an air of bonhomie. Once you discover the warmth and giddy sense of humor that define his recordings, you will probably be hooked - just like the many Machito fans all over the world who get a smile on their faces with the simple mention of the man's name.

Born in 1908, Machito was the son of a cigar manufacturer. In 1937, he left his native Cuba for New York - a move that would change the history of Latin music. After working with tropical luminaries of the time such as Cuarteto Caney, Noro Morales and Xavier Cugat, Machito founded his own group, the Afro-Cubans, in 1940. Together with his brother-in-law and musical director Mario Bauzá, he was one of the pioneers of the Latin jazz movement - their track "Tanga" was just as groundbreaking as "Manteca," the historic collaboration between Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo.

But to think of Machito simply as a Latin jazz musician would be a huge mistake. Yes, his 1957 album Kenya is one of the genre's most influential recordings. But Machito thrived in every tropical style imaginable: he recorded mambos and cha cha chas with unparalleled panache, but never forgot to include a steamy bolero in his repertoire. Boasting earth shattering performances by Graciela, Machito's boleros are some of the most transcendental examples of the genre. As decades passed, Machito made it a point to inform himself about the latest trends in music. He explored the bossa nova, Latin Soul and boogaloo fads.

The decade between the mid '50s and the mid '60s was a time of prodigious creativity for Machito and his orchestra. Its musicians and vocalists were at the peak of their powers, and they recorded copiously. It was also the time when the orchestras of Machito, Tito Rodríguez and Tito Puente competed against one other at the mythical Palladium - the temple of Afro-Cuban music in New York.

The tracks on this collection are culled mostly from the albums that Machito recorded for the Tico label during that period: classic LPs such as Sí Sí, No No (1956), the forgotten masterpiece Machito Inspired (1957), A Night Out (1960) and Tremendo Cumbán (1963).

The opening track in this anthology is an electrifying version of the classic Cuban tune "El Yerbero." Check out the tightness of the brass section, as well as the vocal exuberance of both Machito and Graciela. This is the kind of swing that only the few true masters of Afro-Caribbean dynamics can possess.

Included in Tremendo Cumbán, "Escúchame" is one of the few boleros where Machito can be heard sharing lead vocals with his sister. Their voices soar, backed by a silky big-band arrangement. Also from the same album, the inimitable "Franciscua Guajira" showcases Machito's eccentric sense of humor. After launching into the infectious chant "que sea como sea/que para bien sea," Machito and Graciela engage in a hilarious dialogue that also involves singer/songwriter Marcelino Guerra. The track fades out with the sound of Graciela's hearty laughter.

A sarcastic ode to the climatological pleasures of New York City, "Freezilandia" includes a touch of doo-wop vocal harmonies and a sweet mood of wide-eyed innocence about it - it is one of the orchestra's most endearing songs. The same doo-wop influence can be heard on Graciela's dreamy reading of the timeless bolero "Contigo En La Distancia."

The exotic "Heat Wave" is a lush instrumental cover of the 1933 Irving Berlin standard - from a 1959 LP devoted solely to Latinizing the Berlin songbook. Transposing American classics to tropical music was a popular stylistic device of the time, used with equal success by Tito Puente and Tito Rodríguez.

"Sopa de Pichón," which Machito composed himself, was one of his first big hits with the Afro-Cubans. The crisp version that we chose to include here is from the 1959 session Cha Cha Cha At The Palladium.

In 1956, Graciela had caused a stir with the salacious (and somewhat overwhelming) "Sí Sí, No No." The singer would step into similar double-entendre territory again with the hit "Ay, José." It was included in the excellent 1963 LP Esta Es Graciela, which together with Intimo Y Sentimental, were Machito's last two releases for Tico - and an attempt to launch Graciela herself as the star of the Machito orchestra.

In the mid '70s, Machito would take a decision that remains puzzling to this day. In an attempt to compete with the smaller salsa combos of the time, he downsized his group, leaving behind both Graciela and Mario Bauzá. "I don't know what got to him," says Graciela from her New York apartment, with sadness in her voice. "To this day, there is no explanation for what he did."

Machito carried on, recording with former Eddie Palmieri vocalist Lalo Rodríguez. By the early '80s, his sound had embraced the contemporary salsa aesthetics that he himself had helped develop. The closing track on this anthology, "Soy Salsero," draws a full circle - from Afro-Cuban jazz pioneer to salsa star.

El maestro Machito passed away in 1984, after suffering a heart attack during a performance at the London jazz club Ronnie Scott's. Musically, he was still at the top of his game.
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Vocals

CLP 131X, SD 14 Frank "Machito" Grillo - Fireworks album art Machito Orchestra* Machito Orchestra* - Fireworks (Album) Coco Records CLP 131X, SD 14 France 1977 Sell This Version
CFF5076 Frank "Machito" Grillo - Mi Ritmo Llego / No Seras Para Mi  album art Machito Orchestra* Machito Orchestra* - Mi Ritmo Llego / No Seras Para Mi (7", Promo, Rad) Coco Records CFF5076 US 1977 Sell This Version
CFF5093 Frank "Machito" Grillo - Guaguanco A Mexico / Soy Salsero album art Machito Orchestra* Machito Orchestra* - Guaguanco A Mexico / Soy Salsero(7", Promo) Coco Records CFF5093 US 1977 Sell This Version
SJP 161 Frank "Machito" Grillo - Machito And His Salsa Big Band 1982 album art Machito And His Salsa Big Band Machito And His Salsa Big Band - Machito And His Salsa Big Band 1982 (Album) Timeless Records (3) SJP 161 Netherlands 1982 Sell This Version
SJR CD29 Frank "Machito" Grillo - Nu Yorica! (Culture Clash In New York City: Experiments In Latin Music 1970-77) album art Various Macho Various - Nu Yorica! (Culture Clash In New York City: Experiments In Latin Music 1970-77)(2xCD, Comp) Soul Jazz Records SJR CD29 UK 1996 Sell This Version

Instruments & Performance

CD-79 Frank "Machito" Grillo - A Presentation Of Progressive Jazz album art Stan Kenton And His Orchestra Stan Kenton And His Orchestra - A Presentation Of Progressive Jazz (Album) Capitol Records CD-79 US 1948 Sell This Version
SM-502327 Frank "Machito" Grillo - Stan Kenton's Greatest Hits album art Stan Kenton The Peanut Vendor (as Frank Grillo) Stan Kenton - Stan Kenton's Greatest Hits (Comp, Album) Capitol Records SM-502327 US 1965 Sell This Version
2310-771 Frank "Machito" Grillo - Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods album art Dizzy Gillespie Y Machito Dizzy Gillespie Y Machito - Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods (Album) Pablo Records 2310-771 France 1976 Sell This Version
CLP 131X, SD 14 Frank "Machito" Grillo - Fireworks album art Machito Orchestra* Machito Orchestra* - Fireworks (Album) Coco Records CLP 131X, SD 14 France 1977 Sell This Version
CFF5093 Frank "Machito" Grillo - Guaguanco A Mexico / Soy Salsero album art Machito Orchestra* Machito Orchestra* - Guaguanco A Mexico / Soy Salsero(7", Promo) Coco Records CFF5093 US 1977 Sell This Version
CFF5076 Frank "Machito" Grillo - Mi Ritmo Llego / No Seras Para Mi  album art Machito Orchestra* Machito Orchestra* - Mi Ritmo Llego / No Seras Para Mi (7", Promo, Rad) Coco Records CFF5076 US 1977 Sell This Version
SJP 161 Frank "Machito" Grillo - Machito And His Salsa Big Band 1982 album art Machito And His Salsa Big Band Machito And His Salsa Big Band - Machito And His Salsa Big Band 1982 (Album) Timeless Records (3) SJP 161 Netherlands 1982 Sell This Version
CD 2405.411, CD-2405-411 Frank "Machito" Grillo - The Best Of Dizzy Gillespie album art Dizzy Gillespie Dizzy Gillespie - The Best Of Dizzy Gillespie(CD, Comp) Pablo Records, Pablo Records CD 2405.411, CD-2405-411 Europe 1987 Sell This Version
NI-4006 Frank "Machito" Grillo - 23 Degrees North, 82 Degrees West (Concert In Miniature Encores 1952-53) album art Stan Kenton And His Orchestra Stan Kenton And His Orchestra - 23 Degrees North, 82 Degrees West (Concert In Miniature Encores 1952-53) Natasha Imports NI-4006 US 1992 Sell This Version
DRCD11375 Frank "Machito" Grillo - The Complete Carnegie Hall Performances album art Charlie Parker Charlie Parker - The Complete Carnegie Hall Performances(4xCD, Comp) Disconforme SL, Definitive Records (2) DRCD11375 Europe 2007 Sell This Version

Writing & Arrangement

SVL 3004, SVL.3004 Frank "Machito" Grillo - Vacation At The Concord album art Machito & His Afro-Cuban Orchestra* Mambo La Concord Machito & His Afro-Cuban Orchestra* - Vacation At The Concord(LP) Coral, Coral SVL 3004, SVL.3004 UK 1958 Sell This Version
MLP-557 Frank "Machito" Grillo - Danzon-Cha album art Orquesta Sensación Cantan: Barroso*, Tabenito, Alvarez* El Pichon Y La Paella Orquesta Sensación Cantan: Barroso*, Tabenito, Alvarez* - Danzon-Cha (Album) Puchito MLP-557 Cuba 1960 Sell This Version
45-8009, 8009 Frank "Machito" Grillo - Danzon Cha / Contra Tu Traicion album art Orq. Sensacion* Con Alvarez*, Tabenito , Y Barroso* El Pichon Y La Paella (as Frank Grillo) Orq. Sensacion* Con Alvarez*, Tabenito , Y Barroso* - Danzon Cha / Contra Tu Traicion(7", Single) Puchito, Puchito 45-8009, 8009 US 1960 Sell This Version
LP 1084 Frank "Machito" Grillo - The New Sound Of Machito album art Machito & His Orch.* Juanito (as Frank Grillo) Machito & His Orch.* - The New Sound Of Machito (Album) Tico Records LP 1084 US 1962 Sell This Version
415 Frank "Machito" Grillo - Juanito / Para Ti album art Machito & His Orch.* Juanito (as Frank Grillo) Machito & His Orch.* - Juanito / Para Ti Tico Records 415 US 1962 Sell This Version
DL 4505 Frank "Machito" Grillo - Machito Y Sus Afro Cubans album art Machito Y Sus Afro Cubans* Sopa De Pichon (as Frank Grillo) and 1 more… Machito Y Sus Afro Cubans* - Machito Y Sus Afro Cubans Decca DL 4505 US 1964 Sell This Version
M 3189 Frank "Machito" Grillo - Mas Canciones Mi Mama No Me Enseño / More Spanish Songs Mama Never Taught Me album art Joe Cuba Sextet · Miguelito Valdes · Tito Puente Y Su Orquesta* · Graciela Con Machito Y Su Orquesta* La Bochinchera (as F. Grillo) and 1 more… Joe Cuba Sextet · Miguelito Valdes · Tito Puente Y Su Orquesta* · Graciela Con Machito Y Su Orquesta* - Mas Canciones Mi Mama No Me Enseño / More Spanish Songs Mama Never Taught Me (Comp) Tico Records, Tico Records M 3189 Argentina 1964 Sell This Version
CAM-264 Frank "Machito" Grillo - A Ritmo Del Barbaro (Mas Exitos De Beny More) album art Beny More* Sopa De Pichón (as Frank Grillo and 2 more… Beny More* - A Ritmo Del Barbaro (Mas Exitos De Beny More)(LP, Comp, Mono) RCA Camden CAM-264 Mexico 1967 Sell This Version
LP-1191, LP 1191 Frank "Machito" Grillo - En El Puente / On The Bridge album art Tito Puente Congo Mulense (as Frank Grillo) Tito Puente - En El Puente / On The Bridge (Album) Tico Records, Tico Records LP-1191, LP 1191 US 1969 Sell This Version
DML-MI-167 Frank "Machito" Grillo - Canciones Mi Mamá No Me Enseñó (Spanish Songs Mama Never Taught Me)  album art Miguelito Valdes, Joe Cuba Sextet, Tito Puente Y Su Orquesta*, Graciela Con Machito Y Su Orquesta* Juanito (as Frank Grillo) Miguelito Valdes, Joe Cuba Sextet, Tito Puente Y Su Orquesta*, Graciela Con Machito Y Su Orquesta* - Canciones Mi Mamá No Me Enseñó (Spanish Songs Mama Never Taught Me) (Album, Comp) Roulette DML-MI-167 Mexico 1971 Sell This Version