Celebration of Machito: Mario Grillo


>>From the Library of
Congress in Washington D.C.>>Larry Applebaum:
Good afternoon everyone. Welcome. So, nice to see you here. if anybody is serious about
Afro Cuban music or Latin Jazz, then surely you know
the name Machito; one of the most important band
leaders in American music. He more or less defines the
genre, especially for this music in the 1940s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. We’re going to celebrate his
music and his legacy today. And, I can’t think of
anybody better to help us do that than the gentleman
sitting at my right. If you’ve been following Latin jazz, you know him as a world
famous percussionist. He worked in the studios. He recorded hundreds maybe thousands
of jingles and commercials. But, I’ve been seeing
him, most recently, with Dizzy Gillespie’s
Afro Cuban experience. In fact, that’s when we
first met face to face after a performance
at the Kennedy Center. This is Mario Grillo. And I, and I use that pronunciation.>>Mario Grillo: Right.>>Larry Applebaum: Yes. He took over leadership of the
orchestra after his father died. And, he’s help maintain his legacy. Now, we have a special announcement
that we’re going to share with you in a few minutes. And, we hope you’re going to
stick around for all of that. We’ll talk a little bit
about his father’s music. And then, we’ll open it up for
any questions you might have. We also have some clips
to share with you. So, I think this will be fun. This is being videotaped for
webcast, just so you’ll know. I hope you help me
welcome Mario Grillo.>>Mario Grillo: Thank
you for having me here.>>Larry Applebaum:
It’s our pleasure. Now, as I mentioned,
everybody in this room, I’m guessing, knows Machito’s music. Let’s see a show of hands. Oh, good sign. But, not everybody knows about his
biography, details about his life. And, I want to start off by
talking a little bit about that. Let’s establish some
fact first of all. He was born when and where?>>Mario Grillo: Machito was born
December 3rd 1908 in Havana Cuba. He migrated to New
York City in 1937. When he got here, in 1937, he
immediately started working with what few bands there were
in New York City at that time. And, I asked him how he did that
and he said well gigs or, you know, dances in those days played, paid
$2, you know, $3 for the night. So, he would go to these dances
with $10 in his pocket or 20 bucks. And, he would go up to the singer or
whatever band it was and say listen, I’ll give you a dollar if
you let me sing a tune. And, that’s how people
started hearing him and knowing who is this Machito person. Shortly thereafter, he got with an incredible Puerto Rican
band leader named Noro Morales and he joined Noro’s band. Then, after that, a dear friend of his named Miguelito Valdez
was working with Xavier Cugat and decided to leave
and make his own band. So, now he goes to Cugat and he
tells him I’m leaving the band but I got a guy that can
do the job, you know. This guy’s dynamite, he can do it. He said, but, how can that be? I’m recording next week. You know, there’s no way he’s
going to learn this new material and everything in a week’s time. No way. He said, no,
don’t worry about it. This guy will do it. and, of the tunes that Noro Morales
picked, he picked one, which is, which is the standard
called Cachita. And, that was a block buster hit
sold, I don’t know how many copies. And, from there, you
know, the rest is history. He went to work with
a band Alberto Iznaga. And, Estrellas Habaneras. And, like all musicians do, and we
still do it today, you pirate a band out of the band that you’re in. So then, he took the bass
player, the piano player, the trumpet player,
the sax, you know, he took like the entire
band and made his own band. And, his first arranger was
Jose Madera Sr., Pin Madera. He had his own band in 39. But then, in 1940, my beloved uncle and namesake Mario Bauza was
musical director with Chick Webb, he had gone with Cab Calloway,
Noble Sissel, the Missourians, all these kind of crazy stuff. And, he tells my father,
you know, Machito, I want to stay in New York, man. I don’t, I don’t want
to keep traveling. You know, I want to be
in this city permanently. And, they reorganized
the orchestra again. Well, when Mario came to the
band, he came with this idea and this concept of
taking a big band concept, a big band jazz concept
but put a Latin rhythm, and Afro Cuban rhythm
section underneath it. From there came things like
tanga, later on Dizzy Gillespie which [inaudible] Monteca. These were the ground breaking tunes which established what then they
called the Cubop period along bop and bebop period. I would say that 95% of the work
that Machito did was in jazz clubs, you know, like the Birdland and
the Royal Goose and Bop City, different places like that. He did do the Latin scene,
so to speak, Chateau Madrid and things along those lines. But, it always tended to be
more of a jazz side to the band. Mr. Appelbaum was asking
me, and I was telling him about this whole thing about
Machito and these Afro Cubans. Okay, people would ask him
Machito who are your Afro Cubans? He goes okay, you know, Mark
Freedman, Ken Hitchcock, you know, Leslie, I mean, his thing was
he didn’t need Afro Cubans. What he needed was musician, guys who came with that
big band experience. Many of the guys that
came to our band had come out of Duke Ellington’s and Woody
Herman’s band and Buddy Rich’s band, Thad Jones Mel Lewis Orchestra. So, they already came prepared. The only thing that was always
difficult was to find that clave, to be able to connect
with that clave. But, a couple of challenges
very easy.>>Larry Applebaum: Can
I just ask you quickly, for anybody watching this webcast? What is clave.>>Mario Grillo: What clave is a
two-part phrase, four-part phrase, you know, it can either
be three two or two three. So, it can be. [ Singing notes ] Or you can reverse it to. [ Singing notes ] That’s where you get the
prescription from dancers who say that they dance on two, you
know, and it’s because of the way that the clave falls in
that rhythmic patter. But, I was telling [inaudible] that,
you know, clave isn’t everything. You know, Beethoven’s
5th is in clave. [ Singing notes ] That’s in clave. So, it’s, nothing new. But, it certainly is the
core of what we play. It’s a very clave driven music. I can’t play out of clave.>>Larry Applebaum:
It’s the heartbeat.>>Mario Grillo: It’s the heart. It’s the pulse. And, I have found that
I, I’ve given up. I can’t. I just, I’ll just
like bluff around when that jump comes, you know, so. [ Singing notes ] And I’ll come, I’ll come right
back in again because it’s just, I really can’t play on a clave, not. Well, funny thing, working
with Dizzy Gillespie band, and more of the jazz format,
the clave is very flexible. You know, you can go back and
forth in the middle of a tune. I find it tough to do. It’s cool because I, now I look for
it, you know, I’m conscious of it and I know when that
jump is going to come. But, initially, no, I found
it quite difficult to do. But, it’s just what’s within you.>>Larry Applebaum: Two quickies. Did people call him, as
friends, did they call him Macho?>>Mario Grillo: Macho.>>Larry Applebaum: Okay.>>Mario Grillo: Yeah.>>Larry Applebaum:
Nobody called him Frank?>>Mario Grillo: No.>>Larry Applebaum: Or Francesco?>>Mario Grillo: And,
strangely enough, in our family, we have some here,
everybody’s Frank. My brother’s Frank, his son is
Frank, my daughter’s Francesca, my brother-in-law is
Frank, his son is Frank. We have another twin Frank that
we call cockeyed Frank, big Frank, we have Baby Frank, who is Frank
Serrica [assumed spelling], we have the other Frank
Hartman, whatever. So, when you say Frank, in our
house, that, everybody’s like, you know, because there’s like
seven, eight, or nine of them. But, they know who they are by the
tone of your voice, you know, like, we always like go Frank
Serrica, the baby, we always used to call him Frank the Greek because,
for his first couple of years, [inaudible], you know, we didn’t
know what the heck he was saying. But, yeah, there’s a
whole bunch of Franks. But, no, Macho, I would think
everybody just called him Macho.>>Larry Applebaum:
Speaker of family, when did he meet your mother Hilda?>>Mario Grillo: He met
my mother about 1940.>>Larry Applebaum:
And how did they meet?>>Mario Grillo: He, well, now
they call them stalkers, in that, in those days it was a
little different, you know. He saw this beautiful
girl go by, that was it. There’s five of us. They were pretty busy.>>Larry Applebaum: And you, in
order of five, which are you?>>Mario Grillo: Next to last. It’s my sister Martha, my
brother Frank, Barbara, me, and my little sister Paula.>>Larry Applebaum: Paula. She’s a singer. Yeah?>>Mario Grillo: Yes.>>Larry Applebaum:
She sang with a band.>>Mario Grillo: I threw
her out of the band. She came to me one day
and asked for a raise. And, I didn’t think
that was a good idea. But, she is quite fantastic.>>Larry Applebaum: Now, you are
a percussionist, as I mentioned. Did you study your father’s music
or was it just around the house?>>Mario Grillo: You
know what, it’s very sad. We didn’t listen to daddy’s music. Why? Here’s a guy walking around
in his underwear every day, I mean, you know. He didn’t impress us. So, we, we didn’t know,
we didn’t know who he was. But, tremendous person.>>Larry Applebaum: So, you
know, you grew up with this man. The world knows him for
his musical contributions.>>Mario Grillo: Yeah.>>Larry Applebaum: He’s a very
important figure around the world. And yet, for you, he’s
daddy, you know. So, at what point did you realize?>>Mario Grillo: Never.>>Larry Applebaum: Who he was?>>Mario Grillo: We still don’t. No clue.>>Larry Applebaum: And yet, all the musicians you work
with, they all revere him. Yes?>>Mario Grillo: Well,
because he was a very simple and very approachable individual. He believed that there should be
no dead chairs in an orchestra. Meaning, traditionally, it’s always
the tenor sax that plays the solos. It’s the third trumpet that
always plays the solos. Now, he would turn around
and point to anybody. And, I asked him one day,
I said why do you do that? You know, why does
everybody get to play? You know, they’re supposed be
soloists in a band, not everybody. He goes no, because if this, if this
band knows that I’m going to turn around an point to
them to come up front, they’re going to practice
their instrument, they’re going to send their
suit to the drycleaner, they’re going to polish their shoes,
they’re going to iron they’re shirt, and they’re going to be
looking for the opportunity when they know they
can come out front and let people know
what they can do. So, I don’t want no dead chairs
in my band everybody plays. I do it too. I had one guy come in from
Ray Charles orchestra, tremendous saxophonist. So, in the middle of a turn, you
know, so I turned around I pointed to him get up there, he
didn’t get up, you know. Now, I’m playing, you know, I turn
around, he didn’t get up, you know. So now, we finish the concert.>>Larry Applebaum: That’s good.>>Mario Grillo: We finished
the concert and I go over there and say yo bro, I pointed to
you like two or three times. He says, yeah I was wondering
why you were pointing at me. I told him well I want you to play,
I want you to come up and play. He goes, play what? A solo man, you play solos. Don’t you? He said, I was in Ray Charles band
five years, I never played a solo. I told him I said no man, this
is a different thing here, everybody plays. So, he goes wow. Without skipping a beat,
he says man I’m going to send my suit to the cleaners. And, you know, it struck me
and I was like, he was right. Yeah. So, I do, you know,
everybody gets to play except me. I’m not a soloist. I used to be, when I was five. But, I kind of got away from that.>>Larry Applebaum: Well, you
were playing at a very young age.>>Mario Grillo: Yeah.>>Larry Applebaum: And, you
were really making records.>>Mario Grillo: Well,
yeah, yeah, I started.>>Larry Applebaum: Image here.>>Mario Grillo: I started playing
in my father’s band when I was five. The, I came into the band
regular when I was 15. I was in high school. I was a freshman in high school. But, I started recording
when I was like 14. Daddy used to send me to
the recordings, jingles, recording radios commercials,
TV commercials. And, that’s how I started. So, I did a thousand jingles
and commercials and many, many recordings of
albums with other artists. You know, my wife laughs
because now I’ve come full circle after like 40 years I’m playing
what we call toys again, you know, tambourines, shakers,
and claves and things. I had gotten away from that. But, I’ve come right back to
that with Dizzy Gillespie Band, and it’s been incredible, you know,
because it gives you so much more to reach for in the
course of a performance. So, that’s been really nice. But then again, you know, again, nephecism [assumed spelling]
is a wonderful thing. One guy told me, oh man you know
what, the only reason you got that band, your father
left you that band. I said well what if he
would’ve had a bodega or a dry cleaner, or a supermarket? Well, that’s what I
would’ve gotten too. Would you, would you be envious if
he would’ve left me a shoe store or a, you know, whatever? So, I didn’t pick. If it was up to me, well we
had trouble with that one day. Daddy said, well, you
know, you guys are lucky. We said yeah we’d be lucky if we
were Rockefellers or Roosevelts or Kennedys, we’d have
millions of dollars, you know. He goes yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah I guess you’re right
on that one, you know. But, we, we had the same
things anyway and even more. So, you know, that’s
a pretty good thing. we’re happy about that.>>Larry Applebaum:
If you don’t mind, I want to ask a few more
questions about the early days, when he forms the Afro Cubans,
we’re talking early 1940s, yes. And, I’m sure he struggled
as did many immigrants who came to this country. Yes? And, he writes a song that
becomes a kind of hit for him. And, it’s about, it’s
about this pigeon suit.>>Mario Grillo: Yeah,
Sopa de Pichon. Well, the Sopa de Pichon,
again, like all Puerto Rican’s and Cuban’s and, you know, everything can be remedied
with a chicken soup. And, by the same token,
the pigeon soup. And, I think my mother
was pregnant at that time. And his, tiene que tomar
una sopa de pichon, para que baile te de expiracion. Big hit. Huge. But, keep in mind, nobody
was declaring anything about Afro anything in 1940. So then, to come with an orchestra and name it Afro Cubans was
pretty heavy at the time. And again, that was partially
Machito and also Mario Bauza, this thing of, you know, we’re
Africans and we’re Cubans. This is what we play. This is the strength of our music. So then, why not be proud of that. So, that’s the name of the band. The only time we ever changed
the name, we went to Europe. And, our promoter was also
the record company owner. So, he says to my father
Machito we’re going to record. Well, we recorded a Grammy Award
winning album big hoopty do. We beat out Jose Light
My Fire, Feliciano. Julio Iglesias. Well, as a result of us winning,
they changed the categories. Because, how you going to
spend $5 million on promotion for Julio Iglesias
and Machito, I think, our record company spent $17.85.>>Larry Applebaum: And stamps.>>Mario Grillo: And
stamps and manila envelopes. How can this guy win
and this guy not? So, then they changed
it from best Latin album to three categories best pop, best
tropical, best some other bologna. All I know is that they had
to create more categories because the industry
went quite insane. The night before the
Grammys, we were in the house and we were just hanging
out and whatever and we’re watching Johnny Carson. And, Julio Iglesias was on. And, he didn’t sing
one tune, he sang two. Who sings two songs
on Johnny Carson? Nobody. So then, I looked at my
father, he looked at me he said, you know, what, let’s not waste
gas, let’s not send anything to the cleaners, we’re
not going to win. How can we, how can we possibly win? But, Patrice Russian’s manager, we
had just been with him here in DC. He said Machito, I’m
going to be in the lane. So, what I’ll do is,
since they announce early, I’ll call you I’ll let you
know if you won or not. And, we were like yeah, okay. Wouldn’t you know,
hey Machito you won. He said won what? He said you won the
Grammy this year. He said you’re kidding me. Yeah. They’ll be calling
you any minute now. So now, he got up, he dressed,
he cut himself shaving, the whole craziness
and he went downtown. And, the one that presented him
the Grammy was a very dear friend [inaudible] Maurice Hines
from Hines, Hines, and Dad.>>Larry Applebaum: Yeah.>>Mario Grillo: Worked with us
in place called Concord Hotel, played 22 summers up there. I was the only kid in East Harlem that ate cold beef borscht
paid $1 for sour cream. My favorite was always Liberace,
just in, pretty incredible. But, he started out,
but you know what, he, as much as he struggled initially,
which everyone does, the product was so good that you just couldn’t
go wrong with it, you know. That’s why, to this day, I’ve always
said, when you talk about the big 3, you know, Machito, Tito
Puente, Tito Rodriguez, you’re saying it is the equivalent
of Ford, Chevrolet, General Motors. It’s a brand name,
Hellman’s, Hines, you know. So, we’ve been very blessed to
have 75 years of Machito Orchestra.>>Larry Applebaum: Now,
those three band leaders that you mentioned,
Tito, Tito, and Machito.>>Mario Grillo: Tito,
Tito, yeah sure.>>Larry Applebaum:
Were they rivals?>>Mario Grillo: Yes. But, only on the bandstand. They were the dearest of
friends, very good friends. And, I asked my father a
very poignant question. I said Daddy, let me
ask you a question. In the palladium, in the
old days in the palladium, in the height of all this
hysteria, who did you prefer to play with Tito Puente or Tito Rodriguez? He said no, I wanted them
both at the same time. And, I’m like yeah, why? And he said Tito would
beat the crap out of Tito and Tito would beat the crap out the
Tito, by the time they got to me, they were exhausted and with ballad,
I’d knock the two of them over. And, you know, what, it’s very
true because, when I play, opposite of bands, my intention,
my thought is in kind of that. But, my intention’s to destroy them,
to run them over like a MAC truck. My attitude is take, take, take
no prisoners, just dead people. It was, how I was taught. That’s the way I play.>>Larry Applebaum: So I, you
know, we were talking a little bit about his early days and the
fact that he establishes himself, in the 1940s, as a band leader. I don’t know how many of
you have actually heard some of his earliest recordings. We all know like the
hits that came later. But, I wanted us to hear a little
bit of something from 1940, 41. And, we were talking about that
pigeon soup song Sopa de Pichon. It’s track number 2
on that disk Mike. [ Music ] So, what do you feel
when you listen to that?>>Mario Grillo: Well, the
funny thing about the book, there’s about a thousand
arrangements. I don’t know titles as
much as I know numbers because the book is numberized. Sopa de Pichon, obviously,
one of the first ones, is number 25 in the book, Mamba
Win is 317, Cuban Fantasy is 420, Zambia is 323, [Inaudible]
is 300, [Inaudible] 521. I know numbers but not
so much the titles. And, the funny thing about
that is, one day I’m coming out of my building in the Bronx and
here comes this guy and he says, hey Mario, let me ask
you a question, that tune that your father
sings, you know, [inaudible] , that’s all here, I go that’s 341. He goes what do you mean 341? I said yeah that’s Que Bonito
Puerto Rico, 341 in the book. He goes that’s a good number. I told him yeah. He played it, it hit. Right? So now, I see him
like a couple of days later, he tells me yo Mario man, mira,
he said give me 41, you know, [inaudible], you know I
hit that 341 number man. I told him yeah, cool. How much? He said $500. I said really? Wow man, he said let
me buy you a beer. Can you imagine, $500 a beer. And, it was a country club,
it wasn’t even Budweiser or Coors Light or, you know. Yeah, numbers. One of the biggest fights that I
had with daddy, which, you know, as like a week long fight, we used
to travel or he used to travel with the individual boxes, you know,
every musician had a box of music. So, you’re lugging around 13 boxes. And then, checking into
the airport was insanity. So I told him, Daddy, you know
what, we can’t be traveling around with a thousand arrangements. This is silly. Even if we played two sets,
how many tunes can we play in two sets, 20, 25? Let’s make a smaller book, you know,
say maybe 50 or 60 arrangements. You pick out the ones you like
and that’s what we travel with. He says, yeah, but what if someone
asks me for something we don’t have? So I’m like, you know what, trust
me, nobody’s going to ask you for something that you don’t have. I make the new book. I even had, now I’d
probably go to jail if I had called McDonnell
Douglas and [inaudible] because I wanted the exact
measurement to make a case that would fit under
the seat in front of me. They don’t give that
information anymore. But they did 34 years
ago, so I had a box made that would fix exactly underneath, because you never check
in the music. Anyway, we go out on the road,
we’re playing gigs, playing gigs, playing gigs, everything’s
fine, everything’s beautiful, we’re out like four or five weeks, everything’s swinging,
bup, bup, bup, bup. Here comes some banana and
says, oh, yeah, Machito, [ Speaking Spanish ] , and he turned around and
he looked at me, and he says, you got that in the book? And I looked at him, and I said, no. Well, let me tell you. He went insane for like
the next two or three days, but then after that he kind
of calmed down about it. But, because he felt, you
know, if somebody asked for something, he should have it. You know? It was just his,
you know, crowd control. The best one was, when it comes
to numbers and arrangements, they asked use to play at the
Federal House of Detention for the prison system in New York. And these guys were
going to get all shipped out to all different high security
prisons across the country. So now they requested,
you know, music, so then they call Machito
Orchestra so we can go to the jail, [inaudible], and we hear people,
hey, Machito, 321, hey, Machito, 556, hey, when they open up the
curtain it was all our friends. They were all locked up. They were being shipped out,
Texas, Leavenworth, you know. We have some people here that
spent a little time in Leavenworth, on the good side of Leavenworth. Yeah, right? You guys were in Leavenworth,
weren’t you? Yeah. So yeah, he always
thought that, so then we played, and then the funniest thing was
that, now we’re leaving, you know, the gig is over and we’re leaving,
you know, and one of the guys said, yo listen man, can I
have those maracas? So I’m like, yeah, so now
he’s walking out with the band like he’s part of the band
with them, and so like one of the security guards grabs
him and yanks him back. You know, crazy stuff. One thing I want to
touch on, maracas. Maracas was Machito’s instrument. You know? Whatever. So now they would always steal them. They would always steal them. They would always steal his maracas. No matter where he hid them, in
the piano, behind the bandstand, no matter what, they’d
find, they’d steal them. So then we go to Europe, and
we were going to be out man, like 10 weeks man,
that’s a long time. So I took his pair, wouldn’t
you know, second gig, third gig, they steal them. Now he’s furious, where’ my maracas. I said don’t worry about the
maracas, we’re in Berlin, there’s got to be a music store. When I went in, there’s two
pairs left, so I said to him. I said, you know what? I should get the two
pair just in case. Give him his maracas,
we did a whole bunch of gigs, they steal the maracas. So now he comes to me, I
got another pair for you. Here, here you go. And this is your model. When Latin percussion made the mold, that’s Machito’s mold,
his favorite design. Anyway, they sold about
80 million pair of those, haven’t seen a penny,
but that’s cool. So now, next city I go in, I
bought five pair of maracas, and I sold one pair, which I’m sure
you’ve seen those old traditional maracas with the coconuts
painted on them and palm trees, you
know, real corny. You know? Well, he went
through the other five pair in the span of the trip. Now we’re down to the
last week of the trip. No maracas. I’m like oh, man. I said, well, you know what, I’ve got that bluff pair
that’s more decoration than anything else, you know? But now, as I’m ready, I’m going
to give it to him, I’m saying, he’s going to freak out when
I give him this, you know, I mean, what is he going to say? You know? So I go into the gig, and
I say, you know what, I’m sorry, but this is what I’ve got. And he looks at him
and he goes, wow, these are the best maracas
I’ve ever seen in my life. And I’m like, really? And he goes those are the
ones I’m going to use today. So then, as much as he concerns
himself about a lot of things, he was really big into his maracas. As a matter of fact, my
mother, well, let’s just say that maracas is a very
important story.>>Larry Applebaum: Yeah,
he could really play, too. I mean a lot of people, a lot
of singers stand up in front of the band and they just sort
of play a few little patterns, Machito could really
play those things.>>Mario Grillo: Yeah. Yeah.>>Larry Applebaum: Did he teach you
anything about how to play maracas?>>Mario Grillo: Well,
one day Daddy tells me, I’m sending you two a jingle, with
Chico to help to cover for me. I said, okay, cool,
what am I playing? He said, you’re playing the maracas. So I looked at him, and I must have
been about, around that time, 15, 16, and I said, you know what,
Daddy, strangely enough if I, Jesus, I don’t know how to
play the maracas. He goes, what do you mean you
don’t know how to play the maracas? What are you, kidding me? You’re my son. You don’t know to play the maracas? I said, Daddy, I don’t, you
never taught me, I don’t know. He goes, all right, go get
a couple of pair of maracas. So I go to the music room,
living room, come back. So he stands in front of me, so
now he’s standing in front of me, showing me the motions, you know? I couldn’t get it, you know? Now we’re standing
side by side looking in the mirror, couldn’t get it. You know? So now he’s at his wit’s
end, you know, he says to me, Jesus, [inaudible] I can’t believe that you
know, you can’t play the maracas. You’re not my son. I’m like yo, man, you know? So now he gets, he
says, wait a minute, so now he stood behind me
and he helped, you know? So I’m like, oh, okay, cool. You know? So now I
go to the recording, whatever the case might
be, so I come home, and he says to me how did you do? I said, well, it was fine man. It was great. He said, did you play the
maracas the way I taught you. I said, yeah, I said,
as a matter of fact, Chico O’Farill told me I
play better maracas than you. What? Yeah. It’s a tremendous instrument,
and again, there are unique patterns
that you can use. But his pattern was very slick, and his whole thing
was I use this pattern because I don’t want my
jacket to get wrinkled. You know, many maraca players
keep the maracas tight, so then when you let go your
jacket is all, you know, it looks like an according. But his motion was more out,
so therefore his jacket, and the crease, would stay as is.>>Larry Applebaum: Nice.>>Mario Grillo: Yeah.>>Larry Appelbaum: So, for a
period of a good 20, 25 years, he, along with [inaudible],
they’re at the top. They’re at the summit of
Latin music in New York. And then by the time the 1960s,
especially the mid and late 60s, rolled around, tastes
are starting to change. There’s a new generation. Yeah. They’re not so much interested
in the classic stuff as much as they want the new dance
rhythms, they want pachanga, they want Latin soul,
they want boogaloo.>>Mario Grillo: Boogaloo.>>Larry Applebaum: Yeah. So how did Machito adapt, or
did, how well did it adapt?>>Mario Grillo: Machito’s
philosophy was if you can’t beat them, join them. My uncle Mario, no. Mario was very hard
core on what he wanted. Very tough twist his arm. But Daddy, no. His thing was we were
his sounding board. We never let, you know,
we never listened to Machito’s records in my house. We don’t have record collections. But if you want to find the
most complete record collection of Machito, go to Our Lady Queen
of Angels Grammar School on 112, between Second and Third, and
the nuns have all those records. Because Daddy would come home with a
box of 25 albums and give them out. The butcher, the dry cleaner,
Solento’s, you know, all the places that he stopped, he’d give
them these record albums. We never kept them. You know, we’d give them away. As a matter of fact, one winter
we were all out, you know, we were all leaving, we all had
our cars, and so it had snowed, so it was ice all over
the windshields. So my brother and my sisters, they
opened up the trunks and they took out Daddy’s albums, broke
them in half and used that to scrape the ice off
the windshield, you know. We use to use those albums
to keep the windows open in the summer to get fresh air. You see? So now here comes
Daddy and he sees us, you know? Now when we looked at him our
initial thing was like, oh man. He’s going to freak out, you know? With this? I mean, look, look what we’re doing. You know? And he looked
at us and he goes, listen, give me that other half. And he was scraping the ice off the
windshield with his own records. These things didn’t mean, later
on, they did, like when we would go to Europe, he would go to the record
stores and buy his own albums. And I would say Daddy, what are, what are you buying
your own albums for? He goes, it was such a long
time ago, I forgot what’s on it. I’d like to hear it again. You know? I mean, we, we, we
weren’t collectors of Daddy’s stuff. Not at all.>>Larry Applebaum: Do you think he,
do you think he got his royalties? Did he ever get exploited?>>Mario Grillo: Yeah. Sure, sure, sure. Well, what we discovered with all
these world searches, we didn’t know that Machito sold records in the
Soviet Union, and in Italy, France, Germany, Holland, Belgium,
Sweden, Switzerland, Luxembourg, I mean, Spain, Portugal. We had no clue that he had record
sales in all those countries. Then we did start getting a
lot of royalties back and that, and that was a very positive thing. We still do. When they turned over all the albums
to CD’s, we did very nicely on that. So then, yeah, we certainly
have seen royalties, and we do. I mean, it’s not like Micahel
Jackson royalties or anything like that, but certainly,
yes, we do.>>Larry Applebaum: Okay. So back to this period, this
transition period, where he starts to adapt the art, changing taste,
and then as so inevitably happens, the phone doesn’t ring
as often for gigs. And I know when we were
talking a few months ago, you were telling me how important
Dizzy Gillespie at that time, at that period in his career. Why don’t you tell us a
little bit more about that?>>Mario Grillo: Well, the first
thing is that the relationship with Machito and Dizzy
was from way, way back. He was Mario Bauza’s room mate when
they were in Cab Calloway’s band, so the friendship was
a very long one. And Dizzy saw that we, we
were having a little bit of a tough time there booking big
bands, because big bands was out. You know, the era was over. And even Dizzy, himself, had a tough
time booking his full orchestra. So then, what he did, was he made
us his accompanying orchestra, which took the pressure off
of him an the responsibility of running the band, but
knowing that he had a band that would play whatever
needed to be played. And strangely enough,
when Dizzy worked with us, he didn’t play his
music, he played ours. We didn’t play Monteca
or [inaudible], we never played any of that. We used to play straight ahead
Machito music and Dizzy would blow on top of that, which
was incredible. And as I had told you,
Dizzy, Dizzy brought back to life Machito Orchestra in a
huge way and gave me credibility. When my dad passed
away, that was it. we were done. You know? That’s the end of Machito
Orchestra, forget about these guys. This is finished, you know? And I was home six months,
phone never rang, six months. And I was like yo, you know? You know, I’d pick up the phone,
nnnnn, see if it was working. You know? And Dizzy
Gillespie calls me. He tells me, yo Mario,
man, what you doing, man? I said, Jesus, dude,
I’m not doing nothing. He says, okay, they’re going to
call you from the Village Gate in New York City, Jack Hook
and Ralph Mercado, these guys, they’re going to call you up
and they’re going to tell you that they want you to accompany
me at the Village Gate. They don’t want you to accompany me
at the Village Gate, but I told them that I’ll only do the Village
Gate if you accompany me. You ready? I said, yeah. He said, all right,
they’re going to call you. I said, okay, cool. I hang up the phone. Fifteen minutes later,
oh, hey Mario, listen man, we’re calling from the Village
Gate, hey we’d love to have you come down and play a gig for us. We got Dizzy, Dizzy’s
going to do it, and you know, that would be nice. Are you available? I said, yeah, yeah,
yeah, I can make that. Boom, back to life,
Machito Orchestra. Incredible. Then he calls me back, tells
me yo, the gig went well, nice. I liked it. Let’s go to Chicago to
do the Jazz Festival. I’ve got Johnny Griffin, Art Blakey,
George Duvivier, Randy Weston, Melba Liston on the band,
I want you to accompany me. Well then, well and
the rest is history. I’m here.>>Larry Applebaum: And
then he helped you break into the European market
in a big way.>>Mario Grillo: We had
never tapped that market. So we were fresh as a daisy. So when we go to Europe the first
time, in 75 we played in Paris and we played in Berlin, they,
they knew us, we didn’t know them. And that was incredible. Then we went to Europe one summer,
we played 55 concerts in 66 days. We covered 13 countries
and 35 cities. We traveled by bus, plane,
train, ferry, 10,000 miles.>>Larry Applebaum:
That’s how you do it.>>Mario Grillo: You know? That’s how you do it. And that’s how we did it. And at the front of the bus,
and at the front of the train, and the plane, the
ferry, the bicycle and the roller skates, was Machito. Because, even though he was an old
lion, old lions still have a couple of teeth and they can roar.>>Larry Applebaum: Speaking
of which, you mentioned earlier that Mario was kind of a
tough guy, Mario Bauza.>>Mario Grillo: Good cop, bad cop.>>Larry Applebaum: Yeah. So tell me about your
father’s personality, not just as a family or, but
just what he’s like as a person.>>Mario Grillo: Well, as far as
music was concerned, you know, Machito had his own Holy
Trinity, which was Mario Bauza, Chico O’Farill, Rene Hernandez.>>Larry Applebaum: Those
are the three arrangers he.>>Mario Grillo: He put his
undying faith in what they said. But, every now and then he would
say no, this is the way I want it, and then that’s the way it was. But 99% of the time, all
decisions were made by Mario. One of the ones that Daddy
made, which was a biggie, was when the boogaloo came,
boogaloo, Machito playing boogaloo? You’ve got to be kidding me. You know? That’s for the kids. You know, Joe Bataan, Willie Colon,
Hector Lavoe and Orchestra D.J., the LaBron Brothers, you know,
that’s what was happening. As a matter of fact, my brother
in law used to book those bands to throw dances in Harlem. But they came to Daddy, Manny and
George [inaudible] Morris Levy, those kind of guys, says
Machito, you know what Machito, you’re out of style Machito. Nobody knows you, Machito. You’re done. You’re done. You know what you got to do
Machito, to come back to life? So Daddy says, yeah, George, what do
I have to do to come back to life? He says, why don’t
you do a boogaloo? What’s what’s happening now. All these kids, it’s the boogaloo. They don’t know anything else. They don’t know Machito. Maybe their grandparents, but
they don’t know who, you know? He says I got a kid on my
label named Joey Pastrana, he’s hot as a pistol, driving around
in a brand new Lincoln Continental. Let me get him together with you
for him to write something for you. Now can you imagine, selling a 50
something year old man that’s been a superstar, that an 18 year old
kid is going to write for you? I mean, that’s pretty crazy. But he comes to Daddy and says,
Machito, you know what Machito, I got a boogaloo for you, man. He said, yeah, Joey? How does it go? He says, [ Singing ] So Daddy’s looking at
him, and he’s like, but, he said, you know what Joey? Yeah. I like that tune. Let’s record that. Mega hit. Mega hit. Well, we moved to the
Bronx, well after all, we moved from East
Harlem to the Bronx. So the hot seat’s the hot seat. Oh, to the Bronx, that
was big you know? Oh, yeah. So, I mean, he had moments
when, when his decisions were right on the money, incredible. I don’t know how he did
it, but he had a knack for picking the right piece
at the right time, you know, the pulse of what’s going on. I don’t, unfortunately,
I don’t have that. But he did. You know, he knew when it was
time to whip in to something new.>>Larry Applebaum: Let me take
a moment to just say how Mario and I first really connected was after this performance
at the Kennedy Center. I met him at his hotel. And I, to this day, I regret
not bringing a tape recorder because he told all of
these incredible stories. And then that’s when I planted
the seed about, you know, you have the library,
have you thought of a home where it might become accessible for
scholarly researchers or musicians? And so I encouraged
him to think about that and said any time you want to
talk about the Library of Congress as a home for that, let’s talk. Well, I was blown away by the
fact that he then goes and reaches into his bag and he pulls out
this arrangements of Tonga. It’s arranged by Rene
Hernandez, it’s in his hand. This is one of the great signature
pieces by Machito, and he gives it to me and says he wants to donate
this to the Library of Congress. So I was not expecting that,
I was so grateful on behalf of the Library, because
this is the kind of thing that scholars need to see. They come to us all the time. And, in fact, there’s very
little in any library, in any archive anywhere, that
documents this golden age of Afro-Cuban or Latin
music and Latin jazz in the United States
in the 40s, 50s, 60s. You go to all the great libraries, there’s next to nothing
from this genre. And so yes, we’re grateful for
this, but we continue to talk, and then Mario decided he wants to give the Library the
whole collection of scores, parts and other things to
the Library of Congress. Now can you talk a little
bit about why you decided on the Library of Congress for it?>>Mario Grillo: Well, certainly
and most obviously the Library of Congress is the oldest
institution of it’s kind in the United States of America, if I’m not mistaken,
it was founded in 1800. There’s been two fires here,
I hope there’s not a third. And some of the most
important scholarly works in all areas are here. Now, most certainly, I had thought
about keeping the music in New York, keeping it at home, maybe an
institution of higher learning, you know, the Julliard School
of Music or Manhattan School of Music, Jazz at Lincoln Center. But, I thought you know what? No. If you want to be any place,
it is the Library of Congress. It took 75 years, but we’re here. [ Applause ]>>Larry Applebaum: This
is the place for it. And I know at the time you were
mentioning how important it is that not just people in this
generation understand who he was, but every generation that follows
will not be able to come here, research his music, understand
more about what this man meant, what he represented to his
family, to his community and to the culture of the world. So it’s here, it will be preserved,
we encourage everybody to come and make use of this collection. Because it’s not enough to just
put things up on a shelf somewhere, this is a living archive,
a living library. And to that, on point, I want to
encourage everybody at the end of this, we have a display of
materials that Mario brought to us that he’s donating. You’ll see these extraordinary
scores, hand written, and this is what we are going
to do from now, into the future, we are going to provide, we are
going to serve these materials in the music division’s
reading room, the performing art’s reading room. So it’s here, it’s safe, it
will be preserved, thank you.>>Mario Grillo: Great. Thank you.>>Larry Applebaum: Yes. And now I think it
might be appropriate, if anybody has any questions for
Mario, this would be a good time to ask, and let’s begin right here.>>Mario Grillo: Yes?>>Larry Applebaum: Oh, hold on,
we have a microphone for you.>>Hi, my name’s [Inaudible], and I
wanted to thank you for your time. And the question I have is your
Aunt Graciela, did she have anything to do with helping with
the arrangements of music?>>Mario Grillo: Well, yes. In a very real way. Because if she had heard a song or
a lyric brought to her by a writer, she would then sit with our
pianist, Rene Hernandez, and sing these melodies and
he would arrange accordingly, but she always had final say over
the material and what she wanted to record and how she
wanted to record it. Gracie came to the band in 1943
when Daddy went to the army. So she stayed with us until 75, so that’s like 32 years,
in Machito Orchestra. Like I said, Mario came in
1940, until 75, so 35 years. So yes, she was very instrumental
and gave the band another character. I mean her ballads
are out of this world.>>Larry Applebaum: She also
did some great novelty tunes.>>Mario Grillo: Oh, of course. Very, well Gracie came from an era when singers sang everything,
you know, ballad, She ran the full gamut
of ability as far as what she could do as a singer. Incredible. I’ve heard many, haven’t heard
any like her, certainly not.>>Larry Applebaum: Who
else has a question? Yes? Felix.>>Hi, Felix Contreras from NPR, I’ve got a million questions,
but I’ll only ask one. Who were some of his influences, who were some of Machito’s
influences vocal wise?>>Mario Grillo: Well, keep in mind,
Daddy, when he started in Cuba, in particular, he had two very
dear friends, Miguelito Valdes, and another gentleman
named Panchito Riset. They were all the same age. They were in a band called La Hora
de Rendtion [assumed spelling]. Because there was a band,
Rendition, so that they were like the kid version of it. And, incredibly, you know, those very same three guys
stayed friends for 100 years. It was Miguelito Valdes that
put Machito [inaudible]. So, those were his main influences. Obviously there were other,
Ignacio Pineiro, those type of guys, [inaudible] Lopez, different
orchestras in Cuba that he listened to and really appreciated,
[inaudible] as an example. So his influences were very wide. Then he was already listening to
Duke Ellington and Count Basie and those orchestras
while he was in Cuba. And I’ll give you one, one
funny one about Machito and his listening habits. In the old days, you know, when
you turned on the radio and, of course it was a dial
radio, and you know, whatever, so when you turned it on you
pretty much could get a gauge of that person as to what
they were into by the music that they’re listening to. So we always had station wagons for
all the equipment and everything. So I’d tell Daddy, I
got to borrow the wagon. I got to do something. And he said, okay, cool. So I get in the car and
I turn on the radio, but it was like a heavy metal,
you know, acid, you know, AC DC, Quiet Riot, you know, Metallica,
you know, Twisted Sister, you know, and I’m driving, and
I’m like you know what? That’s it. Daddy flipped out. You know, but, you
know what’s this about? So I continued on my way and
I get back and go upstairs and tell Daddy, here’s the keys. So I said, Daddy, can
I ask you a question? He goes, yeah, what? I said, have you lost your mind? I mean, what are you
listening to on the radio? He goes, what do you mean? I said, I turned on the radio and
you’re listening to heavy metal, you know, speed metal, punk metal? What do you, what’s
the matter with you? He goes, oh no, I was turning the
dial and the disc jockey said, this next album sold
five million copies. I want to know what are these guys
doing to sell five million records when I can’t even sell 50 records
in my home borough of the Bronx? What is it? There has to be something for
somebody to take their 10 bucks of hard earned money to
go out and buy a record. There’s something in there
that appeals to them, and I want to know what it is. So how does a 75 year old
man listen to heavy metal? It doesn’t make sense, does it? But yes, it does. Because you want to know, what
is, what, as we say in the music, what’s the hook in there? Violence? Okay. Let’s be violent. You know? If that’s
what it is, let’s do it. We play an extremely conservative
jazz club, the premiere jazz club of the era, Ronnie
Scott’s in London, Fritz in Soho, right by Piccadilly. So Daddy would go out in the
afternoon and watch the punks, you know, and then he
would invite them to come to Ronnie Scott’s to
listen to the band. So then Ronnie, himself, would
come and say, Machito, Machito, there’s a couple that’s telling
me they’re guests of yours. One of them is Spike and the other
one, Razor, where would you like me to put them, pray tell,
Machito, where will I seat them? Next to the Duchess of York? I don’t think so, I don’t think,
maybe with the Earl of Cambridge, that might be better for me, yeah,
put them where, and they’d go nuts. They’d love it. Because our music is aggressive. And when he would seat them,
it became more aggressive. So he could connect with the
audience, whatever it might be, you know, whether young or old or
whatever their musical taste was at the moment, he could turn them
around for that hour or so of music, which is, I got to, I can’t
do that kind of stuff. But he could. Certainly.>>Larry Applebaum: Who
else has a question? Surely.>>Well, then I will
ask, maybe a couple more. And one is, after he was
established in New York, he became this big
star of the music. Did he ever go back to the island?>>Mario Grillo: Never. Never went back to Cuba. As a matter of fact there
was a big stink about that. We were in London and the
ambassador of Cuba to London came down to Ronnie’s and said
Machito, you know what? We want to bring you to Cuba. He said, no man. Thanks, but no thanks. Never went back. Puerto Rico, Venezuela,
[inaudible] Peru, yes, fine, but no, he never went back to Cuba. Now, now that relations have
changed somewhat over the last year, and down the road, I think
it would be spectacular to take the Machito
Orchestra to Cuba. I think that would
be quite something. But, on the flip side of that,
where we would play the carnivals in Helsinki, Finland, with the
carnivals, all the Cuban bands used to come, and after the first
night, the second night, on of the other musical directors
of one of the other orchestras comes over to me and says to me,
listen, let me ask you a question. Those arrangements that you
play, how many of them you got? I said, man, like a thousand. He goes, and they’re all like that? I said, yeah. He said, we’ve never
heard this music in Cuba. We, we, you know, I haven’t heard
you play the same tune twice, and we’ve been here five days,
how is that, how is that possible? I said, yo, my man, it would take
like another 25 days for me to run out of things that I’m playing
for the first time, you know? The book is deep, it’s
very deep and very varied. Machito recorded albums,
I was telling you, Machito goes to Memphis, where
he recorded Knock on Wood and Satisfaction and
things like that, Alphie, there’s a Machito Plays Irving
Berlin, there’s An Affair to Remember, he did another one, the
Sun Also Rises based on Hemingway. And so the book is very diverse. So that, that’s a good thing
for me because I have option as to what I can go out
and play on a given night. It’s fun. You know, the
guys, now, and my wife and I, we sell it as the Magic
Box, because in that box, I’ve got a little bit of everything. I’ll never run out. I don’t think so. So I’m hoping that my beloved
grandsons will do that. Maybe. I hope so.>>Larry Applebaum:
What I love is the fact that Machito’s library now
resides in our collection next to Mendelssohn and Mozart.>>Mario Grillo: Well.>>Larry Applebaum: Those
are the heavy ones, right?>>Mario Grillo: I would go
out on a limb and say yes. But also, as you certainly
know, Ella Fitzgerald.>>Larry Applebaum: Charles Mingus.>>Mario Grillo: Gerry Mulligan.>>Larry Applebaum:Yeah. Billy Taylor.>>Mario Grillo: Max Roach.>>Larry Applebaum: Yeah. Eric Dolphy.>>Mario Grillo: Yeah, these
are pretty heavy hitters, and, as everyone knows, you’re
judged by the company you keep.>>Larry Applebaum: That’s why
I like to hang out with you.>>Mario Grillo: Yeah, well, I’ll give you a good one
about Dr. Billy Taylor. Billy Taylor played
in Manchito Orchestra. So now, we were playing a concert, I don’t know it it was Avery
Fisher Hall, or some, Avery Fisher, I think it was, and I
take my daughter with me. She must have been about five
or six, because I had sent her to piano class, like you
do to all little girls. And you know, she was walking
around, you know, like kids, you know, so she comes
up on the stage and Billy Taylor was
playing the piano, you know. And she goes up to him, she says, my
name’s Francesca, I play the piano. He goes, really, little girl? Well, that’s very nice. And whose little girl are you? She says him, him. He says, oh, Mario. He says, you know what? Play something for me. Show me what you got. So she says, she played
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. And he looks at her and
he says, nice touch. Can you imagine Dr. Billy Taylor
telling somebody, nice touch? That’s so incredible. But, you know, I came one time
to D.C. with an all start band, with Dizzy, and, you
know, with Stanley D., and all these monster
musicians, you know, the greatest. And I looked at Dizzy and I
said, you have to [inaudible]. Well, what I am doing here, man? You know, I don’t belong here. He goes, nah man, you’re
part of the club man. Don’t think that way. And I’m like, whoa,
okay, part of the club. I didn’t know. Thanks for telling me. Dizzy Gillespie, one time,
we finished a concert, so now I had to play the drum
drums, drum set, finished it, so I had been listening to
these tunes for like a month on my Walkman, listening,
listening, listening, listening. And I’m you know, I’m
having, you know, this phobia to learn this material. So then we get to the concert,
we play the concert without, we come back stage,
who’s back stage? Max Roach, Elvin Jones,
Billy Higgins, Louis Hayes, Jack DeJohnette, the most incredible
drummers on the face of the earth. So now we’re standing there, and
I’m standing there, and Dizzy looks at me, he goes, you know what,
you know what, Mario man? [Inaudible] Dizzy. He said, you said you the
greatest drummer I ever played with in my whole life. And I looked at him, and
I’m saying, gee, Dizzy, don’t you feel bad embarrassing
me, chastising me, degrading me, in front of these guys, with some
cockamamie statement like that? I mean, really man? He goes, no man, you
the greatest man. You know why? I said no, why, Dizzy? He says, now I don’t know if it’s
a tremendous level of consistency or a total lack of creativity,
but when I play with you, I always know where one is,
because all I’m going to hear from you all night
is tink, tink a tink. When I play with these other
guys, there are crashing symbols, rolling drums, crashing base drums, half the time I don’t know what
the hell is going on in here. He says, but with you,
I know I’m okay. So then, that’s why I say you’re the
greatest drummer I’ve ever played with in my life. And I looked at him and I said,
well, you know what Dizzy, based on your explanation, I
will accept your compliment. Incredible. One time, my mother, we finished a
concert, my mother comes back stage, and they were talking and she tells
him, Dizzy, does he play any good. He go, yeah, Momma, he
working with me ain’t he? He’s one of the great
drummers of the world. You know? Okay, cool. So now fast forward a few months, and my mother has her
girlfriends having coffee and cookies in the living room. So my mother said,
how’s Martha doing? Oh, Martha’s fine, you know. What about Frank? Oh, Frank is doing fine, he’s. What about Barbara? Oh, Barbara’s fine, you
know, she’s got five kids. What about Mario? Oh, well, Mario’s one
of the great drummers.>>Larry Applebaum: And he is
also one of the great benefactors who has given this very generous
gift, not just to the Library of Congress, but to
the American people. Mario, thank you very
much for coming today. Thank you. And thank you all.>>This has been a presentation
of the Library of Congress. Visit us at LOC.gov.

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