Chano Pozo

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Luciano Pozo González (January 7, 1915 in Havana – December 3, 1948 in New York City), known professionally as Chano Pozo, was a Cuban jazz percussionist, singer, dancer, and composer. Chano Pozo_sentence_0

Despite only living to age 33, he played a major role in the founding of Latin jazz. Chano Pozo_sentence_1

He co-wrote some of Dizzy Gillespie's Latin-flavored compositions, such as "Manteca" and "Tin Tin Deo", and was the first Latin percussionist in Gillespie's band. Chano Pozo_sentence_2

Early life Chano Pozo_section_0

Luciano "Chano" Pozo González was born in Havana to Cecelio González and Carnación Pozo. Chano Pozo_sentence_3

Chano grew up with three sisters and a brother, as well as his older half brother, Félix Chappottín, who would later become one of the great Cuban . Chano Pozo_sentence_4

The family struggled with poverty throughout his youth. Chano Pozo_sentence_5

His mother died when Chano was eleven, and Cecelio took his family to live with his long-time mistress, Natalia, who was Felix's mother. Chano Pozo_sentence_6

Chano showed an early interest in playing drums, and performed ably in Afro-Cuban religious ceremonies in which drumming was a key element. Chano Pozo_sentence_7

The family lived for many years at El África Solar (Africa neighborhood), a former slave quarters, by all accounts a foul and dangerous place, where it was said even the police were afraid to venture. Chano Pozo_sentence_8

In this environment criminal activities flourished, and Chano learned the ways of the street as means of survival. Chano Pozo_sentence_9

He dropped out of school after the third grade and earned a solid reputation as a rowdy tough guy, big for his age and exceptionally fit. Chano Pozo_sentence_10

He spent his days playing drums, fighting, drinking, and engaging in petty criminal activities, the latter of which landed him a stint in a youth reformatory. Chano Pozo_sentence_11

No official records document the crime he was sentenced for, though at least one account has him causing the accidental death of a foreign tourist, adding to a record of thievery, assault, and truancy. Chano Pozo_sentence_12

At the age of 13, Chano was sent to the reformatory in Guanajay, where he learned reading and writing, auto body repair, and honed his already exceptional skills playing a variety of drums. Chano Pozo_sentence_13

Santería Chano Pozo_section_1

During this time he became a devotee of Santería. Chano Pozo_sentence_14

Also known as "La Regla de Ocha", this is an Afro-Caribbean religion derived from traditional beliefs of the Yoruba people of Nigeria. Chano Pozo_sentence_15

Developed among Afro-Cuban slaves, the religion began as a blending of these West African spiritual beliefs and Catholic doctrine. Chano Pozo_sentence_16

Yoruba deities were identified with Catholic saints to fool the slave owners, as the Spanish colonialists had forbidden the practice of African religions. Chano Pozo_sentence_17

Chano pledged allegiance to the Catholic Saint Barbara, identified widely with Shango, the Yoruba god of fire and thunder, and took him as his personal protector. Chano Pozo_sentence_18

Both Shango and St. Barbara had associations with the color red, and for the rest of his life Chano would often carry a red scarf signifying his allegiance. Chano Pozo_sentence_19

Upon his release from Guanajay, Chano returned to his father's house in Havana. Chano Pozo_sentence_20

Cecelio persuaded his son to practice his trade of bootblack, but Chano's temperament was not suited for this occupation and he quit after less than a year. Chano Pozo_sentence_21

In 1929 he took a job selling newspapers for El País, Havana's most influential publication, hawking papers on a number of street corners. Chano Pozo_sentence_22

His forceful nature and success in selling brought him to the attention of newspaper owner and influential businessman Alfredo Suárez, who hired Chano as his personal driver and bodyguard. Chano Pozo_sentence_23

He was rumored to have performed duties as debt collector or "leg breaker" for Suarez. Chano Pozo_sentence_24

Chano spent his free time dancing, singing, fighting, chasing women and playing his drums. Chano Pozo_sentence_25

He also began to compose music. Chano Pozo_sentence_26

Carnival Chano Pozo_section_2

Chano's reputation grew among the people each year, not only because of his physical prowess as a dancer, drummer, and success with women, but for the compositions he wrote for Carnival, during the nightly celebrations of which neighborhoods formed highly competitive comparsas, or street troupes. Chano Pozo_sentence_27

They consisted of singers, dancers, musicians, and the ever-present rumberos. Chano Pozo_sentence_28

Mostly young, street-toughened drummers, rumberos were integral to each comparsa (something like a 'jam club'), since rumberos provided throbbing, sensuous rhythms regarded as the base for all Afro-Cuban music. Chano Pozo_sentence_29

In a few years Pozo was the most well-known and sought after rumbero in Cuba, with the most talented comparsas (local groups) vying for his services, and was regularly winning top cash prizes for his compositions. Chano Pozo_sentence_30

Chano elevated the status and reputation of rumbero to near mythic proportions with his swaggering attitude as he led his own comparsa through the streets and with increasing successes became a hero to Havana's poor people. Chano Pozo_sentence_31

Pozo and some of his fellow musicians wrote a conga music composition that earned them first prize in the city of Santiago de Cuba's carnival of 1940: "La Comparsa de los Dandys," a composition that some consider an unofficial theme song of Santiago de Cuba, and a familiar standard at many Latin American carnivals. Chano Pozo_sentence_32

Career in Cuba Chano Pozo_section_3

Cuba was by this time a popular tourist destination, with the biggest hotels, The Sevilla Biltmore, the Nacional, and El Presidente catering to rich Americans and Europeans, and Chano was determined to break the color barrier that restricted the employment of dark skinned people. Chano Pozo_sentence_33

He began to court musicians and others who might help him by auditioning in unusual places—such as in front of the Cuban-owned radio station Azul, which broadcast popular recordings as well as live Cuban folk music. Chano Pozo_sentence_34

Chano befriended many musicians who worked there, playing his drum on the street to catch their attention as they arrived for work. Chano Pozo_sentence_35

Though admired for his prodigious talent, dark skinned blacks were prohibited from working most venues outside of the slums, and Chano searched for opportunities. Chano Pozo_sentence_36

He found that opportunity with Armando Trinidad, owner of the radio station. Chano Pozo_sentence_37

Armando persuaded Chano to work for him as the bouncer for Azul, where his imposing size and reputation kept rowdy crowds in check. Chano Pozo_sentence_38

To survive racial marginalization in Cuba, he worked cleaning shoes and selling newspapers. Chano Pozo_sentence_39

He first performed as a dancer in a Havana troupe known as The Dandy. Chano Pozo_sentence_40

His brother was the Cuban trumpeter Felix Chapotín. Chano Pozo_sentence_41

He later worked at the radio station Cadena Azul. Chano Pozo_sentence_42

Once Pozo became famous, he also became renowned for his sense of fashion, including sometimes wearing an all-white top hat and tuxedo. Chano Pozo_sentence_43

New York Chano Pozo_section_4

In 1947 he immigrated to the U.S. in search of a better life. Chano Pozo_sentence_44

He was encouraged to do so by Mario Bauza and his childhood friend Miguelito Valdes. Chano Pozo_sentence_45

It was Mario Bauza who introduced Chano to Dizzy Gillespie who was looking to include a conga player into his musical group. Chano Pozo_sentence_46

Chano Pozo is one of a handful of Cuban percussionists who came to the United States in the 1940s and '50s. Chano Pozo_sentence_47

Other notable congueros who came to the U.S. during that time include Mongo Santamaría, Armando Peraza, Francisco Aguabella, Julito Collazo, Carlos Vidal Bolado, Desi Arnaz and Modesto Durán. Chano Pozo_sentence_48

Pozo moved to New York City in early 1947 with the encouragement of Miguelito Valdés, and participated in a recording session with Valdés, the legendary band leader Arsenio Rodríguez, Carlos Vidal Bolado and José Mangual. Chano Pozo_sentence_49

In September 1947, after Mario Bauzá introduced the two, he featured in Dizzy Gillespie's Big Band at Carnegie Hall and subsequently on a European tour. Chano Pozo_sentence_50

Their notable material includes "Cubana Be, Cubana Bop" (written by George Russell), and "Tin Tin Deo" and "Manteca", both co-written by Pozo. Chano Pozo_sentence_51

Death Chano Pozo_section_5

Chano Pozo was shot and killed on December 2, 1948 in the El Rio Bar at 111th St and Lenox Avenue in Harlem. Chano Pozo_sentence_52

The Rio Bar no longer exists—even the small triangular block where it was located has been removed. Chano Pozo_sentence_53

Pozo's killer was a local bookie named Eusebio "Cabito" Munoz. Chano Pozo_sentence_54

Pozo had accused Cabito of selling him poor quality marijuana and Cabito retaliated. Chano Pozo_sentence_55

Pozo is buried in the Colón Cemetery, Havana. Chano Pozo_sentence_56

His grandson Joaquín Pozo, who was living in Cuba as of 2006, is also a famous conguero. Chano Pozo_sentence_57

Discography Chano Pozo_section_6

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In popular culture Chano Pozo_section_7

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  • Cuban drummer Chino Pozo claimed to be related to Chano Pozo.Chano Pozo_item_1_7
  • Pozo is featured (in animated form) in the fictional animated film Chico and Rita (2010), where the circumstances surrounding his death are included as part of the plot line.Chano Pozo_item_1_8
  • Pozo is mentioned in a monologue by character Roland Turner, played by John Goodman, in the film Inside Llewyn Davis. Turner claims to have learned Santeria and black arts in New Orleans from Pozo.Chano Pozo_item_1_9
  • Jazz musicians Poncho Sanchez and Terence Blanchard relelased the collaborative album Chano y Dizzy! in 2011.Chano Pozo_item_1_10

See also Chano Pozo_section_8

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Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: Pozo.