Machito: Kenya (1957): #13 of Albums You Must Hear Before You Die

The legendary Machito was born as Francisco Raul Gutierrez Grillo. Machito had established a name for himself touring all over the world with numerous different bands exploring the world of Latin Jazz and Afro-Cuban Jazz. By the 1950’s and 60’s Latin Jazz had taken a different approach on its musical elements. Machito recorded the album “Kenya” and released it in 1957, discharging musical inspirational genius. In this musical album composition, the soloists were Cannombal Adderley (alto sax), Joe Newman and Doc Cheatham (trumpet), Johnny Griffin and Ray Santos (tenor sax), Eddie Bert and Santo Russo (trombone), Candido Camero and Patato Valdes (congas) and Jose Mangual (bongos). Arrangements were done by René Hernández and A. K. Salim. Machito brought together this extensive group of musically talented individuals and formed the sensation that is his album “Kenya”. The album acquired a wide range of sound and musical genres. From Hollywood jazz, to classic Cuban blues, and a fast beat charging rumba, I believe Machito had established a mix of pure passion and inspiration. Machito incorporated many musical details to his album including his Afro-Cuban percussion sounds to applying trombones, saxophones, and many other rhythmical instruments that stimulated your body. Listening to this album brought absolute rhythmical delight to my body. I could not but get up and dance the night away. That is what Machito’s musical genius does to you; it brings happiness and places everything out of sight and out of mind. The album is purely instrumental and I truly believe that this is one of the qualities from the album that makes it special. There is no need for words just instrumental applied emotion and compassion.  

Machito brought about so many different musical elements to his music ensuring future musicians that there is no limit to music. Machito had influenced so much musical diversity in the United States being per say the first to have an interracial band being The Machito and the Afro-Cubans. Machito and the Afro-Cubans were the front players of Latin Jazz, playing frequently at the Palladium Ballroom in New York. Machito brought so much joy to his music and audience. I believe this attribute is what separated him from so many musicians of his time. Being so widely known especially in New York where in he was not recognized in Cuba as he was in the US is quite perplexing to me. With that being said Machito was still one of the greatest Latin Jazz influences in his era being accompanied by his sister Graciela Pérez-Gutiérrez who was known as the first Lady of Latin Jazz and his brother in law Mario Bauza.

In 2005, the 1957 album “Kenya” was added to the list of albums in “1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die”. Truly the album had captured more than one heart. It will forever be known as a musical piece of genius that is needed to be heard and appreciated for its absolute worth. Below are just some of my favorite songs from the album that embodies the meaning of Machito’s Afro-Cuban Jazz.  

By: Melissa Jimenez

Wild Jungle:

Blues a La Machito: