August-5th-2003, 12:57 PM
Tribute to Graciela
Legendary Afro-Cuban vocalist Graciela Perez will be feted at a gathering of friends and colleagues from New York‚s Latin jazz community in a gala celebration on Wednesday, August 27 at Birdland, located at 315 West 44th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues. Special guests participating in this grand tribute produced by impresario Charles Carlini include Ray Barretto, Candido Camero, Carlos "Patato" Valdez, Manny Oquendo, Larry Harlow, Paquito D'Rivera, Bobby Sanabria, Andy Gonzalez, Steve Turre, Nelson Gonzalez, Mike Collazo, Ray Mantilla, Arturo O'Farrill Jr., Conrad Herwig, Alfredo de la Fe and Jerry Gonzalez.
They all will come together to honor the 87-year-old "Queen of Boleros" who has been known throughout her long and illustrious career by her first name only.
Long before Celia Cruz was anointed the Queen of Salsa, Graciela was the First Lady of Afro-Cuban song. Critics and audiences alike have marveled at Graciela's ability to sing guarachas, mambos and son montunos with an aggressive street sensibility while being equally able to interpret romantic boleros. Her risqué double entendre interpretations of "Ay Jose (Oh Jose)" and "Mi Cerebro (My Brain)" have given her cult like status among the cognoscenti while her early recordings predate the salsa erotica movement by over 40 years.
A true pioneer in Afro-Cuban music, Graciela sang with the Machito Orchestra (led by her famous brother whose real name was Frank Raul Grillo) during the 1940s and 1950s at the height of the mambo craze in New York. Throughout her career, Graciela performed all over the world and appeared on countless recordings by the Machito Orchestra and by Mario Bauza. In more recent years, she appeared on recordings by trombonist Steve Turre and guitarist and Latin hip-hop innovator Mike Young, who sampled her glorious voice for a remix recording.
Born in Havana, Cuba on August 23, 1916, Graciela made her singing debut at age 16 and in 1933 became the lead singer for the all-female band Anacaona. The popular group toured Europe through the 1930s and also in Puerto Rico, Columbia, Panama and Mexico before coming to New York in 1938 for the inauguration of the club Havana Madrid. Their success there led to an extended engagement in France at the Ambassador Hotel. In 1941, Graciela left Anacaona and joined El Trio Garcia. A few years later, Mario Bauza (musical director for the Machito Orchestra from 1941 to 1976) sent for the singer to join Machito and His Afro-Cubans at the club La Conga in New York. There followed by engagements at the Palladium and the original Birdland. Machito's orchestra played a pivotal role in the acceptance of Latin rhythms by American jazzmen including Dizzy Gillespie, Flip Phillips, Howard McGhee, Harry "Sweets" Edison, Cannonball Adderley, Buddy Rich, Herbie Mann, Curtis Fuller, Johnny Griffin and Charlie "Yardbird" Parker. This led to an association with producer/promoter Norman Granz, whose recording experiments with Machito and Bird became historic achievements. Through the '40s and '50s, the Machito Orchestra performed concerts in 56 cities in the United States and in 1961 embarked on a three-month tour of Japan. Over the decades Machito maintained his jazz sensibility while doing the Latin dance-orchestra duty, deftly mixing authentic Afro-Cuban rhythms with jazz improvisation being acknowledged as the first to do this. He scaled back the band to an octet to tour but reformed the Afro-Cubans in 1981. Machito's band continued after his death in 1984. Graciela also appeared on Bauza's superb 1992 Grammy nominated album The Tanga Suite, 944 Columbus, and also on his swan song, My Time Is Now, recorded shortly before his death in 1993.
For more information on the Graciela celebration at Birdland on August 27, contact Charles Carlini of Carlini Group at (212) 714-7722 or to make reservations call Birdland at (212) 581-3080.