THE DIZZY GILLESPIE™ AFRO CUBAN EXPERIENCE
Featuring MACHITO JR.
Dizzy Gillespie was introduced to Chano Pozo in 1947 by Mario Bauza. Both became life-long friends and Dizzy and Chano Pozo developed Afro-Cuban jazz, which became extremely successful, atrtracting people to dance to its unique rhythms. Gillespie's most famous contributions to Afro-Cuban music are the compositions “Manteca” and "Tin Tin Deo".
Machito’s Afro Cubans (formed in 1940), the creators of Cu-Bop, were a major influence on musicians like Dizzy Gillespie. Dizzy loved it so much, that in 1975, he invited Machito’s son, Mario Grillo or Machito Jr., to join Dizzy’s band for the recording of ‘Afro-Cuban Jazz Moods’.
So it only makes sense to have him join the Dizzy Gillespie™ Afro Cuban Experience under the direction of John Lee, Dizzy’s long-time bassist, and the director of the Dizzy Gillespie™ Big Band.
John Lee – Bass
Freddie Hendrix - Trumpet & Flugelhorn
Sharel Cassity - Alto Sax, Soprano Sax & Flutes
Yotam - Guitars
Robby Ameen – Drums
Special Guest: Machito Jr. – Percussion
Five-year-old Mario Grillo learned to play the timbales during the summer of 1961, with lessons from Uba Nieto, then returned to New York with his father's band and played his first gig, taking a single timbales solo at the Palladium Ballroom while standing on a chair next to Tito Puente. After his father’s death, Mario carried forward the legacy by leading The Machito Orchestra. He also brought to life The Big 3 Palladium Orchestra, an homage to the Mambo Kings – Machito, Tito Puente and Tito Rodríguez – the three legendary bandleaders who transformed the US music scene, featuring himself and Tito Rodríguez Jr.
Bassist, composer, educator and producer, John enrolled at the Philadelphia Musical Academy in 1970. During this period he began appearing in New York City, working with the bands of Carlos Garnett, Joe Henderson and Pharoah Sanders.
In 1972, John was hired as bassist for the Max Roach Quartet. Later that year he moved to Europe for a stay that would last until 1974. During this period, he worked and recorded with Gary Bartz, Philip Catherine, Joe Henderson, Chris Hinze, Jasper Van'T Hof, Joachim Kuhn, Charlie Mariano and Toots Thielemans. In 1982, John joined the McCoy Tyner Quintet, where he worked until joining The Dizzy Gillespie Group in 1984. John was a member of Dizzy's various bands including the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet, the 70th Anniversary Big Band and the United Nation Orchestra until 1992 when Dizzy became ill. As of present, John is producing and writing as well as working with the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Stars, Dizzy Gillespie Big Band, Sonny Rollins, Jon Faddis, Slide Hampton, Claudio Roditi, Gregory Hines, and the Fantasy Band, a group formed with Chuck Loeb, Marion Meadows and Dave Samuels. He is also the program director for "DIZZY™: The Man and the Music", the official concert and clinic program celebrating the life and work of John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie.
Trumpeter Freddie Hendrix describes growing up in Teaneck, New Jersey as “survival of the fittest.” Perhaps this experience is what gave him his fierce drive; he practices for at least four hours a day and, at 33, already has a lifetime worth of accomplishments with five albums as a sideman for George Benson, Bradford Hayes, Melvin Davis, New Jersey City University Jazz Ensemble, and most recently Rufus Reid.
Hendrix has been dedicated to his instrument since age 12. “The sound went through me, I had a spiritual connection,” he told the Newark Star-Ledger, describing his first encounter with the trumpet. “Today, it’s the sound, the feeling that overcomes me when I play. It makes me feel whole.”
While most girls were interested in playing with dolls at the tender age of eight, Sharel Cassity was begging for a saxophone. Thankfully, she received an old Conn alto for Christmas the following year, and as the saying goes, “the rest is history,” because clearly she is developing into one of the most vibrant jazz saxophonists to come along in quite some time.
After living two years in New York, Cassity earned a Scholarship to the New School of Jazz and Contemporary Music to complete her BA. It was there that she studied with saxophonist Vincent Herring, Steve Wilson and Jimmy Greene as well as receiving inspiration from fellow classmates and alumni such as brothers Marcus & E.J Strickland, and Robert Glasper, who were all in attendance at the New School around the same time period.
In 2005 Cassity was awarded a full scholarship to the Juilliard Institute for Jazz Studies and completed her MA under the direction of Victor Goines.
Dedicated to playing jazz with the highest level of creativity and execution possible, Cassity articulates her mission statement: “My art is an improvised form of music that is steeped in the tradition of blues, swing, bebop and post bop; I am interested in using that history to help reflect the sound of my generation and the time we are living. I hope that I can be a positive example and make a lasting contribution to this great art form.”
These contributions continue to materialize in a growing number of rewarding experiences: the DIVA Jazz Orchestra, Jimmy Heath's Big Band, Roy Hargrove Big Band, Dizzy Gillespie All Star Sextet and All Star Big Band and many more.
"Since his arrival in New York in 2005, Israeli guitarist Yotam Silberstein has made an impact on the scene with his precision bebop lines and fleet-fingered improvisations." JazzTimes
In only seven years since landing in New York, internationally-acclaimed guitarist Yotam has earned a well-deserved spot among the Jazz elite by collaborating with legendary musicians such as James Moody, The Heath Brothers, Paquito D'Rivera, Monty Alexander, Roy Hargrove, and the Dizzy Gillespie Alumni All-Stars.
Whether playing straight ahead jazz, modern, Brazilian, world music, blues or bebop, Yotam's performances receive rave reviews from critics and fans alike. Performing with the world's premiere artists has allowed Yotam to learn from the masters and hone his incredible talent. Now, at age 31, his skills are polished, his career is skyrocketing, and critics agree that Yotam is poised for a stellar future.
During the time that Robby Ameen has spent living in New York City since the early eighties he has compiled a recording career stretching from Dizzy Gillespie to Paul Simon, while maintaining a more than twenty year relationship with Latin icon Ruben Blades as a member of Seis del Solar. Although he is of Lebanese origin, Robby is best known for the unique and powerful Afro-Cuban jazz style he has developed. Growing up in New Haven, Connecticut, Robby was able to take advantage of his proximity to New York City by going to clubs and hearing many of the great jazz masters at a very young age. At the same time, he was involved in the local Jazz and Latin scene, as well as later attending Yale University, where he received a BA in literature. His jazz roots were strongly influenced by his studies with the great Ed Blackwell in high school, while in college he studied classical percussion with the renowned Fred Hinger.
Upon moving to New York, Robby began recording with flutist Dave Valentin and soon afterwards Ruben Blades, who was the first salsa singer to add a full-time drummer to his band, Seis del Solar. Another one of his early recordings was "New Faces" with Dizzy Gillespie, about which Dizzy said in JazzTimes "Just the other day I made a record with a Lebanese drummer – b-a-a-d! He had so much happening, and it keeps going, you know?"