The Troy Street Observer

April 20, 1954: Everybody Loves Mambo!

On April 20, 1954, Tito Puente and the Mambo-Rhumba Festival came to Symphony Hall.

In America, 1954 was the Year of Mambo, the year the dance craze peaked in popularity. That was the year of Perry Como’s “Papa Loves Mambo,” Rosemary Cloony’s “Mambo Italiano” (she hated it), Les Brown’s “St. Louis Blues Mambo,” and yes, Duke Ellington’s “Bunny Hop Mambo.” The top bandleaders—Pérez Prado, Machito, Tito Puente—were on television and radio, and in all the magazines. The October 6, 1954 issue of Down Beat included a Tito Puente feature by Nat Hentoff, “The  Mambo!! They Shake A-Plenty With Tito Puente,” and no, Nat didn’t write the headline.

Of course, jazz knew what was happening underneath the commercial fluff, and had for years. There’s no need to recount that story here.

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Jan 14-15, 1966: First Boston Globe Jazz Festival

The first Boston Globe Jazz Festival kicked off at the Boston War Memorial Auditorium, later renamed the Hynes Auditorium, on January 14, 1966. The two-day fest was organized by George Wein’s Festival Productions, and sponsorship marked a turnaround for the Boston Globe, which had scoffed at the idea of even covering jazz in their paper not so many years before.

Opening night featured a Zoot Sims/Sonny Stitt Quintet with Toshiko Mariano, Steve Swallow, and Alan Dawson; the Dave Brubeck Quartet; the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet with James Moody; Wein’s own Newport All Stars with Ruby Braff, Pee Wee Russell and Bud Freeman; and the Stan Getz Quartet with Bostonians Gary Burton and Roy Haynes. The finale featured a five-saxophone front line of Getz, Sims, Stitt, Moody, and Freeman. Paul Desmond, with his alto, chose to stay out of the way.

The second night featured the Duke Ellington Orchestra under the direction of Mercer Ellington, Joe Williams accompanied by the Ellingtonians, Benny Goodman with a quintet, and Herbie Mann with an octet. The Jazz Priest, Father Norman O’Connor, came back to town to emcee the festival’s second night.

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