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Manteca was co-written by Dizzy Gillespie, Chano Pozo and Gil Fuller in 1947. According to Gary Giddings writing in the Village Voice, it is "one of the most important records ever made in the United States". It is certainly one of the early Afro-Cuban jazz numbers that first became popular in the late 1940s. According to Wikipedia: 'Afro-Cuban jazz was considered bebop-oriented, and some musicians classified it as a modern style. Afro-Cuban jazz was successful because it never decreased in popularity and it always attracted people to dance to its unique rhythms. Gillespie's most famous contributions to Afro-Cuban music are the compositions "Manteca" and "Tin Tin Deo" (both co-written with Chano Pozo)'.

If you look for a definition of 'Manteca' you will find that it is the Spanish word for butter, peanut butter or lard. In Italy it is a soft, creamy cheese. But if you look beneath the surface, it is also a slang word for 'marijuana'. In one online blog, someone asks: '....I was recently interpreting for a defendant who said he used to sell "Manteca". I understand it is some type of illicit drug, but which one? and where is it called like that?' A reply said: 'Street names associated with heroin include: "black sugar", "butter", "tecata", "H", "white powder", "white lady" and, in English, "smack", "skag" and "junk".'



Listen to Dizzy Gillespie with Manteca featuring Chano Puzo from 1947





Interestingly, Manteca is also a city in San Joaquin County, California. 'In 1873, the Central Pacific Railroad laid track directly through the area. The residents wanted to refer to their new train station as "Cowell Station", but there was already a Cowell Station near Tracy. The residents agreed to change the name of the community,Manteca mapchoosing "Monteca" as the new name. This was misprinted as "Manteca" (Spanish for lard) by the railroad, and the misspelled version was eventually accepted as the name of the town. This misspelling thus became a town joke that would be laughed at throughout generations to come ...'

Ironically, the city also has a number of drug rehab. centres! One says: 'If use of drugs or alcohol is damaging your relationships, Manteca, CA has a number of great drug abuse centers to help you or someone you love. Whether addicted to Clonazepam, opiates, painkillers or alcohol, we can help you connect with rehabilitation to get the best help available. You can even find private or exclusive treatment in Manteca to make rehab as easy as possible' .... and another: 'Drug and addiction abuse is a highly prevalent issue in Manteca, CA. To solve this crisis problem, the city has a His Way Recovery program which is a Christian-based, faith-based method to addiction treatment. This centre is a successful one and offers long-term residential services. Furthermore, it can be paid using self-pay or through insurances'.

Apparently, in 1947, Gillespie asked Mario Bauzá, an Afro-Cuban jazz musician, to recommend a Cuban percussionist for his big band. Bauzá had been hired as lead trumpeter and musical director for Chick Webb's Orchestra, and it was during his time with Webb that Bauzá met fellow trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie as well as bringing into the band Ella Fitzgerald. In 1938 Bauzá joined Cab Calloway's band and talked Calloway into hiring Dizzy Gillespie. Bauzá went on to work with Dizzy for several years after he left Calloway's band in 1940. 'The fusion of Bauzá's Cuban musical heritage and Gillespie's bebop culminated in the development of 'cubop', one of the first forms of Latin jazz. In 1941, Bauzá became musical director of Machito and his Afro-Cubans, a band led by his brother-in-law Machito.

In response to Dizzy's request for an Afro-Cuban musician, Bauzá suggested Chano Pozo, a rough-living percussionist already famous in Cuba. They began to work Pozo's Cuban-style percussion into the band's arrangements ... (Dizzy's) band was touring in California when Pozo presented Gillespie with the idea for the tune (Manteca). It featured a bridge of two eight-bar trumpet statements by Gillespie, percussion patterns played by Pozo, and horn lines from Gillespie's big band arranger Walter "Gil" Fuller. According to Gillespie, Pozo composed the layered, contrapuntal guajeos (Afro-Cuban ostinatos) of the A section and the introduction, while Gillespie wrote the bridge. Gillespie recounted: "If I'd let it go like [Pozo] wanted it, it would have been strictly Afro-Cuban all the way. There wouldn't have been a bridge. I thought I was writing an eight-bar bridge, but after eight bars I hadn't resolved back to B-flat, so I had to keep going and ended up writing a sixteen-bar bridge."


Here is Dizzy Gillespie talking about composing Manteca with Chano Pozo. "It was similar to a nuclear weapon when it burst on the scene. They'd never seen a marriage of Cuban music and American music like that before."






Chano Puzo and Dizzy Gillespie

Luciano "Chano" Pozo González was born in Havana to Cecelio González and Carnación Pozo. He 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 soneros (an improvising lead singer in salsa music). The family struggled with poverty throughout Chano's youth. 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.

'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. In this environment criminal activities flourished, and Chano learned the ways of the street as means of survival. 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. 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'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 (Wikipedia).


Chano Pozo with Dizzy Gillespie


In 1947 Chano moved to the USA in search of a better life and joined Dizzy Gillespie, but just a year later, he was shot and killed on December 2, 1948 in the El Rio Bar at 111th St and Lenox Avenue in Harlem. Pozo's killer was a local bookie named Eusebio "Cabito" Munoz. Pozo had accused Cabito of selling him poor quality marijuana and Cabito retaliated.


The event is featured in the 2012 award winning animation film Chico and Rita - Poor Chano Pozo.





There are a number of documentary films about Chano Puzo online, but unfortunately for many of us they are in Spanish (?)
e.g. this 1hr 14 minutes documentary film The Legacy Of Chano Puzo.





Before we leave Chano Puzo we should also acknowledge his other famous contribution to the Dizzy Gillespie repertoire - Tin Tin Deo.

This video of the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet from 1958 is basically a bass / trumpet duet:





According to Wikipedia, 'Because mainstream jazz audiences are generally not aware of the innovations of Machito's band, "Manteca" is often erroneously cited as the first authentic Latin jazz (or Afro-Cuban jazz) tune. Although "Tanga" preceded "Manteca" by several years, the former is a modal descarga (Cuban jam), lacking a typical jazz bridge, or B section, and is not well known enough to be considered a jazz standard.


Listen to Machito and His Afro Cubans with Tanga.





By the late 1940s saxophonist Charlie Parker was also experimenting with Latin influences and he teamed up with Machito to record a number of tracks including No Noise, Mango Mangue, Okiedoke, and a 17 minute Afro Cuban Jazz Suite. These are probably not the recordings for which Charlie Parker will be best remembered but we can hear a recording of some alternate takes of Okiedoke.




When Gillespie first began experimenting with Afro-Cuban rhythms, the bebop pioneer called the subgenre cu-bop. The piece refers to racial tensions in America; Gillespie is heard singing, "I'll never go back to Georgia". In 1965, the Joe Cuba Sextet got their first crossover hit with the Latin and soul fusion of "El Pito (I'll Never Go Back To Georgia)". The "Never Go Back To Georgia" chant was taken from Dizzy Gillespie's introduction to this seminal Afro-Cuban tune, "Manteca".


You can hear the chant on this recording of Manteca from the Dizzy Gillespie Band at the Newport Jazz Festival.





It seems that Manteca has influenced a number of other compositions. The Blues guitarist Bobby Parker had a hit with the tune You'd Better Watch Your Step in 1961. He said: 'I started playing the riff on my guitar and decided to make a blues out of it'. Here is a video of him playing the number at the Silver Spring Blues Festival in June 2013.





Watch Your Step was performed by several bands in the 1960s including Dr Feelgood and on stage by the Beatles in 1961 and 1962, and, according to John Lennon, it provided a musical basis for both their songs I Feel Fine and Day Tripper.


A video of The Beatles with I Feel Fine.





Over the years Manteca has become a 'Jazz Standard' with various interpretations. Here is Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz At The Lincoln Centre Orchestra playing it in 2016 - Bobby Allende takes the solo on the congas.




Finally, from the 2017 International Jazz Day All-Star Global Concert, here is a video of Manteca played by Yaroldy Abreu (percussion), Till Bronner (trumpet), Igor Butman (saxophone), Roberto Fonseca (piano), Antonio Hart (saxophone), Takuya Kuroda (trumpet), Yandy Martínez (bass), Carlos Miyares (saxophone), Julio Padrón (trumpet), Eduardo Sandoval (trombone), Oliver Valdés (drums), Oscar Valdés (percussion) and Emilio Vega (Co-Musical Director).




And finally, finally, beware of getting a taste for 'manteca', 'lard', 'butter' or 'peanut butter'. In the movie Meet Joe Black, Brad Pitt personifies Death in a man's body, come to take Bill Parrish a media tycoon, but Joe begins to take an interest in life on earth and at one point, discovers peanut butter ........




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More Tracks Unwrapped:

Big Butter And Egg Man
Laird Baird
Sister Kate
Angel Eyes

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