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Jose Mangual Sr.

Jose Mangual - bongos, timbales, percussion (1924 - 1998)

He set a standard in bongo playing and was considered by many to have the greatest sound on the instrument. In the music industry where a bandleader or a vocalist is usually the only musician recognized, José Mangual's exceptional percussion skills made him an exception to the rule. It began for him in August, 1942, when bongocero Chino Pozo and timbalero Tito Puente left the Machito orchestra the join the Jack Cole dancers in Chicago. Their replacements were Polidor Allende on bongos and José Mangual on timbales. One month later Tito Puente returned as the timbalero, Polidor switched to conga and Mangual to bongos. For the following 17 years and over 300 Machito recordings, Latin and jazz music aficionados marveled at Mangual's percussion skills.

José Mangual, known as “Buyú”, was born on 18 March, 1924 in Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico. More than a great musician, Mangual inspired others by his example of persistence and dedication to his art.

Mangual demonstrated a love of music early in his youth, listening to mostly Cuban music: rumbas, guarachas, and son montunos. From that music he took an interest in playing the bongos and taught himself to play on makeshift instruments made from tin cans.

By age 10, Mangual showed such talent and skill that was playing professionally. A few later, in 1939, Mangual moved with his family to New York City. There, he adapted to the music scene, often playing in small clubs and establishing his reputation as a gifted percussionist.

Afro-Cuban music would soon explode in New York and reverberate throughout Latin America, the rest of the United States and indeed, the world. Mangual was at the epicenter of that seismic event, playing the timbales with Machito and his Afro-Cuban All-Stars, in 1941. He stayed on for 18 years.

During those years with Machito, Mangual toured the world but more importantly, met and learned from many great musicians; gifted jazz artists in their own right, including the likes of Stan Kenton, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and others. No doubt, they had a great influence on Mangual and the development of Latin jazz in which Mangual was a pioneer.

Mangual parted company with Machito in 1959 to collaborate with flutist Herbie Mann. He also toured Africa with Carlos “Patato” Valdez. It was through Valdez that he met and joined with pianist Erroll Garner and traveled Europe and the States extensively, playing jazz for a broader audience than he had played before in his prior career. Mangual worked with Garner until the pianist's sudden death. The work with Erroll paid well, and everything associated with the job was first class. When Erroll died, there weren't any jobs of this caliber to replace the gig. Rather than work in musically inferior situations, Mangual started the Cheveré Social Club on 116th Street in NYC, where he would host card games of locals.

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