Mario Bauzá (April 28, 1911 – July 11, 1993) was an Afro-Cuban jazz musician. He was one of the first to introduce Cuban music to the United States by bringing Cuban musical styles to the New York City jazz scene. While Cuban bands had popular jazz tunes in their repertoire for years, Bauzá’s composition “Tangá” was the first piece to blend jazz with clave, and is considered the first true Afro-Cuban jazz or Latin jazz tune.
Trained as a classical musician, he was a clarinetist in the Havana Philharmonic Orchestra by the age of nine, where he would stay for three years. Bauzá traveled to New York in 1925 to record with Maestro Antonio María Romeu‘s band, a charanga, shortly after his fourteenth birthday.
Bauzá had been hired as lead trumpeter and musical director for Chick Webb‘s Orchestra by 1933, and it was during his time with Webb that Bauzá both met fellow trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and discovered and brought into the band singer Ella Fitzgerald. Importantly, Bauzá introduced the young Havana virtuoso Chano Pozo to Dizzy, when the latter wanted to add a Cuban percussionist to his band; though Pozo was killed in a Harlem bar fight just a year later, he left an indelible and long-lasting mark on Dizzy’s playing and compositions, co-writing several legendary compositions such as “Manteca” and “Tin Tin Deo”.