Latin Jazz master Marco Rizo's love affair with the media started in 1937, when he was just 17 years old. Rizo and his father, Sebastian, a flutist with the Santiago de Cuba Philharmonic Orchestra, often got together with other musicians to play for weddings and social events in a group that came to be called the "Rizo Ayala Jazz Band." In the 1930s North American music had become quite the rage in Cuba, just as Cuban music had become in the United States. The Rizo group, vying to be one of the most popular jazz bands in Santiago, was always looking for new music to perform. Much to their delight, a relative living in New York provided them a link to all that was new from the States. Package after package arrived at the Rizo home bearing scores from America's hit parade. And the magic quickly followed. Marco and his father began arranging the American jazz melodies, fusing them! with Cuban rhythm and form. The Rizo Ayala Jazz Band soon became one of the most popular and sought after bands in Cuba's Oriente Province, and thus Marco Rizo gained a distinguished place in the early history of Latin Jazz.  

In 1940, Rizo left Cuba to study at Juilliard. Soon after his studies there, he was on the road with the Desi Arnaz Orchestra, arranging and performing with jazz greats from all over the country. Groups of touring musicians would often meet on the road and exchange ideas. As musicians became enthusiastic about using Cuban rhythms in their compositions, wonderful harmonic textures became spiced with Afro-Cuban rhythms!  

All the while, Marco's compatriots and friends, Mario Bauzá, Machito, Chico O'Farrill, Laurindo  Almeida,  Chano Pozo and Dizzy Gillespie were right in the forefront of the evolving venue. It would be impossible to do them justice for their contributions within the confines of this page, as their stories alone could fill many volumes. Suffice it to say, Marco Rizo had a long and warm relationship with them all, often sharing the stage with these greats of Latin Jazz who admired and respected him as a towering figure in the field. 

Shortly after leaving the "I Love Lucy Show," Rizo followed his life-long  dream and created his own Latin Jazz Quartet. During this period, he made dozens of Latin Jazz arrangements of music of Cuba, the Caribbean, South America, as well as the classical music Chopin, Bach, and a host of other European and American composers. Famed American composer Ferde Grofe said after one of Rizo's performances: "Lecuona was a great pianist and composer, but his harmony tended to be simplistic. On the other hand, I have never heard a Cuban with a command of modern harmony such as Rizo has. He is truly  amazing!" 

 From time to time, Marco was privileged to record with the finest Latin Jazz musicians of the twentieth century. Among his numerous recordings we find exemplifying his jazz style are: "Carnival Miami," with Rene Luis Toledo and Israel Lopez Cachao; "Brazilian-Jazz" with Jerome Richardson; "Piano and Latin Rhythms"; "Brazilian-Jazz Bossa-Nova"; and "A Tribute to Lucy".  

Always the educator, Marco Rizo, along with his band, presented workshops wherein he traced the development of modern Latin Jazz from African, South American and European musical genres cultivated in Cuba. Not restricting his creativity to the so-called Afro-Cuban styles, he also utilized musical styles of Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, and Spain to exemplify the versatility of this blend. 

His last and most enduring Latin Jazz Quartet consisted of: Marco Rizo at the piano; world-famous conga player, Candido; Bobby Sanabria, drums; and Victor Venegas, bass. The group has done considerable touring throughout the U.S., performing at most prestigious concert halls, universities and at educational workshops. Today, in Marco's absence, the Marco Rizo Latin Jazz Quartet still performs presenting his arrangements and music, giving us an opportunity to appreciate this musical giant's great talent and legacy.

 

For more information: contact Ms.Vilma Rizo at  Sampi Records 310 Lexington Avenue #13C New York, NY 10016. Or e-mail us at vilriz@aol.com

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