The first Cuban Jazz Band used to practice in our house due to our uncle "Andres Castro" was one of the founders of the band.
It´s very likely that nowadays when lot of people try to make the relation of the most important Cuban bands; "The Castro brothers band" was forgoten. It constitutes an injustice that could be involuntary because it is not easy to find information about it.
Some days ago, thanks to my friend Maria I could visit Silvia, Manolo Castro´s daughter, who was the founder director of the band. Silvia gave me enough details about his origin and development.
Manolo Castro´s parents, who came to Cuba very young, were Spaniards: his mother from Cádiz and his father from Barcelona. They had a humble economy. He worked as a marble mason and she was a housewife. Some people say that Manolo was born in Spain but there is not any documental evidence of it.
From 1920, after finishing his musical studies, Manolo began to play (saxophone and clarinet) in silent movie theaters and in some bands that required his services, most of them integrated by North American instrumentalists. Through those years lot of people thought that Cuban musicians lack discipline to create bands of great size, that dominate a great repertory spectrum.
Manolo thought differently and to prove it, he founded "The Castro brothers band", integrated by his brothers Antonio (trombone), Juan (piano) and Andrés (trumpet), who was the last one to get into the band due to his age. He was born in 1921.
The band, considered the first jazz band of the country had initially seven integrants, then nine and fifteen in 1931, taking the definite payroll. That year they went to New York and participated in the film Havana Cocktail produced by Warner Bros. They also made their first recordings with the RCA Victor in that city. One of them manifests the fusion with the African music. That´s why, it is considered the pioneer in this aspect that later on it is going to be known as Latin Jazz. After that, they recorded many discs in Cuba with "la Panart" and " Puchito".
It was a band of much activity in the country, who was having presentations in radio stations such as "Radio Salas" and "La Mil Diez" (one thousand ten) and it was also appearing in very good shows in the Cuban television since it was founded in the 50´s. The band inaugurated the National Hotel Nightclub and it also played in some relevant places of the capital show like "Sant Soucí" and "Tropicana". The band also made presentations in the most important cities in the country.
Apart from working with its usual singers, among them Miguelito Valdes, this band was baptized like "the band with the unequaled rhythm". It accompanied great personalities of the Cuban song such as Rita- (appearing in a movie with her)-, Olga Guillot, Orlando Vallejo and Rosita Fornes. The band also seconded the presentation of distinguished personalities from abroad in the island like Lucho Gatica and the Araucano Indian. Manolo was a closed friend of Ernesto Lecuona and participated with the band in many performances that the author of "La Comparsa" offered to the capital´s public.
Generosities of this band gave place to other two jazz bands: "Casino de la Playa" and "Riverside".
Nowadays, when listening to some of the old discs of the band, we find a testimony of the musical expression of that time, however, its sonority doesn´t result old. It´s the fruit of the professionalism of all its integrants and over all the exigent direction work of Manolo Castro, who also composed more than 50 pieces, most of them of our music and some of them had lots of success.
In 1960 Manolo decided that this band has to stop playing as the Castro brothers and this one became "the radio progreso band", that was directed by him until his retirement in 1975. He died 10 years later, on October 4th, 1985.
Bringing to present the numerous recordings of The Castro Brothers band wouldn´t be a grateful testimony to the contribution of his integrants to the Cuban culture, but also the possibility to the people and to the new professionals of the music to be fostered with a sonority that keeps its possibilities of making feel and pushing to dance.
Campanario # 63 bajos
, between San Lázaro
and Lagunas. Havana Center.
0053-7 863 62 03