Jose A. Fajardo

Jose Fajardo was a Cuban citizen who was born in Pinar del Rio in 1919. He played the traditional five-keyed wood flute in a family group led by his father Alberto Fajardo. The clarinetist and clarinetist named Orquesta Hilda in honor of his sister Hilda. After working as a Havana policeman, he joined Arcano y Sus Maravillas in the 1940’s. Its leader, Antonio Arcano (flute player), was unable to play the flute anymore. Fajardo y sus Estrellas was his own group that he founded in 1949, just a few years after he had started the Panart label. His recordings on the Panart label were huge hits and, soon, Fajardo y sus Estrellas was a household name. He often took a helicopter to perform in multiple cities at once, which allowed him to lead three different bands under the same name. In the 1950’s, he performed in the United States, playing at the Waldorf-Astoria, as well as other prestigious venues such the Palladium. He also shared a double bill there with Tito Puente. His wife stated that in 1961, following the Cuban revolution of 1959 he was on tour in Japan and the Cuban government telephoned to ask him to continue his tour to communist countries. He refused and stayed in the United States with one of his bandmates. The rest of the group returned to Cuba. He soon formed two new bands in New York and Miami. They played a different rhythm, pachanga, which is slightly assertive. He liked the New York musicians and settled in the busy Latin circuit of the city. He took a job for four weeks in Puerto Rico in 1965. However, he ended up staying almost five years. He played steadily at the El San Juan Hotel the first two years of his stay, setting attendance records. In 1969, Mr. Fajardo was back in New York and worked steadily at Palladium and Casino 14. Casa Blanca, and other Latin clubs. He was a flutist in New York, including Johnny Pacheco, Dave Valentin, and recorded for Columbia, Fania, and Coco labels. Although he had slowed down in the 1980’s, Fajardo continued to lead the band even when his health began to decline in the late 1990’s. He was a regular guest performer and studio musician, and played and recorded with many other musicians, including Israel (Cachao), Lopez, and the Fania All-Stars. He and other prominent Cuban musicians made an album called ”Cuban Masters : Los Originales’’ (Pimienta) in June 2001. It was released in November. The audience for charanga, which is a Cuban group that supports a singer with flutes, violins and pianos, has been greatly expanded by Mr. Fajardo. It plays insinuating rhythms with a focus on the danzo and Cha-cha. This is aided by darting flute interjections. As an expatriate in Cuba after 1961, Fajardo was a leader of groups that helped to create a long-lasting love for charanga during eras of Latin music with more percussive beats. His albums total more than 40.

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