Friday, April 09, 2010
Graciela Peréz-Gutierrez (1915-2010)
NYT has an obituary of the famous Graciela:
April 9, 2010
Graciela Peréz-Gutierrez, Afro-Cuban Singer, Dies at 94
By BEN RATLIFF
Graciela Peréz-Gutierrez, known professionally as Graciela, one of the great voices in Afro-Cuban music, died on Wednesday in Manhattan, where she lived. She was 94.
The cause was renal and pulmonary failure, said Mappy Torres, her friend and assistant.
For 32 years, Graciela sang with a band formed by her foster brother, Machito, whose real name was Frank Grillo.
Many of Graciela’s most famous appearances on records, including “Que Me Falta,” “Vive Como Yo,” “Ay José” and “Si Si No No,” were swoons and flirtations, from coy to outrageous. She was a forthright performer, singing with a clear and powerful alto voice; she could make it soft, then expand it into a clipped vibrato or a ragged shout.
Graciela and Machito, both raised by Graciela’s parents in Havana, were each established professional singers before they teamed up in New York in 1943.
In Cuba, Graciela had been singing with the all-female Orquesta Anacaona and El Trio Garcia and had traveled to New York, South America and Europe. Machito had moved from Havana to New York City in 1937, recorded with the Orchestra Siboney and Xavier Cugat, and ultimately formed the Afro-Cubans with the trumpeter Mario Bauzá, a group that helped galvanize the mambo and Latin-jazz movements.
When Machito was drafted into the United States Army in 1943, Bauzá sent for Graciela, eight years Machito’s junior, to join the Afro-Cubans. She was the band’s lead singer for a year before Machito’s return. From then through the 1950s, with the two lead singers trading off vocal turns and Graciela clicking through the rhythm pattern with her wooden claves, the band established a high standard for the mambo orchestra.
The Afro-Cubans played to integrated audiences at the Palladium, Town Hall, the Apollo, the 52nd Street jazz clubs, the Concord Hotel in the Catskills and the Crescendo nightclub in Hollywood, among other places.
Graciela left the Afro-Cubans in 1975 but rejoined with Bauzá’s own band, first in 1976 on “La Botanica” and then during the 1990s in his career’s 11th-hour revival.
Graciela was never married and had no immediate surviving family members. She died, Ms. Torres said, with her claves in her hands.