Generoso Jimenez celebrated his 90th birthday this past Tuesday July 17, 2007. Most people know Jimenez from his work as musical director with the Beny More big band. He also led the jazz/descarga group Combo Siboney and recorded several independent albums including the 2002 release Generoso Que Bueno Toca Usted. He now lives in Miami and continues to play with the like of Cachao, Bebo Valdes, and more! “El Tojo” stands as an important voice in Latin Jazz, one that contributed strongly and remains vital today.
Jimenez’s trombone playing boldly proclaimed the trombone as a major voice in Latin Jazz, and a variety of musicians have continued to bring the trombone to the forefront of Latin Jazz. Juan Pablo Torres brought amazing virtuosity and swing to the instrument both during his days with Estrellas de Areito. Carlos Alvarez somehow managed to play Irakere’s frenetic horn charts on the trombone. Barry Rogers served as a creative focal point during his stay with Eddie Palmieri’s La Perfecta, bringing a variety of insightful solo ideas to the band. Today, a number of young trombone players are pushing Latin Jazz into new frontiers. The instrument plays a central role in Latin Jazz, a position it lacks in contemporary straight ahead jazz.
Most likely Bebop diminished the importance of the trombone in traditional small combo jazz. The blistering tempos, virtuosic solo flights, and emphasis on dissonant extensions were tailor made for the mechanisms of the saxophone and trumpet. The trombone slide demands more physicality from the musician and the flawed note accuracy remains a constant issue. As Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie became musical icons, upcoming musicians favored instruments better suited towards bebop. Today trombone players make important musical statements in modern jazz, yet they don’t share the spotlight that saxophone players or trumpet players enjoy.
Latin Jazz seems an ideal home for the trombone soloist. The instrument’s cutting tone and rhythmic nature sit strongly aside Latin music, opening creative opportunities for trombone players. An assertive trombone soloist with a good feel for clave will inspire a Latin Jazz rhythm section instantly, bringing the whole experience to a higher level. Any insightful improviser can work a rhythm section, but there’s just something about the sound of a trombone that consistently works wonders in Latin Jazz.
So enjoy a bit of Generoso Jimenez and remember all he has done for an ideal Latin Jazz instrument . . . El Gran Trombon.