René Touzet

Born in Havana, Rene Touzet studied under the masters Perez Sentenat and Joaquin Nin at Falcon Conservatory before the age of ten. He won first prize in piano upon graduation at sixteen. He led his own 16-piece orchestra at Hotel Nacional until joining Enric Madriguera's orchestra in the United States in 1946. This was followed by stints with Xavier Cugat and Desi Arnaz. After only a year he started his own combo in Hollywood, which remained his home city for the duration of his career. He won Gold Medals from the Press Club of Cuba in 1945, and in 1953 he won the Gold Medal as Cuba's top popular composer.

Touzet's first gig was leading a 16-piece orchestra at Havana's Grand Nacional Casino. In 1946 he left for the United States to join Enric Madriguera's band for a year before starting his own groups. Also he studied composition under Castelnovo-Tedesco. Touzet had the unenviable duty of counterracting the pollution from Hollywood with authentic Cuban music fused into original forms a general audience in the 1950s would stand. His band bred many of the Latin greats of at least the West Coast, and all devotees of the West Coast style of Latin and Latin jazz owe him an enormous debt.

Gene Norman was an early champion who eventually made the Touzet outfit his house band at the Crescendo club and a staple of the GNP-Crescendo label. (In New York, Fiesta was Touzet's chief label.) Most of the greatest percussionists in California played on his GNP albums, including Aguabella, the Bobo-Santamaria team, and Carlos Vidal. Also featured were top Cuban horn players and vocalists such as Manuel Ochoa (a.k.a. Kaskara).

Known for a "different rumba," Touzet was a master of tempo, and his role as leader of the Cha Cha Rhythm Boys bears this out. The Boys played in the "strictly for dancing," syncopated style which is too metronomic for most tastes. But he was at home with Latin jazz and classical as well as popular Latin, and many of his contributions as composer are indispensable. A typical album will have supper-club anthems, music for dancing, and a couple of progressive smokers.

So, with all these credentials, why aren't Touzet records taken more seriously? Part of the answer, besides his being on the wrong coast of the U.S., is that he once composed a tribute to Fidel Castro. Despite the fact it was pre-Revolution and pulled quickly from the market (same title & jacket as another LP but different # & tunes), Floridian Cubans of the 1960s never forgave him. Touzet was banned from the airwaves and store shelves in several key places. Many Californians, however, regard him highly, as he deserves.

Buying: It's hard to beat most of the GNP albums, which feature much of the best Latin talent in California and, as with Eddie Cano and Bobby Montez LPs, offer a change of pace from the New York sound. The Fiesta LPs have a lush sound that is well worth hearing, and the early RCA LP is very much influenced by classical Havana. The MGM set is brassier but deceptively progressive, especially the jazz mambos.

René Touzet LPs

6Rene Touzet & his Orchestra: Dinner in Havana; RCA Victor LPM-1016; 1954
8Rene Touzet & his Orchestra: Latin American Tempos--Designed for Dancing; MGM E-3305 (Latin jazz/jazz mambos/cha cha cha; far better than the title suggests!)
7Rene Touzet & the Cha-Cha-Cha Rhythm Boys: "88" Below the Border; Fiesta FLP-1208
The Cha-Cha-Cha Rhythm Boys: All Time Cha Cha Cha & Merengue Hit Parade; Fiesta FLP-1210
5Rene Touzet & the Cha Cha Rhythm Boys w/the Malagon Sisters: Blue Bongo; Fiesta FLP-1224
5Tony & Lucille/Rene Touzet & Cha Cha Rhythm Boys: Cha Cha Cha Instruction Record; Fiesta FLP-1244
6Rene Touzet & the Cha Cha Rhythm Boys: Cha Cha Cha-Mambo-Merengue; Fiesta FLP-1263
4The Cha Cha Rhythm Boys: The Best of the Lot; Fiesta
7Rene Touzet, his Piano, Conjunto, & Orchestra (version 1); GNP-14; 1955 (black jacket: "The Cha Cha & the Mambo" features photo of Touzet conducting; with Jack Costanzo)
7Rene Touzet, his Piano, Conjunto, & Orchestra (version 2); GNP-14S/GNP-14; 1955 (yellow jacket: "The Charm of the Cha Cha Cha" features sketch of dancer; stereo version sounds as if it was taped binaurally for release years later)
6Rene Touzet & his Orchestra: From Broadway to Havana; GNP-22 (w/Jack Costanzo)
7Rene Touzet & his Orchestra: Cha Cha Cha for Lovers; GNP-29
8Rene Touzet, his Piano, Chorus, & Orchestra: Mr. Cha Cha Cha; GNP-36[S] (stereo 1st press has silver label)
7Rene Touzet, his Piano, Voices, & Orchestra: Rene Touzet at the Crescendo; GNP-40 (live)
8Rene Touzet, his Piano, Chorus, & Orchestra: Touzet--Too Much!; GNP-49
7The Timeless Ones a la Touzet; GNP-52
7The Best of Rene Touzet; GNP-2000 (compilation)
6Rene Touzet, his Orchestra, & Chorus: La Pachanga; GNP-57
7Rene Touzet, his Piano, Voices, & Orchestra: Pachanga Differente!; GNP-61
6Greatest Latin Hits; GNP-74
7Rene Touzet, his Piano, & Orchestra: Touzet Goes to the Movies; GNP-81
6Bossa Nova! Brazil to Hollywood; GNP-87
8Rene Touzet: [Latin Beat] The Latin Greatness of Rene Touzet; Liberty/Sunset SUS-5213 (10-cut compilation of GNP tracks)

Rene Touzet EPs

7Rene Touzet & his Orchestra: Let's Mambo; MGM X1114 (Sway, Tenderly, The Continental, Peco's City Mambo a la New York; "Tenderly" is not on the LP)
7Rene Touzet & his Orchestra; GNP Crescendo GNP-8 (Julie is Her Name, Andalucia, The Nearness of You, Siboney)

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