Mr. Diaz has kindly offered a list of important or favorite recordings from his collection. His 150,000 items were donated to Florida International University in 2001, and his book Cuba Canta y Baila is the definitive guide. Hey, he did the list from memory, so hats off to the 87-year-old Mr. Diaz.
1. Pianola roll cut by cuban pianist Ernesto Lecuona of one of his danzas in New York, 1917.
2. 78 rpm record, Monarch 552, “Habanera Tu,” by Eduardo Sánchez de Fuentes, 5/24/1901, N.Y. sung by Chalía Herrera, Cuban soprano. First Cuban international hit.
3. Edison cylinder, E-51103 1920, “La paloma,” played by cuban violinist Martha de la Torre.
4. 78 rpm record, Victor 22483. “El manisero,” rumba by Moises Simons, recorded by Don Azpiazu and his Havana Casino orchestra in New York, 1930, first Cuban hit in north american musical ambiance.
5. 78 rpm Victor 22821, “St. Louis Blues” by W.C. Handy, recorded in New York by Manolo Castro and his Havana Yacht Club Orchestra, 1931, arguably the first attempt to create cuban-jazz music.
6. LP Panart, 10″, ca. 1950, just the cover: “Así cantaba Cuba” a serigraph view of old Havana. Since modern full color machinery was very costly at that time, some records companies in latin countries used the serigraph 4 immersions method, one by one in each cover; therefore, every copy is an original.
7. 78 rpm Victor V-20-3782, 1950: Pérez Prado and His Orchestra in “Que Rico el mambo,” first incursion of a Latin record in Billboard magazine first place.
8. Various versions of the cha cha cha “Me lo dijo Adela” in English, “Sweet and gentle.” American dancers found it more easy to dance cha cha than the mambo. Again, in Billboard magazine.
9. LP Mercury 10″, MGC-515, recorded in Havana, 1952, and forgotten for many years, is the first recorded jam session of Afro-Cuban jazz, directed by Bebo Valdes. Incidentally, it has a beautiful cover by David Stone Martin. B sez: This is “Cubano” by Andre’s All Stars. Featuring: Rolondo Alphonso, tumbadora / Bebo Valdes, piano / Alejandro Vivar “El Negro” – trumpet / Gustavo Maas, tenor saxophone / Bill Barreto, drums / “Kiki “Hernandez, bass.
10. In the ’50s, Cuban artists were having trouble getting jobs in USA. A very popular singer, Orlando Contreras, could not get a record company for his ready-to-go production. As you can see what he did with his double cover record, he uses almost all the space with small adds of Cuban small merchants in Miami, contributing enough money to pay the cost of the editing.
11. It seems the first bolero was written in Cuba by Pepe Sánchez, a guitar player from Santiago de Cuba about 1863 with the name of Tristezas (Sadness), but strange as it seems, it was not recorded in Cuba, perhaps by its sad name; but in 1907, a Mexican duet recorded it for Victor in Mexico, but using a phrase of the lyrics, retitled as “Un beso.”
12. 78 rpm Columbia record CO2070x (ca. 1920) María Teresa Vera, was singing “Los cantares del abacúa” using an African language in part of the lyrics, and this is prior to recordings of any primitive languages of Central and South America.
13. 78 rpm Columbia record C04267x. First boleros were composed by guitar players composers; first bolero written by a piano player composer was “Aquellos ojos verdes,” recorded in 1930 by singer Adolfo Utreran and composer Moises Simons plus Ernesto Lecuona at the piano. Recorded in English as “Green Eyes” by the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra — also a big hit in the US.
14. 78 rpm Seeco 7076. Probably the most universally famous Cuban female singer is Celia Cruz. Here is her first recording in 1951, “Cao cao, maní picao,” with Sonora Matancera, the oldest Cuban orchestra.
15. 78 rpm Victor 20-3023, 1947. “Manteca,” Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo. For many, this is the record that started Afro-Cuban jazz in US.
16. Another very old cylinder, from the beginnings of the 20th century, Edison 432, by New York Military Band with Collins and Harlan, “The Cubanola Glide.”