Born: September 19, 1908 | Died: August 26, 1987 Primary Instrument: Composer/conductor
Alberto Socarras - clarinet, flute, alto and soprano sax, bandleader,(1908 - 1987)
Alberto Socarras is credited with recording the first real jazz flute piece in 1927. Socarras was a highly proficient Cuban clarinetist, and bandleader, who after his arrival in New York, performed with Lew Leslie's Blackbirds, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway and Louis Armstrong.
Socarras playing a flute recorded Shootin' The Pistol in 1927 with the Clarence Williams Band. His other recordings include “You're Such a Cruel Papa To Me,” with vocalist Lizzie Miles in 1928, and “You Can't Be Mine,”in 1930, with Bennett's Swamplanders. He would also join up with the Blackbirds Revue, and Rhapsody in Black, musical troupes for tours of Europe.
In the thirties Alberto Socarras went on to lead his own bands both in the U.S. and abroad, as the one in ‘34 that was billed as Alberto Socarrás and his Magic Flute Orchestra. Other configurations featured first rate sidemen such as Cab Calloway and Mongo Santamaria, both later to achieve international fame as band leaders in their own right. In his heyday he was broadcasting live on WMCA from the Latin Campomar Club in NYC, where he brought in a young Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet, who later would say of Socarras, “the Cuban maestro with the magic flute.”
Socarras went on to achieve quite a reputation as an enduring bandleader, and also did scores of studio and sideman stints especially for the Columbia label, who was marketing music specifically for the Latin American audience.
After receiving his degree in music from the Timothy Musical Conservatory in 1944, he went on to record “Rumba Clasica,” for the RCA label in 1947. He went into teaching, as well as keeping his band going well into the ’50’s, surfacing in the ‘60’s on dates with Tito Puente.
Though his place in jazz history may be just a footnote, Alberto Socarras played a vital role in the development and nurturing of Latin jazz in its original stages.
Albverto Socarras passed on Aug. 26, 1987.