Juan Tizol was born in San Juan Puerto Rico on Jan. 22, 1900, started music lessons early, was trained as a valve trombonist and as a teenager played in the San Juan Municipal Band. Tizol moved to the U.S. in 1920 and became valve trombonist in the pit band of the Howard Theatre in Washington DC, was a member of the Marie Lucas Orchestra, Bobby Lee’s Cottonpickers, and the White Brothers Band. His big break came in August of 1929 when he joined the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
He would remain with Duke for fifteen years, and became an integral part of the bands sound. His contribution to the Duke legacy would be in his two compositions “Caravan”, and “Perdido”. Though he did compose many other pieces for the orchestra, these are his best known. “Caravan” was always the second number in Duke’s live performances, and was permanently in the book. Duke would write specific passages for his valve trombone, in that he could cover a broader range than on a slide. Not known for his soloing in a band with an all star lineup of soloist, he nevertheless was adept and reliable. Due to his punctuality at rehearsals, he was designated by Duke to take these over on many occasions, and Duke always mentioned him with high respect.