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Juan Tizol

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Juan Tizol (22 January 1900 – 23 April 1984) was a Puerto Rican trombonist and composer. He is best known as a member of Duke Ellington’s band, and as the co-writer of the jazz standards “Caravan” and “Perdido”.

Tizol was born in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. Music was a large part of his life from an early age. His first instrument was the violin, but he soon switched to valve trombone, the instrument he would play throughout his career. His musical training came mostly from his uncle Manuel Tizol, who was the director of the municipal band and the symphony in San Juan. Throughout his youth, Juan played in his uncle’s band and also gained experience by playing in local operas, ballets and dance bands. In 1920, Juan joined a band that was traveling to the United States to work in Washington D.C. The group eventually made it to Washington (traveling as stowaways) and established residence at the Howard Theater where they played for touring shows and silent movies. At the Howard they also were hired to play in small jazz or dance groups. This is where Juan first came in contact with Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington.
Tizol got the call to join the Ellington band in the summer of 1929. Arthur Whetsol, a trumpeter whom Juan played with in the White Brothers’ Band, apparently made the recommendation. Juan sat beside Joe “Tricky Sam” Nanton in the two-man trombone section and became the fifth voice in the brass section of Ellington’s orchestra.

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