This chapter looks at a leading melody instrumentalist in the Cuban son tradition, Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros, whose name of has become synonymous in the United States with the traditional style of Cuban trumpet playing. In contrast to jazz, which favors harmonic improvisation, the power and depth of Cuban rhythms is such that it defines the improvisational styles of melody instruments like trumpets, flutes, trombones, saxophones, and so forth. By extension, melody instrumentalists in Latin jazz often incorporate rhythmic phrasing, diction, and improvisation in their compositions and performances. Of the countless fine Cuban melody instrumentalists, Chocolate presents one of the most interesting examples because of his unique musical history. He stands out as one of the exemplary trumpet players in a musical tradition where the trumpet is as ubiquitous as the conga drum. Among trumpeters, Chocolate was certainly the one who took the Cuban sound to all corners of the globe: from Tokyo to Cotonou, from Chile to Finland; he was also the one who most often recorded Cuban music with the widest variety of ensembles.
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