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Remembering Flutist Jose Fajardo

From Havana to Miami and New York City, master flutist Jose Fajardo left an extraordinary musical legacy serving as an essential model in Afro-Cuban dance music. After his untimely deaph in early December 2001, flutists Bobby Ramirez talks about one of Latin music's most influential musician, flutist and bandleader Jose Fajardo.

Bobby Ramirez speaks:

Jose FajardoIt would probably suffice to say that as a flutist performing Afro-Cuban music and Jazz, I have listened and learned from many astute musicians. Possibly, some of those players that have served as musical influences are a few notables that include Artie Webb, Hubert Laws and Dave Valentin, among others. And perhaps within that scope of music, lay the influence of one Master of Masters, sultant of the highest notes in Afro-Cuban dance music, swinging charanguero by trade (la flauta mas alta de Cuba - the highest flute in Cuba) Jose Fajardo.

One day, back in the late 70s during the early years of my musical development, my mother pulls out a cassette of Fajardo y sus Estrellas. When I first laid ears to his music, I was stunded. At that time, we lived in a small project apartment in Hialeah, mom, my little brother and I. My mother said that Fajardo's music reminded her of Cuba. Years later, I had the pleasure of attending one of his performances in Miami, On that occasion, Fajardo performed at Miami-Dade Community College in 1995. In a nutshell, I must say that I was transfixed by his tremendous technique on the flute. But it was the high notes that caught my attention.

flutist Bobby RamirezJust like his recordings, he'd pop those high notes with such ease, swriling and fancy trills. He did not play a fury of notes during a tune; yet, he'd manage to play the right notes at the right time and place adding tension and excitement to the music. The crowd would respond with joyous applause. He seemed to be a man with lots of energy, always ready to entertain, and proficient at his craft. However, it was more than just his music that I felt. Fajardo's music represents more than a half Century of Cuban dance music, back to its infancy in old Havana and Oriente, its lean beginnings when the Danzòn, Habanera, son montuno, and charanga, mambp and cha cha were King!

Looking back now, what I most remember is his high caliber of musicality, but perhaps more importantly was his image representing Latin music with elegance, his simple character--portraying the splendor and happiness of an era graced by song and dance (Cuando Cuba reia)--a lost world to many Cuban exiles that came to life with every musical note emanating from his authentic black hand-made wooden flute.

The next time I would see Fajardo would be in the studio around July, 2001, while recording with Juan Pablo Torres on the Original Cuban Masters project. I was fortunate then to finally meet him in person. I shook his hand and we exchanged some words. I felt honored to have met him.

Jose Fajardo's music, in my opinion, represents a definitive textbook of Afro-Cuban dance music serving as a blueprint for students, as well as spreading joy and happiness to those that enjoy dancing. Of particular note is his perfect execution of the classic Cuban Danzòn. Thanks to Jose Fajardo, this music will live beyond the 21st Century for future generations to enjoy. No doubt, he's one of the foremost contributors in Latin music of the 20th Century. While I'm sad that Jose Fajardo is no longer with us, I'm confident that his music will continue to make people happy. br

Miami-based Flutist/saxophonist/composer Bobby Ramirez performs with several bands including his Latin Jazz ensemble, Ritmo Caliente Del Caribe Orchestra. For more information visit:

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