With Harry James in 1956

Juan Tizol

A rare television clip featuring Harry James and Buddy Rich

Juan Tizol (1900-84) made major contributions as a composer and valve trombonist to Duke Ellington’s orchestra.

One of the first significant jazz musicians to be born and raised in Puerto Rico, early on Tizol worked in his uncle’s band in San Juan, playing not only dance music but for operas and ballets.

Tizol moved to the U.S. in 1920, working in Washington D.C. and meeting the young Ellington.

While a member of the Duke Ellington Orchestra during its Golden Age (1929-44), Tizol’s musicianship and fluency on the valve trombone added flexibility to the Ellington brass section. He also assisted with arrangements and other high level behind-the-scenes musical tasks for the orchestra.

As the composer of “Caravan,” “Perdido,” “Moonlight Fiesta,” “Jubilesta,” “Conga Brava” and other exotic pieces, Tizol added to the Ellington repertoire with the former two songs becoming timeless standards.

Tizol worked with the Harry James Orchestra during 1944-51, was back with Ellington during 1951-53, rejoined James, and returned to Ellington briefly in the early 1960s before retiring.

This film clip has Juan Tizol playing as part of the Harry James Octet, appearing on the Milton Berle Show in 1956.

Tizol was unique, among other things, for his ability to blend his sound with the reed section. (You’ll see him in the upper right hand corner of the horn section.)

As usual, Tizol is part of the ensemble rather than being featured as a soloist as James (with drummer Buddy Rich) stars on “You Made Me Love You” and “Two O’Clock Jump.”

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