LUMPENPROLETARIAT—Vato was a bullfighter. Who knew? We knew viva tirado represented the vato loco living rebelliously, perhaps angrily. But the story of Gerald Wilson’s 1962 “Viva Tirado” written about the Mexican bullfighter José Ramón Tirado completes the picture to the classic ’60s record by El Chicano and adds greater depth to the street mythology underscoring this gold record.
SOUL-SIDES—I “discovered” “Viva Tirado” back around 1990, when Kid Frost sampled/interpolated parts of it for “La Raza” but I didn’t realize the greater genealogy of the song until later in the decade when one of my academic mentors, Josh Kun, put me up on how Frost was flipping an El Chicano song that, in turn, was based on a Gerald Wilson original.
The connection planted a tenacious seed in my head and for the dozen years after that, I slowly began to flesh out the story behind what I call the song’s “multiple iterations” and specifically, how “Viva Tirado” is at the center of a rather remarkable, multi-generational conversation between L.A.’s Black and Brown communities. After all, here’s a song, originally written by a Black composer in honor of a Mexican bullfighter, covered by a Chicano band steeped in Black R&B and jazz, then sampled by the first major Chicano rap artist. It seems no matter where the song goes, it’s always a bridge between cultures; this becomes even more true once “Viva Tirado” goes international and falls into the hands of everyone from Augustus Pablo to Nico Gomez to Los Mozambiques.
I finally had the chance a few years ago to collect these ideas into an academic essay that just came out in the Journal of Popular Music Studies.
It really is an astounding story for those who don’t know it and I feel like I wrote my essay with scholarly rigor but hopefully still accessible enough for the “lay person” to read.
Learn more at SOUL-SIDES.
“Viva Tirado” (1962) by Gerald Wilson
“Viva Tirado” (Live 1971) by El Chicano
“La Raza” (1990) by Kid Frost
CCM Jazz: “A Night with Gerald Wilson” (live in concert) (2014) [*]
MATADORES—El cuerpo del diestro mazatleco José Ramón Tirado por fin fue entregado a sus familiares el pasado viernes 23, exactamente a un mes de su fallecimiento. Lamentablemente las cosas se complicaron desde que perdió la vida, ya que la persona que iba a reclamar el cuerpo era su hermana Petra, pero falleció una semana después en el puerto de Mazatlán y fue su sobrino Ernesto, hijo de un hermano del maestro de nombre Ignacio, quién se trasladó de Tijuana a los Ángeles para recuperar el cuerpo de su tío en representación de toda la familia.
La asociación Nacional de Matadores estuvo enterada de esta situación, brindándole todo el apoyo necesario a los familiares del maestro Tirado, incluso mandando una carta directamente Elizabeth Mejía, representante del Servicio Social del Condado de Los Angeles, Cal. para solicitar que el cuerpo del matador pudiera ser trasladado a Tijuana.
Ernesto Tirado, Agradeció al matador Antonio Urrutia y a la Asociación de Matadores así como al grupo taurino Los aficionados de los Ángeles y a todas las personas que se involucraron desde el fallecimiento de su tío y a quienes hicieron las aportaciones económicas que recibió la funeraria Richardson-Peterson en el condado de Ontario CA, para liquidar la cuenta de los servicios funerarios.
Uno de los deseos del maestro Tirado era ser incinerado y que sus cenizas fueran esparcidas en una de las plazas de toros en donde fue muy querido. Por lo tanto, sus cenizas serán depositadas un nicho el 27 de junio en la capilla de la Plaza de Toros Monumental de Tijuana, día en que este coso cumple su 50 aniversario.
El matador de toros en el retiro, José Ramón Tirado falleció en la ciudad de Los Ángeles, California a la edad de 78 años víctima de una añeja enfermedad.
LATINO CULTURES NETWORK—(16 JUL 2014) Can an African American bandleader’s Mexicanized composition be considered Chicano music? Gerald Wilson is an African American jazz big band trumpeter, soloist, arranger, conductor, and composer whose musical legacy is heavily influenced by Latin music and Mexican culture. Wilson wrote, arranged, recorded, and performed Latin-tinged tunes and bona fide Latin jazz originals, including a couple of clave-driven gems. In particular, he is known for writing a series of brassy homages to Mexican bullfighters.
As early as 1954, Wilson began recording songs inspired by bullfighting, the artistry of which he became an ardent aficionado in Mexico with his Mexican American wife, Josefina, and her family. In 1962, Wilson wrote and recorded the first and most famous of his bullfighter songs, “Viva Tirado,” a funky Latin jazz classic with a catchy theme, conga drumming, and jazz guitar, in honor of José Ramón Tirado, a sensational teenage matador from Mazatlán. As Wilson marveled, Tirado “had a lot of style,” like a smooth jazz trumpeter. During the 1960s, the California-based label, Pacific Jazz, released 9 Gerald Wilson albums in 10 years, and Mexican American saxophonist, clarinetist, and flutist Anthony Ortega played hard bop and free jazz on most of them. For example, the ballad, “El Viti,” a 1965 ode to the tough, stoic Mexican bullfighter Santiago Martín, showcased a “poignant” muted trumpet melodic line by Gerald Wilson, and an Ortega alto saxophone solo that twists and turns from soul searching to statement making.
Wilson’s “love of Mexico and Mexican music” coalesced on the 1966 LP The Golden Sword, named after a torero’s highest accolade. This recording includeda traditional Mexican folk tune, along with three straight-ahead jazz orchestral odes to Mexican culture: “Mi Corazon,”and “The Feather” and “The Serpent,” two parts of an unfinished work, “Teotihuacan Suite,” inspired by the ancient Toltec capital. Thetitle track is a catchy Latin anthem that evokes “the pageantry of the bull ring,” swaggers with dramatic trumpet brio, and swings with soulful tenor sax lines. The Golden Sword also featured the tune “Carlos,” Wilson’s passionate, rousing “tribute” to Mexico City matador Carlos Arruza. During the same years that Herb Alpert’s pop party music gained great popularity, Gerald Wilson’s body of work infused American music with his deeply personal interpretation of Tijuana brass. As he explained, regarding his relationship to Mexico and Mexican Americans, “That’s my other family now and I’ve been into that culture.”
In 1967 Wilson recorded a looser, more uptempo arrangement of “Viva Tirado” for the album, Live and Swinging: The Gerald Wilson Orchestra Plays Standards and Blues, recorded at Marty’s, a South Central Los Angeles jazz venue owned by a Mexican American Angeleno, with an all-black clientele. From the visceral tumbao (syncopated Afro-Cuban bass line) to the roaring reeds, the trumpeter’s rapid-fire riffs and slurred notes, the drummer’s percussive cowbells and propulsive cymbals, the pianist’s nimble notes and block chords, and the rattling maracas in tandem with the scratching güiro, this live version packed texture, density, and intensity.
Can an African American bandleader’s Mexicanized compositions be considered Chicano music? In jazz history, Gerald Wilson is considered neither a creator nor a purveyor of Latin jazz, while his Mexican songs are not Chicano enough to be called Chicano jazz. Nevertheless, Wilson’s savory songbook consistently absorbed Mexican flavors. As Wilson declared, of his unique style, “It’s meaty, it’s deep, and it’s rooted in the history of black and Mexican people.”
Learn more at LATINO CULTURES NETWORK.
[*] National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Gerald Wilson joins the CCM Jazz Ensemble under the musical direction of Dr. Scott Belck. From [a] concert and live video recording for WCET Arts public television.