Brand You MusicMakers

MusicMakers :: Jay Rodriguez :: STORY

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  • WATCH!


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For today’s MusicMaker, we got a hold of Brooklyn’s Jay Rodriguez.  This is Jay’s Story and how he approaches music and channels his emotions through music.  


“At the very end of your life, it won’t matter how many breaths you take but how many moments in your life took your breath away.” – Shing Xiong


Jay lives Shing Xiong’s challenge every day through his music and as an inspiration the world.   Once again, I’m glad to share that I’m honored to Jay Rodriguez in my life.  He’s a dear friend, a cohort, an inspiration, and a leader.  SO — Thanks million for checking this out!!


Jay’s Bio: Jay’s resume reads like a who’s who of the music world. His music has influenced bands such as US 3, The Roots, & A Tribe called Quest. He has worked with hundreds of artists including Miles Davis, Prince, The Roots, Tupac, Elvis Costello, Patti Labelle, Celia Cruz, Natalie Cole, Musiq Soulchild, Medeski, Martin and Wood, Guru, Little Louie Vega, Arturo O Farrill, Bernie Worrell, Roy Hargrove, Fred Wesley, Melissa Manchester, The Mingus Big Band, Widespread Panic, Mike Clark, Kenny Barron, Irakere, Mongo Santamaria, Eddie Palmieri, Selah Sue, The Gil Evans Band, and many others. He has taught/lectured all over the world including the Royal Academy of Music, University of Cairo, Uninorte (Colombia) & Unam in Mexico.


More about Jay


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Brand You MusicMakers

MusicMaker :: Shea Rose :: STORY

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    check out the interview

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Shea’s Bio: Since graduating from Berklee College of Music in 2011, Shea Rose has been celebrated for her contributions to music, fashion, and philanthropy. She has won multiple awards, was hand-picked by Queen Latifah for a CoverGirl music campaign, and gave a TEDx Talk in 2014 on her journey to re-discover her voice after turning down a major label deal. Shea is currently in the process of releasing her D.T.M.A. (Dance This Mess Around) EP as a six-part music, fashion, and video series that explores her journey and the universal topics of identity, judgment, and self-acceptance. 

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Brand You MusicMakers

Brand YOU: Find Your Story


Jose Feliciano is an amazing story teller.  He uses both his words and music during concerts in a way that keeps thousands of people engaged.  What’s most amazing is that his story is felt even when listening to his recorded music.  Here’s Feliciano’s inspiration, story, and come from when playing the national anthem for the 1968 World Series:


“I had set out to sing an anthem of gratitude to a country that had given me a chance; that had allowed me, a blind kid from Puerto Rico — a kid with a dream — to reach far above my own limitations. I wanted to sing an anthem of praise to a country that had given my family and me a better life than we had had before.”


Feliciano’s performance of the National Anthem was so altered from the traditional that it created controversy.  But despite the controversy, his story resounded.  And that story has led to decades of reinterpretations of the national anthem — and has allowed audiences to be open to the music in a new way.


On that controversy, Feliciano writes:


“The controversy shadowed me for many years, but I’m thankful I had the opportunity to perform our Anthem in a way that was intensely personal to me, yet still maintained the impact and meaning of our nation’s song. I am also thankful to see that today it is common to hear our National Anthem performed in a stylized fashion and that it is now acceptable, indeed admirable, for a musician to deliver a personal interpretation of our National Anthem.”


Feliciano’s story is about transcendence. It affirms the idea that we can all be more…  to the world, to our families, and to ourselves. And people LOVE that story!   If Feliciano had not tapped into his own feelings of appreciation and then shared them, his performance in 1968 would be long forgotten. And we would all be poorer for it.


“But that’s Jose Feliciano,” you might be saying. “I’m not that interesting! I don’t have a story!”


All musicians have a story.  All humans have a story. But for most of us it takes some digging to find it.  


And honestly, you’re not going to love this process.


Because your most powerful stories show your challenges, they expose how you came to this place.  Finding those stories involves peeling back the layers of the onion and sharing what you have overcome; how you have transcended to get to this place.  That can be hard to do. It can also be really worth it.


It’s worth it because in order to overcome those barriers, you had to have a purpose, a vision, a reason to overcome.  Of course, music is your mission, but you have to go deeper: what core passion fires your drive to make music?  


I heard a young singer tell the story of singing at a children’s hospital. Many of the children came in weary or in obvious pain, but by the time she was two songs in, the light was back in their eyes.  For a moment, for that moment that she was singing, those kids were able to forget their pain. That was the moment she knew she wanted to be a musician.


That was the moment she found her mission.


So, dig for your version of that story. And as you’re digging, remember: story applies to everything. Your T-shirts will sell better if people know the meaning behind the logo.  Your albums will sell better if people know the stories behind the songs. You will sell better if people know the story behind you.


Your story is the engine that drives you: It is basically your mission and vision statement.


So this week, think through your story: Why did you got into music? How did you get to the place you are now? What is at the root of getting up on that stage?


Answer these questions:

  • What about music brings you the most joy?
  • What is the most meaningful reaction you’ve ever gotten from a listener?
  • If you could use your music to bring about change what would that change be?
  • What central wisdom do you try to live your life by?
  • Where has making music required you to be vulnerable?
  • Conquest, pain, defiance, joy, freedom – what words are core to your story?


Take time with this. Dig as deeply as you can. And once again, ask other people for their insight.  
Next week: So, I’ve Got a Story. Now What?

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Brand You MusicMakers

Brand YOU: What’s Your Story? — It’s Your Brand!


When you are performing, people are attracted to you. When you play, you resonate in a way that people respond to. But why is that?  Your story is part of what causes that resonance. It’s what got you here; what brought you to this place. It’s what inspires your music and helps you connect with your audience.


If people love your music, they will love your music no matter what, but sharing your story creates an additional point of contact; a deeper place of connection to draw people in. If you are willing to do the work, it can be a powerful tool to inspire people to move from “listener” to “purchaser”, then to “fan”.


“…Conventional ways of marketing and advertising can not be used. Because they are designed to provoke desire for more, that is opposite from inner fulfillment…  Instead, we musicians can create music…  make ourselves feel fulfillment and acceptance, put[it] out there and wait for people… with the same purpose… [who] can resonate with our music…”

– Motoshi Kosako, Harpist for Stockton Symphony Orchestra


The goal of this article series is to walk you to your story so that you can clearly define it and communicate it to agents, publishers, venue owners, and the world.  Most importantly, though, the goal of this article is to help you define your story so you can communicate it to the tribe of listeners who are looking for exactly what you offer and will fall in love with what you do.



Define your purpose


There are universal questions everyone asks: Why am I here?  What is the point?  How can I live a meaningful life?


For many people music answers these questions.  And we are part of that! Our audience sees themselves through a lens that we create: through our music, through our performance, through how we interact with the world – and even through our own evolution.That is amazing!

Focused on perfecting our art, it’s easy to forget the role that music plays in the world.  But we need to acknowledge that position and take it seriously. Historically, musicians have functioned as:


  • Artist/Creators. In this role, we provide an environment for listeners to be in the ‘here and now’, to be stirred emotionally and experience a sense of fulfillment.  We can also instigate change, empower people and move them to action.


  • Historians. Like the Drum Master, Bard, or Griot we become the documentarian of life, history, and culture through art.
  • Hired Gun. In this role we can do any of the above, but instead of creating or performing for ourselves, we play, compose, and perform whatever the boss wants to hear. Still making art, but within someone else’s parameters.


Every musician is a little bit of all of the above, but within that Artist/Creator space, it’s important to have a clear vision; a story that makes your music & vision different from any other.


So, it’s time to talk about YOUR purpose:


“I think having a higher purpose is important. For instance, you realize that music affects people emotionally and physically and spiritually. And… I think that needs to be part of your purpose: Consciously part of your purpose.  So you know, it’s not just elevating the art, it’s also about elevating the energy on this planet…”

– Stanton Kessler


Here are some good questions to start with:


  • What are you passionate about?  
  • What called you?
  • What is calling you now? (This may not be a musical answer!)
  • Who are you educating and empowering?
  • Who would you like to be educating and empowering?
  • What is the message that you want to leave behind?
  • What would you like to leave as your legacy?
  • What is it that attracts people to you?

Every day for the next several days, take a moment to sit down with those questions. Write the answers, verbalize the answers, maybe even play or sing the answers.  If you really want some good insight, ask your friends and fans what they think the answers are – for You.

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Build Your Tribe MusicMakers

Build Your Tribe: Market vs Audience vs TRIBE


Are you spending more money making music than you make FROM music? Do you invest your heart, soul and hard-earned dollars just to watch it all slide down the drain?


You’re not alone. It’s the classic musician’s challenge.  We know how to make great music, but how do we make money from it once it’s made? There are lots of answers to this question, but today we’re going to focus on one: Build Your Tribe.  People talk all day about creating an audience.  About getting your stuff out there and pulling in new listeners. But if that audience doesn’t attend your shows, buy your merchandise & CD’s, or in other words, GIVE YOU MONEY for what you’ve created, you are no closer to a successful career.  What we are talking about is one step deeper. We talking about your TRIBE.  


Read more to find out what a tribe IS, why it’s important to build, and HOW to build one.


So what the heck is the difference between an audience and a tribe?  And how does that fit in with “the market” people are always yacking about?

In a nutshell:




Your Market

is the total number of people in your general area and within your genre that COULD be fans.


Your Audience

is the total number of people that actually come into contact with your music. Whether it be at a concert, on Youtube or through a FB post, these folks have had a chance to interact with your music.


Your Tribe

is the total number of your invested fans. These are the people that sing your praises, forward your email, go to your gigs, and BUY your music. Did you see the key word there? These fans are INVESTED. They have made the effort to buy tickets. To buy your music. To subscribe to your email list. These are the people who make your career possible.

So let’s back up.  The goal is to start building your tribe, but the first step is to find them. That’s where your market and your audience come in.  Your market is pretty easy to identify.  Listen to the radio. Is that station playing your kind of music?  Then their listeners are your market.  Unfortunately, audience gets a little more difficult.  There are two things you need to do to find your audience:  Look at the fans you already have and look at the fans of groups or musicians like you.


  • – How old are they?
  • – Where do they live?
  • – What’s the Female : Male ratio?
  • – What other types of music do they listen to?
    • – – Genre
    • – – Specific Artists
  • – What kind of clothes do they wear?
  • – What non-music activities do they participate in?
  • – What’s their ethnic breakdown?
  • – What social media platform(s) do they use?
  • – Where do they go to hear music?
  • – What motivates them to buy music?
  • – What motivates them to recommend music to a friend?


For a more detailed article on this, check out:


So Why is this information valuable?  Well – it’s important to clearly understand how you and your music inspire your audience – to understand how you ‘speak’ to them.  That’s going to determine the tone of your emails, newsletters, social media posts, etc.  Understanding these things helps you to motivate the portion of your audience who will be your tribe!


So – how the hell do you answer these questions about your audience without doing something as lame as a survey?  Well – it’s basically called a marketing funnel.    You’ll use consistent communication (and this funnel) to find and mobilize your tribe…


First up, let’s get the tools in place that you need to mobilize this army.



Sorcery Tools


I mentioned consistent communication above.  In this day and age, consistent communication happens online. Yes, that means FB, Twitter, snapchat, but amazingly, the most powerful of these is still your website.  Social media is merely a tool to drive people to a clear call to action ON YOUR WEBSITE.  And what is that first, crucial call to action? “Give me your e-mail!”

Once you have that email you can begin the real conversation. In marketing terms, this is called transactional email.


I’ve done A LOT of research about how to  guarantee email delivery to large mailing lists and how to manage those lists.  You may not have a large list yet, but since that is the goal, start this right. I recommend that you create a free account at to manage your email list once you get it going, then use Amazon SES to do the actual ‘sending’ of your email.


Either way, do the following in this order:


  • – Sign-up for’s free tier
  • – Sign-up for Amazon SES
  • – Update your website DNS to make Amazon an authoritative sender
  • – Verify the email you want to send from with Amazon SES
  • – Upload your existing opt-in email list into Mautic


That’s it!  We’re telling you how to run your e-mail list, but it’s going to be MORE than your e-mail list. For now, just do this!


*Why Mautic? Until February 2016, MailChimp and Mandrill (same company) were considered decent transactional email services.  Mandrill basically shut down, drastically changed their pricing, and is honestly not the best option on the market these days.  I’ll let you do your own research – but I’d suggest starting with reading this article.


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Build Your Tribe MusicMakers

Build Your Tribe – Part 2: “Get On The List!”


Now that we have a method for collecting email and for emailing your audience, let’s work on a strategy around this whole thing.  It’s important to remember that good communication with your tribe isn’t about spamming them — it’s about having a dialogue, creating intrigue, telling your story – and giving your audience what they want.



Basically, you’re going to create a cool, high impact page on your site. It needs three things: a clear call to action, an incentive and a Mautic form at the bottom.   Here are some examples:


  • “Sign-up to my email list and get a Free download of a new track from my upcoming album!”
    • The visitor fills out the form then gets an email to a link with their free download
  • “Sign up of for my email list to be a VIP at my next show!”
    • The visitor fills out the form (include City) then gets an email confirmation that they’re a VIP and what that entails (early entry to the gig; drinks with the band before or after; reserved seats, etc…)
    • Hand select your winners and email them — get firm confirmations that they’re going


  • “Sign up and get a chance for free tickets to my next show!”

The visitor fills out the form (include City) then gets an email confirmation that

they’re automatically a  VIP for signing up.

Email them that you’ll be picking out 5 lucky ticket winners in the next few days.

Hand select winners

Email everyone else to let them know they are still VIPs and what that entails.


  • “Sign-up to get early notification of our crowdfunding campaign!”

We’ll go into more details on this in a later installment, but you can use this call to action in lots of great ways, so keep it in mind.


Remember: there’s no reason to stick with only one way of engaging your audience.  In fact, a really powerful way to engage them is…

to ask them for something besides their email:


Ask them for their opinion.  Ask them for what city they’d like to see you expand to next, what cover they like best for your next album, what poster they think you should use for your tour.  People love to weigh in on stuff, especially if their vote will actually affect the outcome.  And they’ll gladly give their email to get that chance.


The examples above require different fields for your form.  So, this WILL take some planning.  And some practice. But the more you do it, the better you’ll get. And the better you get, the more ways you’ll find to use this system.

In marketing we typically do what’s called A/B testing to help us test ‘theories’ and determine best ways to message our audience. So play around- try different things.  Come up with some theories and get creative!  


Oh!  And you should be getting people on your email list at your gigs, also!  You can easily create a generic email list form in Mautic.  Start with some of your audience survey questions, then continue with name, email, phone, and city.  Walking around the club with an iPad asking people to fill out the form not only gets you information, but gives people an excuse to approach you.   It’s cool to have one at the merch table also, but people love that face to face interaction. It gets them invested, so take the time to work the room!


Let’s pull the trigger and get things going.  Email your friends, family, and existing email list.  Trust me, JUST DO THIS! Post to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  Update your Pinterest, YouTube, and LinkedIn links.


By the way –  If you missed the first in this series, “Build Your Tribe”, it’s easy to catch up! Just go to  You can also  receive these posts weekly! Just… yep…sign up to be on our email list! (Bet you saw that coming!)


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Build Your Tribe MusicMakers

Build Your Tribe – Part 3: “Get them invested”


So last week we talked about getting people on your email list. Now let’s get them invested.  


Great!  What does that mean? Bastardized from, the definition of “invested” is: “to devote time, talent or money for a purpose or to achieve something.”


Here’s why this is important to you: A person who has devoted “time, talent or money” for your music or for things that represent your music (t-shirts, bandanas, etc…) now feels they have a stake in your success. So your success becomes intertwined with their success!  


Invested fans are more likely to rally around your next project, spread the word about your gigs, and engage new listeners. In other words, invested fans are more likely to evangelize for you! But the first step to creating evangelizers is getting them to buy your music and wear your T-shirt.


So how do you do that?


Here’s where that e-mail list comes in:


First, plan out a gift-based marketing funnel — a series of communications that allow you to do two things: first, tell a little about what’s going on with your current project or next gig, and second, give your new email enrollees something for free.  Here’s an example:

  • Week 1 — send a link to a 2nd free download track
  • Week 2 — send a high-resolution original artwork from an album or an upcoming project (something that can be used as desktop wallpaper)
  • Week 3 — send an unfinished track that has yet to be released
  • Week 4 — send a 3rd free download track

By sharing stories and giving gifts, you create a relationship where your fans come to trust you. They have had four positive experiences of you giving to them and asking nothing in return.  So now it’s time to offer these folks a chance to give back to you.  This next email offers them the opportunity to BUY your music, but at a discount because they are on your list.  This should only be for a limited time, and remember: this should be exclusive to your email list.

  • “For the next 72 hours, you get 50% off the new album”.
  • “We only have 1,000 copies of the album for 50% off”.

If they’ve come this far with you, then give them a chance to go all in.  

They’ve bought your album, now offer them a chance to buy ALL of your albums. Make the price something ridiculous, like $20.  About 50% of them will take you up on that offer.


YES!  You have now successfully moved these folks from “interested” to


Next up: From Invested to Evangelizing: Putting Purpose behind the Purchase

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Jerry Butler

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Jerry Butler (born Jerry Butler Jr., December 8, 1939, Sunflower, Mississippi) is an American soul singer and songwriter. He is also noted as being the original lead singer of the famed R&B vocal group, The Impressions, as well as a 1991 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.

Jerry Butler is also an American politician. He serves as a Commissioner for Cook County, Illinois, having first been elected in 1985. As a member of this 17-member county board, he chairs the Health and Hospitals Committee, and serves as Vice Chair of the Construction Committee.


Jerry Butler
Jerry Butler


Jerry Butler’s Early life

The mid-1950s had a profound impact on Butler’s life. He grew up poor, having lived in Chicago’s Cabrini–Green housing complex. Music and the church provided solace from racial discrimination and inequality. He performed in a church choir with Curtis Mayfield. As a teenager, Butler sang in a gospel quartet called Northern Jubilee Gospel Singers, along with Mayfield. Mayfield, a guitar player, became the lone instrumentalist for the six-member Roosters group, which later became The Impressions. Inspired by Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers, the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, and the Pilgrim Travelers, getting into the music industry seemed inevitable.

Butler’s younger brother, Billy Butler, also had a career in the music industry. Today, Billy plays guitar with Jerry’s band, which tours throughout the country.

Early recordings

Jerry Butler wrote the song “For Your Precious Love” (which is ranked No. 327 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time) and wanted to record a disc. Looking for recording studios, The Impressions (the original members of which were Butler, Curtis MayfieldSam GoodenFred Cash (who left early on, and later returned), and brothers Arthur and Richard Brooks, auditioned for Chess Records and Vee-Jay Records. The group eventually signed with Vee-Jay, where they released “For Your Precious Love” in 1958. It became The Impressions’ first hit and gold record.

Solo career

Jerry Butler was dubbed the “Iceman” by WDAS Philadelphia disc jockey, Georgie Woods, while performing in a Philadelphia theater.

He co-wrote, with Otis Redding, the song “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” in 1965. Butler’s solo career had a string of hits, including the Top 10 successes “He Will Break Your Heart”, “Find Another Girl”, “I’m A-Telling You” (all written by fellow Impression Curtis Mayfield and featuring Mayfield as harmony vocal), the million selling “Only the Strong Survive”, “Moon River”, “Need To Belong” (recorded with the Impressions after he went solo), “Make It Easy on Yourself”, “Let It Be Me” (with Betty Everett), “Brand New Me”, “Ain’t Understanding Mellow” (with Brenda Lee Eager), “Hey, Western Union Man“, and “Never Give You Up”. His 1969 “Moody Woman” release became a Northern Soul favorite and featured at number 369 in the Northern Soul Top 500. Butler released two successful albums, The Ice Man Cometh (1968) and Ice on Ice (1970). The Ice Man Cometh garnered Butler three Grammy nominations. He collaborated on many of his successful recordings with the Philadelphia-based songwriting team, Gamble and Huff. With Motown, in 1976 and 1977, Butler produced and co-produced (with Paul David Wilson) two albums: 1.) Suite For The Single Girl and 2.) It All Comes Out In My Song.

Tony Orlando and Dawn revived “He Will Break Your Heart” in 1975, with a new title, “He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You)”, and it was more successful than Butler’s original, going to number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 pop chart.

Subsequently, Jerry Butler and Wilson produced an album with Dee Dee Sharp-Gamble with Philadelphia International. In 1981 with “Breaking and Entering” / “Easy Money”, from Sharp-Gamble’s album Dee Dee, Butler/Wilson’s production spent four weeks at number one on the Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart and Dance Chart Billboard.

Jerry Butler :: 1980s to date

In recent years, Jerry Butler has served as host of PBS TV music specials such as Doo Wop 50 and 51Rock Rhythm and Doo Wop, and Soul Spectacular: 40 years of R&B, among others. He has also served as chairman of the board of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. In 1991, Butler was inducted, along with the other original members of the Impressions (Curtis Mayfield, Sam GoodenFred Cash, and Arthur and Richard Brooks), into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Most recently, blues-rock duo The Black Keys covered “Never Give You Up” on their 2010 album, Brothers.

Personal life

Jerry Butler currently resides in Chicago with his wife, Annette—who is one of his backup singers on the road. He has two sons, Randy and Tony, and a grandson.

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Louis Armstrong

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Louis Armstrong (August 4, 1901 – July 6, 1971), nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, was an American jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans, Louisiana. Coming to prominence in the 1920s as an “inventive” trumpet and cornet player, Armstrong was a foundational influence in jazz, shifting the focus of the music from collective improvisation to solo performance. With his instantly recognizable gravelly voice, Armstrong was also an influential singer, demonstrating great dexterity as an improviser, bending the lyrics and melody of a song for expressive purposes. He was also skilled at scat singing (vocalizing using sounds and syllables instead of actual lyrics). Renowned for his charismatic stage presence and voice almost as much as for his trumpet-playing, Armstrong’s influence extends well beyond jazz music, and by the end of his career in the 1960s, he was widely regarded as a profound influence on popular music in general. Armstrong was one of the first truly popular African-American entertainers to “cross over”, whose skin-color was secondary to his music in an America that was severely racially divided.

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Machito (born Francisco Raúl Gutiérrez Grillo, February 16, 1908–April 19, 1984) was an influential Latin jazz musician who helped refine Afro-Cuban jazz and create both Cubop and salsa music. He was raised in Havana alongside the singer Graciela, his foster sister. In New York City, Machito formed the band the Afro-Cubans in 1940, and with Mario Bauzá as musical director, brought together Cuban rhythms and big band arrangements in one group. He made numerous recordings from the 1940s to the 1980s, many with Graciela as singer. Machito changed to a smaller ensemble format in 1975, touring Europe extensively. He brought his son and daughter into the band, and received a Grammy Award in 1983, one year before he died. Machito’s music had an effect on the lives of many musicians who played in the Afro-Cubans over the years, and on those who were attracted to Latin jazz after hearing him. George Shearing, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Stan Kenton credited Machito as an influence. An intersection in East Harlem is named “Machito Square” in his honor.

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