Jack Costanzo Biography

American percussionist and bandleader.

Born 24 September 1919 in Chicago, Illinois. Nicknamed “Mr. Bongo” for his role in making the instrument popular, almost starting a “bongo craze” as latin rhythms influenced jazz and pop following World War II. Originally a dancer, Costanzo visitied Cuba several times to learn conga playing, before reportedly being the first bongo player to join a jazz band. He played with Stan Kenton (1947–1948), Nat King Cole (1949–1953], Billy May And His Orchestra, Peggy Lee, Perez Prado, Charlie Barnet, Ray Anthony, Xavier Cugat, Frank Sinatra and others. In the 1950s Costanzo formed his own “Exotica” style band. In the early 1960s he was a member of the studio musicians group The Surfmen. He has continued to play for more than half a century, retiring in 1998 but making a comeback in 2001.

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