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RENE TOUZET (1916-2003)
by Zeno Okeanos

The music of Rene Touzet is certainly a treasured chapter in my life as a lifelong aficionado of the beautiful, the exciting and the creative in art and music. I am sure there are many others who feel this way, who perhaps saw, heard, and danced to his piano and orchestra playing mambos and cha cha cha in the best nightclubs in Hollywood during the 1950's. At that time I was not quite of age, however, his music was played on the radio during this period and one could not help feeling that the man behind this tropic transporting music was perhaps the most "sophisticated" musical presence in town. To this day Touzet's recordings from his Hollywood period stand out as capturing the very essence of Latin music creativity during the heyday of cha cha cha and mambo on the west coast, or any coast for that matter. His wonderful compositions, emotion, arrangements, piano voicings, fresh vocal adaptations (many in English), and his well-spring of rhythmic innovations and solo constructions are the material for still-another awaited book.

Rene Touzet was born in Havana in 1916. By the time he was 16 years old he had already completed studies in piano and theory at the Falcon Conservatory in Havana. In his youth he had occasion to contact the great Maestro Ernesto Lecuona who encouraged him to continue his composing. He also played in concerts and was a competitor in many piano contests where he often won first-place honors. He pursued further studies under the direction of Professor Cesar Perez Sentenat and Joaquin Nin. Later, in 1949 he would study instrumentation with the celebrated Italian composer, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco in Hollywood California (as did Henry Mancini, Andre Previn, Bob Cooper, Marty Paich, and many other noted West Coast modern jazz composers and arrangers) , and in 1953 with Hal Overton in New York City (the great teacher Hal Overton is most widely remembered for his big band arrangements of Thelonious Monk's compositions and solos as heard and recorded at the famous Town Hall Concerts).

Today Maestro Touzet lives in Miami and has for many years now been a prolific composer, significantly contributing to the classic repertoire of Cuban piano literature in the manner of Ernesto Lecuona. A Sonata, many more Danzas, Preludes and Variations, Impromptus, and more, have yet to be published. Some of this wonderful and uniquely beautiful piano literature, however, is available from Ediciones Universal in Miami. Many of his timeless compositions can be heard on the CD "Danzas Cubanas" . Every year in Miami there is a celebration of the Music of Rene Touzet in which he and a diverse array of musical celebrities perform from his vast repertoire of popular songs, classical compositions, and dance music which he has created over the last sixty plus years. I had the good fortune to attend this celebration in the summer of 1997 and shortly thereafter met with Maestro Touzet for an interview at his home.

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Discography of Rene Touzet