Nearly five decades after setting New York's Latin scene ablaze with his dynamic trumpet playing, Manny Duran continues to perform with Afro Bop, a Latin jazz septet that he formed in the late 1990s. Although not as active as in the past, the group continues to reflect the trumpet, tenor sax, conga, piano and bass tradition of Latin jazz.
Duran's playing was essential to the development of Latin jazz in the 1950s and '60s. He recorded with jazz instrumentalists, including Dizzy Gillespie and Kai Winding, and worked with such Latin artists as Ray Barretto and Mario Bauza & His Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra. He spent a decade with Cuban-born vocalist/maracas player Machito's band.
Born, in Alamogordo, New Mexico, of Mexican heritage, Duran has been drawn to music from earliest memory. A street singer as a child, he received his first trumpet, at the age of ten, as a gift from his mother. Moving to New York in 1956 to pursue a career in music, Duran knew what he faced from the beginning. On his first day in the Big Apple, his horn and clothes were stolen.
Although he briefly worked with jazz pianist Al Haig, Duran had to seek other ways to supplement his income as a musician. A job as a waiter at jazz club, Café Behemia, became an outlet for his talent as a musician. The first week that he worked at the club, he was invited to sit in with Cannonball Adderley and Miles Davis. .
Seeking work as a musician, Duran spent hours at the local musician's union hall, hoping that someone would be in need of a trumpet player. When Puerto Rico-born Noro Morales hired him to play with his band in 1957, his career as a Latin musician had begun.