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Marty Sheller

Marty Sheller's Latin work started, not with a typical Latin band but with the Hugo Dickens Band which was a band that played Latin, but from the Black side of Harlem in New York City. Out of this band came Barry Rogers, Bobby Porcelli, Arthur Jenkins, Bill Salter, Phil Newsum, Rogers Grant. There was a demand in Harlem for bands that could do both funk and Latin and both Hugo Dickens and Pucho And The Latin Soul Brothers filled this bill.

Marty knew the tenor player, Al Abreu and Victor Venegas that were in Mongo Sanatamaria's Band and it was through these connections that he came to join this band when they needed a trumpet player. The horn section at the time he joined Mongo's band was Pat Patrick, who was the musical director, and Bobby Capers. Bobby was originally a tenor player but switched to alto when Bobby left the band and Hubert Laws joined the band.

Marty talks about greatness in the form of two people he worked with. Mongo and Hubert performed every night at such a high level that every night fellow band members would always take notice of is greatness and it elevated the entire band's performance. Chick Corea was also a member of the Mongo band for a while. One essential element of the band's touring was doing "corny" gigs in Las Vegas that helped finance the rest of the tour.

Marty's early work with the late Luis Ramirez helped him understand arranging for Latin music and gave him a start in this direction. Frankie Malabé was the conga drummer and also had an effect in shaping Marty's musical direction. Mongo preferred to have his band members do the arranging and performing on his albums and only occasionally would he bring someone else into the band for a recording.

Nicky Marrero, James Amoroso, Marty Sheller and Victor Venegas.

In around 1969 Marty stopped playing trumpet. He thought he would pick up the instrument again but arranging was what he found himself busy with and by doing the writing and not playing, he was able to avoid traveling. In addition, he learned to play trumpet incorrectly and as a result, he realized he would never attain the level of proficiency on the trumpet that his mind aspired to and he focused the rest of his career on writing.

Mongo's career began to sky rocket with the success of Watermelon Man. It was quite by chance that Chick Corea was leaving the band and Rogers Grant was joining the band after a weekend. For the weekend they needed someone to do a gig in a small Bronx, NY bar. Jazz trumpet player Donald Byrd recommended Herbie Hancock. After a rehearsal of the band, Herbie told Mongo that he had a tune he thought would be good for Mongo's forthcoming album. They recorded Watermelon Man on the album and the rest is history.