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Casino de La Playa was a “jazz band” run by a members’ collective organization founded in 1937 by its director, violinist, lawyer and politician Guillermo Portela. Many important musicians and vocalists were members of the orchestra over the years, including Pérez Prado, Arsenio Rodríguez, Anselmo Sacasas, Julio Gutiérrez, Walfredo de los Reyes, Miguelito Valdés, and Orlando “Cascarita” Guerra. The organization remained active through various lineups (and relocating for a time to Mexico City) until 1960. From its inception, Orquesta Casino de La Playa was crucial to popularizing the modern urban big band sound of Cuban music around the world and thus helped lay the foundation of what became known as salsa, not only through its recordings but also because of its connection to the world of hotels and gambling, where many foreign tourists would visit and discover the band, as well as various radio programs where it reigned supreme, plus countless international tours and the diffusion of its songbook to other band leaders and arrangers in metropolises like New York, Madrid, Caracas and Mexico City. 

-Pablo Yglesias

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