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Pedro Laza Gutiérrez was born in 1904 in the northern Caribbean coastal port city of Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, and died there in 1980. After learning several instruments at a young age, Laza went on to study typography and graphic design, but at age 17 he knew that music was his calling, so he learned the bandurria (a type of small guitar), later learning to play the contrabass. At age 21 he founded his first musical group, Estudiantina Bolívar, which was more for informal gatherings of students and friends. In 1948 he began to organize a larger tropical orchestra with trumpets, trombones, saxophones and a rhythm section, called La Orquesta Nueva Granada. In 1952 he founded the Sonora Pelayera (named after San Pelayo, home of the porro), which in 1958 became known as Pedro Laza y sus Pelayeros when, under the supervision of Antonio Fuentes of Discos Fuentes, Laza was contracted to back Puerto Rican bohemian crooner Daniel Santos for the hit album "Candela". Like Lito Barrientos, Pacho Galán and Lucho Bermúdez, Laza had fallen in love with the big band sound of swing jazz and the mambo of Pérez Prado, Benny Moré, Machito and Tito Puente, which had gained popularity in the society balls and hotel orchestras of the era. Laza also drew from Colombia's own brass band traditions, of which San Pelayo is a famous exponent, especially with brass band arrangements of coastal genres like cumbia, fandango and porro. When Laza had joined Antonio Fuentes' Emisora Fuentes orchestra as bassist and bandleader, Fuentes saw a great opportunity to support Laza's innovative orchestration ideas by giving him the opportunity to record his own band, employing the great arranger and reedman Clímaco Sarmiento to help realize their concept. Many important musicians and vocalists worked with Los Pelayeros over the years, among them were the saxophonists Miguel Caro, Blas Sarmiento and Rufo Garrido, pianist Lalo Orozco and percussionist Clodomiro Montes. Aside from Daniel Santos, other vocalists included Luis Pérez Cedrón (aka Lucho Argaín), José María Peñaranda, Crescencio Camacho (as lead voice on many albums), Henry Castro and Eliseo Herrera. In addition to being orchestra director and an adept interpreter of other composers' music, Laza also wrote many compositions that both borrowed from and enriched coastal folklore such as 'El cucayo' and, along with Lalo Orozco, took part in the recording and direction of musical ensembles like La Sonora Dinamita and Los Corraleros de Majagual.

Pedro Laza y sus Pelayeros Biography Gallery
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