One of Puerto Rico's premiere band leaders in the middle 20th century was Ramón "Moncho" Usera. He organized his first bands in New York and subsequently became a bandleader in his native homeland.
Ramón Usera was born in Ponce in 1904. He arrived in New York (via Ellis Island) in 1924. By the time he arrived in the U.S. mainland, Usera was a well-trained musician who played piano, flute, clarinet and saxophone. Usera stayed briefly in New York and by 1925, was enrolled at the Escole Normale de Musique in Paris, France.
Unlike most of his compatriots, Moncho Usera entered the jazz scene in Europe, when he joined Lew Leslie's Blackbirds, an all-black musical in París. In 1928, that band traveled through Europe and also recorded there. In 1929, Usera returned to New York, where he joined the Noble Sissle Orchestra. It is possible that he had been recruited by the older Puerto Rican musician Rafael Duchesne, who was also a band member. Both were in the band when it went to the recoding studios in February and April of 1931.
In 1933, Usera joined the band led by trumpeter Arthur Briggs and returned to Paris, where he performed at the Ambassadeur Club. In 1934, the band traveled to England to perform at the London Jazz Club. That band included the great players Sidney Bechet and Noble Sissle. Usera participated in approximately 10 jazz recording sessions (between 1928 and 1937) as a violinist, clarinetist, and tenor and alto saxophonist.
Usera left the jazz scene to return to the Latin American music scene, where he performed with outstanding bandleaders such as Enrique Madriguera, Desiderio "Desi" Arnaz and Eliseo Grenet. Usera participated in numerous recording sessions and traveled throughout the United States, South America, and Europe. Afterward, he recorded and arranged music for several bands led by Vincent López and Don Maya, among others.
Moncho Usera was a composer of different genres. Among his compositions, we find the tune titled Under the Creole Moon, which he wrote with Sidney Bechet and Noble Sissle. His other compositions include Añoranzas, Boga Boga, Caribbean Fantasy, Ha Ha Ha, Moment that We Fell in Love, Mosquito El, Tal Es la Vida, and There is No Tomorrow, among others.
A number of recordings in which Moncho Usera is featured as a participant or bandleader are available. Most recently, Harlequin Records released a CD titled Ramón Moncho Usera 1941-42.
Violon Jazz 1927 - 1944 (2xCD) Kansas City Kitty Frémeaux & Associés 1996
L'Histoire Du Jazz Vocal - The Story Of Vocal Jazz: Part 1 (1911 - 1940) (10xCD, Comp) Camp Meeting Day (192... Le Chant Du Monde 2004
Swing De Paris (1922-1951) (2xCD, Comp) Daughter Of The Latin ... Frémeaux & Associés 2004