History of La Chazz

La Chazz was formed in 1978 by guitarist Toty Ramos. It began as an 11 piece salsa band that featured original compositions as well as renditions of many of the famous Latin bands of the time, including New York’s Fania All-Stars and Cuba’s Irakere. The band was chosen to open for the great Puerto Rican singer Celia Cruz, and the band was on the map. However, it would be Toty’s original compositions that began to define the band’s identity.

Toty decided to concentrate on original instrumental Latin-jazz works to showcase the band members’ improvisational skills and to differentiate La Chazz from traditional salsa bands. The level of musicianship in the band is high, and being a member of La Chazz requires that any of the nine members are able to improvise or be featured for an entire tune. The band was a regular feature at two of Milwaukee’s illustrious jazz clubs, The Jazz Gallery and The Jazz Estate.

In 1981, Toty and La Chazz were invited to perform with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, showcasing two original compositions. Toty arranged the selections for La Chazz, accompanied by full orchestra and performed them as part of the Vibrations Unlimited guest artist series.

In 1987 La Chazz became the weekly house band at Café Melange in the historic Hotel Wisconsin. The band created quite a following and remained there until the hotel was closed for renovation in 1999. During its 11 year run, the band drew a vast array of local and touring musicians that passed through the Milwaukee area. Musicians from the bands of Grover Washington, Branford Marsalis, Harry Connick Jr, Santana, The Phillip Glass Ensemble, and even Roy Hargrove, himself came by to sit-in. The audience for the weekly performances regularly included a contingent of musicians.

La Chazz has performed at many regional festivals such as Jazz in The Park, Bastille Days, SummerFest, Lakefront Festival of the Arts, Rainbow Summer, Madison’s Jubilee Jazz Festival and Racine’s Harbor Fest. In 1993 the band won a Wisconsin Area Music Award, or WAMI for best Ethnic Group-Artist of the Year. La Chazz has also been named "One of Milwaukee’s 100 Great Music-makers" by OnWisconsin.com.

Over the years the band has taken breaks from performing, as nearly all the musicians in La Chazz freelance throughout the Midwest, with several members leading their own groups. Recently, La Chazz has reunited to introduce its unique sound to a new group of listeners and to reconnect with our many loyal fans.


Templates in Time