Norosbaldo Morales (January 4, 1912, Puerta de Tierra – January 16, 1964, San Juan) was a Puerto Rican pianist and bandleader. One of the most prominent figures of mambo and rumba music from the 1930’s until his death in 1964.
His his father, Luis and his sister, Marina were his first music teachers. Morales learned trombone, bass and piano. They helped prepare him for his professional career as a musician in the Orquesta Hermanos Morales, directed by his father. He later played with an band in Venezuela in 1924 but returned to Puerto Rico six years later and joined the orchestra of the famous Rafaél Muñoz.
He emigrated to New York City in 1935, and played there with Alberto Socarras and Augusto Cohen. In 1939, he and brothers Humberto and Esy put together the Brothers Morales Orchestra, which was later called Noro Morales And His Orchestra. Morales played the piano and the band included the typical Latin rhythm section with bass, bongos, conga, timbales, and claves. He released his signature tune "Serenata Ritmica" on Decca Records in 1942, which catapulted him to fame in the mambo and rumba music world; his band rivaled Machito's in popularity in New York in the 1940s. It was during this time that his orchestra played for the Havana Madrid nightclub.
Here is "Serenata Ritmica" from above album
Morales remained a popular and successful act on the New York scene for over 20 years. His dance orchestra was so well-liked that annually he performed for the Harvest Moon Ball at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
His sister Alicia, through some business connections in Puerto Rico, negotiated a contract for him to play with his big band at the La Concha Hotel in San Juan for six months. He ended up performing there for nearly four years. Noro actually organized a new band in Puerto Rico. He chose the best local musicians he could find and brought others from New York with him.
He returned to Puero Rico in 1961 and played in noted nightclubs such as the Palladium, The Stork Club, Copacabana and La Conga. But he also played more humble venues in the Hispanic “barrio”, earning him the title of “King of Latin Music.”
Morales cut a distinctive figure on stage and off, with his large bald head and black mustache. One friend recalled that, "He was always well-dressed, shows shined, nails polished and reeked of expensive cologne....He loved women. He had to work steadily to pay the alimony his three wives collected."
During this time he appeared with such famous artists as Tito Rodríguez, José Luis Moneró, Chino Pozo, Willie Rosario and Tito Puente. Among the musicians who played in Morales' orchestra were Ray Santos, Jorge López, Rafí Carrero, Juancito Torres, Pin Madera, Ralph Kemp, Pepito Morales, Carlos Medina, Lidio Fuentes, Simón Madera, Ana Carrero, Pellin Rodriguez, and Avilés.
Yearning to return home, as many of his compatriots did, and suffering from glaucoma due to diabetes, Morales moved back to Puerto Rico in 1960. He organized his own band with the best musicians available and spent the next four years with playing at La Concha Hotel in San Juan. Among the musicians in his band were Ray Santos, Jorge López, Rafí Carrero, Juancito Torres, Pin Madera, Ralph Kemp, Pepito Morales, Carlos Medina, Lidio Fuentes, Simón Madera, Ana Carrero, and Vitín Avilés.
Morales made numerous recording over the course of his prolific career and was well known for his interpretations of “classic” songs such as “Perfume de Gardenia”, (lyrics) “Silencio”, (lyrics)’, Walter Winchell Rumba “Arráncame la Vida”, “Malditos Celos” and “Tres Palabras”.
In spite of his indomitable spirit, besieged by diabetes, glaucoma, and kidney problems, Noro Morales died on January 14, 1964, at the relatively young age of 53. He is buried in Puerto Rico, where he is recognized as a musical legend, El Gran Noro Morales.
A fitting tribute to Morales was the 1984 album “A Giant Step” by Charlie Palmieri which included the song “Rumba Rhapsody” with piano and rhythm inspired by Morales.
(Info edited from Wikipedia & mainly Music Of Puerto Rico.com)
Video soundie c.1941 with Noro Morales at the piano, a young Tito Puente on the drums and a teenage Marquita Rivera featured in the dance segment. Luba Malina on vocals.