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In 1956 a young mechanical engineer and avid photographer from the Bronx named Martin Cohen happened upon New York’s famous Birdland jazz club. He walked in and was greeted by the sounds of Cal Tjader’s hot Latin jazz. Cohen was so taken by the infectious music that he became a regular at the Monday night jam sessions, which were headed by flutist Herbie Mann with percussionists like Candido and Jose Mangual, Sr. It was Mangual in particular who was an inspiration to Cohen.
“Up until then, there was no role model that exemplified greatness,” Cohen said. “That’s what I saw in Mangual, and that’s what I wanted to be, somebody who had that mastery of something.”