Pianist and composer Aldemaro Romero is widely cited as the innovator behind his native Venezuela's onda nueva (i.e., "new wave"), which updated the traditional joropo style via rhythms inspired by bossa nova. Born in Valencia on March 12, 1928, Romero began his musical training under the supervision of his father, Rafael, a professional pianist -- by age nine, he was a fixture of Venezuelan radio, and at 13 relocated to Caracas, playing with local orchestras and moonlighting in nightclubs. After touring Cuba in 1949, Romero made his U.S. debut in New York City before returning home to found his own dance orchestra. In 1955 he signed to RCA Victor to record the smash Dinner in Caracas, which proved one of the best-selling albums in the history of the South American charts -- the first in a series of Dinner In... titles, its orchestral reinvention of traditional Venezuelan folk melodies proved an international hit as well as a creative turning point in the history of Latin American jazz.
During his RCA tenure, Romero also lent his skills as an arranger and conductor to acts ranging from Dean Martin to Jerry Lee Lewis to Stan Kenton, and in 1974 he teamed with jazz guitar great Charlie Byrd to co-headline the cult favorite The New Wave. In 1969 Romero was awarded the Moscow Cinema Festival's Peace Prize of the Soviet Intellectuals for his score for the motion picture epic Simón Bolivar. A decade later he founded the Caracas Philharmonic Orchestra, additionally serving as its first conductor -- during the course of his career, he also conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, the English Chamber Orchestra, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. After a lengthy digestive illness, Romero died in Caracas on September 15, 2007. ~ Jason Ankeny