He performed with Xavier Cugat, Juancito Sanabria and Oscar De La Hoya before organizing his own band in 1942.
According to an online biography that Rene Curbelo cited, the true Curbelo sound emerged when he cut loose with piano montunos. His arousing rumbas were mentioned by the columnists of New York dailies. His orchestra, along with Machito and the Afro Cubans, supplied music for La Conga Clubs diners and dancers.
A year at New Yorks Havana Madrid (1943-44) was followed by stints at Zanzibar and then an upstate gig at Grossingers Resort in the Catskills. The next couple of years he spent in Miami at the Clover Club and the Latin Quarter...
By 1946, the Curbelo orchestra was among Latin musics Top 10 orchestras and a pioneer of the then-developing Latin New York sound...Famous arrangers for the band included Rene Hernandez, Chico OFarrill, Tito Puente and Al Cohn.
One of Curbelos most popular records was the 1947 RCA Victor release Managua Nicaragua.
For Coda Records, he recorded Llora, Tu Come Pellejo, Canelina and Que No, featuring vocalist Tito Rodríguez .
Jose Curbelo and his Orchestra, Live at the China Doll, in 1946 is considered a classic.
In 1949, Tito Puente and vocalist Vicentico Valdés hit it big with the Curbelo-Bobby Escoto number Abaniquito.
Curbelos Fiesta releases Cha Cha Cha In Blue, Que Se Funan and La Familia, became Latin jukebox standards.
In 1971, Curbelo and his wife, Orchid Rosas, retired to Miami, where he booked bands for the Calle Ocho Festival. Rosas died in 2001.
In a 1985 Miami Herald story about his collection of historic Cuban money, Curbelo said he had $20 to his name when he arrived in New York. He was especially proud of his rare Cuban gold coins.
He said he once spent $2,100 on a 1915, 20-peso coin, and $1,450 for a 1915 4-peso coin.
He sold much of his collection to a Texas publisher in 1969, but in 1985 he still had framed notes on the walls of his home and others in photo albums.
I learned more about Cubas history through my hobby than I ever learned in school as a boy, he told The Herald.
He referred to himself as American to the bone.
In addition to his son, Curbelo is survived by a daughter, Marta Curbelo, of New York.
A funeral will be held at 5 p.m Sunday at Bernardo Garcia Funeral Home, 8215 Bird Rd. A procession leaves from the funeral home at 10:30 a.m. Monday for Flagler Memorial Park, 5301 W. Flagler St., where Curbelo will be buried.
Miami Herald staff writer Erick Lappin contributed to this report.