Bebo Rides Again
Messidor 15834-2 Jazz / Latin
Valdés is an important figure in Cuban music for many
reasons. Most importantly, during the 1950s he was an
outstanding pianist and arranger, both for his own outfit,
Sabor de Cuba, and as an accompanist for top vocalists
of the day like Celeste Mendoza. We've cited before
his own disc Todo Ritmo (TH Rovden TH-13050) as a "must-have"
for any Latin cocktail party, and the disc Mucho Sabor
(Palladium PCD 123) has many great tracks worthy of
your consideration. His fine musical genes were passed
on to his son Chucho Valdés, the pianist and director
of Cuba's seminal contemporary band Irakere. Bebo left
Cuba for Europe many years ago and, according to the
liner notes, Bebo Rides Again turns out to be his first
recording in 34 years.
we heard that this new disc was coming out, we asked
around and the comment we heard was "it would make
great dinner music". This was a bit frustrating
because Bebo's other albums made our hips move in a
particularly carefree manner. The good news is that
Bebo Rides Again is more than just dinner music
but there are some serious flaws.
two big mistakes were using the electric guitar (instead
of a tres or making the bass more prominent) and reed
player Paquito d'Rivera. The guitar playing of Carlos
Emilio Morales is fine but seems at odds with most of
the arrangements. On Al Dizzy Gillespie it works
in a nutty way because the arrangement has a jet set
go-go feeling to it but on almost all of the other tracks
there's an airy-fairy type of playing that sounds somewhere
between Pat Metheny and Larry Carlton. This is not to
say that Cuban music should stagnate and not experiment
but the results are just not good here. Paquito d'Rivera
is quite well-known and when he first arrived in the
States he made two good discs on Columbia showcasing
his eclectic tastes and mastery of many jazz idioms.
He then seemed to rediscover his Latin roots and his
recordings varied from an edgy hard bop sound to outright
schmaltz, often on the same album. We find his tone
on the sax very irritating and his tributes to his Cuban
roots are mostly too cute and pedestrian. His clarinet-playing
on the Danzon numbers works better but there's always
a self-conscious "tribute to the past" feeling
when he's involved in a project. Still, it seems as
if this disc wouldn't have been made at all without
his clout and to give him credit, he's very popular.
there's plenty to recommend on Bebo Rides Again.
Bebo still plays with grace and fire and the typically
pristine Messidor recording is well-balanced. Some of
the disc is so smooth it actually does work as dinner
music but you really should listen at top volume. Anda,
Pan con Timba and To Mario Bauza are all
great dance numbers. Bebo's own Felicia and Maria
Teresa Vera's Veinte Años are beautiful boleros
that show off Bebo's chops and the gorgeous fidelity
of the disc. Ernesto Lecuona's La Comparsa is
given a trio arrangement with piano, bongos and guitar
and it explores the great melody. The trumpet and flugelhorn
of Diego Urcola are great throughout.
the flaws, we've ended up listening to this disc a lot
and are happy that Bebo Valdés is indeed riding again.
Hopefully, this is the first of many new discs from
this 76-year-old maestro.
excellent Descarga newsletter recently published an
article on Bebo's life and work. We can't recommend
this publication enough, if only to keep abreast of
new releases but also for the interesting stories and
no nonsense reviews. Call 800/377.2647 for more information.
Pacific Jazz (Blue Note) CDP 7243 8 33574 20 Vocals
had such high hopes for this disc! It's a jazz interpretation
of Jule Styne's score Gypsy, with Annie Ross
backed by a stellar West Coast Jazz ensemble. What should
have been great is instead pleasant and occasionally
rotten. Ross sounds drunk and unsteady on the fast numbers
like Everything's Coming Up Roses and Some
People, but You'll Never Get Away and Small
World are nice.
wish we hadn't bought it.
The Sound Gallery, Vol. One
Scamp SCP 9707-2
Sound Gallery is a collection of 24 British easy
listening recordings from 1968 to 1974. It is apparently
the rage in the U.K., similar to the Lounge revival
currently in vogue in the U.S. For many reasons, including
its size, the distribution system and the radio, the
Brits enjoy a generally more open music scene and the
very clever and creative can influence the masses, unlike
in the States where a large corporate music machine
needs to appeal to the lowest common denominator. We
often look to London for inspiration but after hearing
The Sound Garden for the first time, we thought
that maybe Mad Cow Disease had affected some one's judgment.
music sounds like the segue themes used in shows like
Love American Style. It's very funny and piss-elegant
in a 1970s kind of way but surprisingly it's not awful
and often it's very good. A few of the tracks, like
Half Forgotten Daydream, could have come off
a modern acid jazz/dance disc by Towa Tei or one of
the groups on the Kyoto Jazz Massive, simply
by pumping up the bass a bit.
folks will out and out hate this disc (and we fully
understand why they might) but one has to acknowledge
that the phenomenon is amazing. It's the first real
1970s revival. The flabby disco trend and especially
the New Wave "comeback" were both really nostalgia
trips programmed by the fashion industry and marketers.
Like it or not, this could be the next Big One. Frankly,
we prefer this as an influence over today's youth rather
than another rehash of Led Zepplin or the Rolling Stones.
Polygram 526779-2 Brasil
here's an idea: Take just about the most infectious
dance music made in the last 15 years from Brazil's
Bahia region, mangle the melodies and vocals until they're
mostly unrecognizable "raps" or trippy non
sequitors and then cover the natural rhythms with an
electronic drum machine. Voila! Manifest destiny at
fan of Timbalada will be pretty horrified by this mess.
The only track that is somewhat interesting is the dancehall
version of Beija Flor. The other nine tracks
are a computerized nigtmare, stripping the Bahian beat
of all it's complexity and leaving the listener with
a dull thumping sound.
say avoid at all costs.
Chico Hamilton Quintet featuring Eric Dolphy
Fresh Sounds FSCD 1004 Jazz
1965, the original Chico Hamilton Quintet made history
by playing their unique brand of "chamber jazz"
that was both swinging and arty and made the more unusual
by the additions of flute and cello. Missing was the
ubiquitous piano. Their historic first two discs on
Pacific Jazz have been long out of print and legend
has it that by the time they recorded this session in
1959, the band was stuck in a succsessful rut. Who cares?
To our ears this CD is pretty swell.
Eydie Swings the Blues
Taragon Records TARCD 1012 Vocals
find Eydie Gormé fascinating. She's a big belter of
a singer with pretty good taste. She occasionally tries
to be humorous but she lacks wit. She's in total control
of her voice, and more often than not, sings in a direct
way but often her delivery is clinical with no sense
of intimacy. This isn't so bad when you're a belter,
it's just that belting for belting's sake isn't very
much in vogue these days (although Mariah Carey seems
to prove that screaming for screaming's sake is quite
the title, the collection of songs on Eydie Swings
the Blues are torch songs rather than the blues.
This is a good thing as we can't imagine what Eydie
and arranger Don Costa would have come up with if they
decided to present a traditional blues set. Instead
we get 12 standards performed to varying degrees of
success. On the whole, it's a lot of fun. Her version
of When the Sun Comes Out, which predates Barbra
Streisand's very similar performance by three years,
is almost perfect. The difference is that you get the
feeling that Eydie's heart's desire will be coming back
home as soon as the storm ends while Streisand's unrequited
love will never return (with good reason judging from
the hysteria in her voice). Blues in the Night
is given a quasi-honky tonk arrangement that shouldn't
work but does. Stormy Weather, Can't Help
Lovin' Dat Man and After You've Gone are
all good. Eydie gets in trouble when she tries to interpret
Duke Ellington. I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good
and Don't Get Around Much Any More are pretty
awful. When Your Lover Has Gone is fair but comparing
it to the similar arrangement of Keely Smith's version
on I Wish You Love shows how Eydie's arranger
Don Costa had a lot of trouble keeping up with Keely's
the criticism, we've been playing this disc often.
The Early Years 1933-1938
Harlequin HT CD 55 Latin
we have noted many times before, Cugat was a great underrated
band leader. Too often we think only of the chihuahua
or Abbe Lane or Charo when we think of Cugie. It's a
pity because it's hard to think of another band leader
that maintained such a consistent record of adapting
to trends in Latin and popular music and still keeping
his own distinct sound. From the Rumba craze of the
'30s to the Mambo movement, he played his deluxe version
of the clave beat like nobody else.
we get angry letters from hard-core Latin fans, we freely
admit that little of what Cugat did, especially in the
1930s when he met his initial success, was authentic.
He took the songs and beats of Cuba and fused them with
American dance music. He often complained that his early
audiences didn't want to hear authentic Cuban music
and this might be true but he needn't be defensive.
The music still stands on its own.
some modern ears, the songs collected on The Early
Years 1933-1938 might sound like cartoon soundtracks
without much of an edge. This is to miss the point.
These early tracks have a more relaxed feeling but the
percussion and clave are integral to the sound. Rather
than a cartoon, we imagine a slow hot afternoon in a
bordello, rum drink in hand and a fine floor show to
songs range from Latin standards like Margarita Lecuona's
seminal Tabu to current popular numbers like
Isle of Capri and Begin the Bequine. It's
interesting to hear this version of Begin the Beguine
because Cugat kept basically the same arrangement throughout
the years and we'd guess this was one of his first recordings
of the Cole Porter classic. Marion Sunshine's Havana
Is Calling Me quickly segues into a plena, Santa
Maria, that has a great chunky beat.
label Harlequin has done us all a great service by putting
together this great collection of early Cugat. The only
duplicate we know of is En el Rancho Grande so
no collector can pass this one by and non-collectors
in the mood for something nutty will have a good time.
hint for listening to pre-Lp music that we've mentioned
before is to listen to the music a track at a time.
This CD's generous 24 cuts might be too intense for
a complete listening and these songs were recorded as
singles, so they pack a lot of punch into 21/2 minutes.