you had asked us about this Norteño-influenced Mexican music
about two years ago, we would have rolled our eyes and suggested
you instead listen to something Cuban or Brazilian. The hokey Polkas
and the donkey-ride rhythm of the Cumbia were not exactly what set
our hearts afire or our hips to shaking. Even Mariachi, with its
proud horns and generous pizzicato, made more sense to us.
what changed our minds? Last year's Los
Super Seven did a lot. Maybe moving to the country and hearing
similar music blasting out of other cars while waiting at traffic
lights made the sounds more familiar. Maybe we've been over-saturated
with the Afro-Cuban rhythms that are now everywhere. Whatever the
reason, The Blazer's new all-Spanish disc, Puro Blazers,
has followed us from home to the car and back again while we've
been "enjoying" a Northern California heat wave.
mostly acoustic set features cumbias, polkas and a bolero. The various
guitars sound gorgeous throughout and the occasional accordion of
Jesus Cuevas is a killer. The really nice thing is you could play
this disc at a party and it would make great background music or
you could dance like a dervish. It works both ways. And for gringos
with Diet Coke instead of tequila in their blood, the cumbia is
a deceptively simple to enjoy and dance.
lyrics, thoughtfully translated into English from Spanish, go from
the "Com'on let's have a party"-type of thing to moments
so sweet and sincere, it's disarming. Following the songs with lyrics
in hand is recommended.
only beef would be the cover's graphics. Lotteria is the Mexican
version of bingo and instead of numbers, images like the sun, the
musician, the harp and the drunkard are used. On this CD, the songs
are represented as lotteria cards but the artwork is more appropriate
for a New Yorker cartoon, not a sizzling set of Chicano flag-wavers.
From the Vaults
Volume One: The Birth of a Label
Volume Two: Vine Street Divas
Volume Three: Capitol Jumps
the Vaults is a new series from Capitol Records celebrating
the birth of the label in the 1940s. The goal was to produce three
CDs showcasing the best recordings of the period. How well they
succeed is subjective, but we do know these three CDs provide several
hours of great music that hadn't yet been released on CD. There
are some tracks that seem to show up everywhere on CD these days
(Cow Cow Boogie, Sweet Lorraine and I Don't Know Enough
About You, among others), but there's enough new material here
to justify your purchase. Despite a few odd choices, you can easily
imagine yourself hearing the songs coming from a jukebox or radio
show in the '40s.
One, The Birth of a Label has a loose theme of "The
First Years". Volume Two is a collection of female vocalists
while the third volume, Capitol Jumps, attempts to focus
on a more R&B flavor. Capitol Jumps proves to be the
oddest programming. It's hard to imagine Peggy Lee's Don't Smoke
in Bed or Johnny Mercer's One For My Baby (and One For the
Road) as "jump" in anyone's book. Nat "King"
Cole recorded a lot of material for Capitol that would be suitable
for dancing but here we get Sweet Lorraine. If you ignore
the theme of Capitol Jumps, the CD works, but if you're looking
for a solid hour of hot swing, you'll be disappointed.
of the material is pretty cornball and some of the numbers are covers
of songs done better by others (Tex Ritter's Jingle Jangle Jingle
comes to mind on both counts) but there are so many nice moments,
it doesn't matter much. The novelties are nicely balanced with more
straightforward bits and taken as a whole, the three CDs are a great
overview of the early years of a small independent label that went
on to become one of the industry's giants.
also must mention the clever packaging. The covers replicate a vintage
78 r.p.m. sleeve, while the actual CDs look like vintage 45s. Each
CD contains a booklet describing the music and the evolution of
Capitol Records. The notes are by producer Billy Vera who is uncharacteristically
(and thankfully) straight forward and to the point.
I Dig Jonah!
Jones was a veteran of the swing era who, like countless others
musicans, found himself out of style, and employment, with the advent
of Bebop and more serious forms of jazz in the 1950s. What's a trumpet
player with a marketing problem to do? In Jones' case, he got a
gig in an intimate nightspot and experimented with mutes. He got
a drummer who used mostly brushes, and along with a piano and bass,
they created a hip new minimalist form of swing that sounded modern,
fun and owed more to Louis Prima than Dizzy Gillespie.
quartet played mostly standards with an infectious shuffle beat.
The sound was distinct and different, almost like Latinizing standards
a la Edmundo Ros or that trend of disco bands adding that '70s beat
to Swing music. The song goes in and a new sound comes out.
first, the recordings on the new Collector's Choice compilation,
I Dig Jonah!, may sound a little too much like easy listening
for some tastes, but soon you'll notice a gentle rocking of your
feet and the irrisistable urge to quietly dance. Not a full on jitterbug,
but a sweet, close dance perfect for all your smooching needs. It's
just corny enough so you can't take yourself too seriously but it's
good enough that you can't help yourself.
seas won't part, the price of crude oil will remain high and Celine
Dion will still be in the news despite her threat of retirement,
but with Jonah Jones you can grab a bottle of chianti, turn the
lights down low and create your own little slice of heaven.