Roberto Delgado
Latin Flutes






Latinizing one’s name - I mean: literally latinizing – and creating a fake stage persona born in South America is a trick that occurs quite often in the Exotica genre, and those Germans are on the forefront for many an obvious reason. Think of Werner Müller whose exquisite series of travelogs Holiday In… is penned under the name Ricardo Santos. For now, though, let’s focus on a bandleader with the name of Horst Wende (1919–1996) who uses the same trick and morphs into the fiery Roberto Delgado, un chico caliente! Dozens of albums are produced under this moniker, and Latin Flutes is but one amid this flood.


Released in 1971 on Polydor, the premise is clear right from the get-go: the listener is about to experience shedloads of flutes, but these instruments only make half of the story, as the remaining tidbits come in the shapes of horns, mallet instruments and a wealth of truly Latin percussion. Among the personnel on this record are trumpeters Charly Tabor, Werner Gutterer, Manfred Moch, and Ack Van Rooyen, many of them known for being members of Bert Kaempfert’s big band setups. Trombonists Ake Persson and Jiggs Whigham are also included. Wende aka Delgado himself then joins the band on the marimba, vibraphone and in one instance, a Hammond organ as well as a Moog synthesizer. The flutists meanwhile are led by Herb Geller, approximately three or four of them are on board alright. Here is a closer look at Latin Flutes and its many original tracks among the renditions.


You know the archetypical bass guitar-driven undercurrent that is so often used in depicting a Mexican scenery? Then you know the innermost core of Roberto Delgado’s take on Francis Lai’s 1970 classic Love Story. Being the title song of the eponymous movie, its string washes are transmogrified here via said bass billows. Comprising of two notes which are held together by three layered alto flutes, the withdrawn murkiness and melancholic timbre are seemingly mocked by these reeds. Once trumpeter Manfred Moch brings the other brass players into the scenery, the sunset is ablaze, for better or worse. Delgado’s own Salambo Nr. 1, however, is a much greater tune, comprising of shell percussion, croaking guiros and one sexy Space-Age queen moaning salambo. The flutes are uplifting, the melody unexpectedly catchy, and even a little Moog synthesizer braiding is presented during the track’s apex. Considering the missteps and chintzy material Roberto Delgado has come up with throughout his career, Salambo Nr. 1 is a hallmark made of gold, aesthetically speaking. It is really good!


The traditional Dos Palomitas meanwhile opens a rift which oscillates between the Honky Tonk-fueled silent movie era and a cutely powdered Baroque attitude; these two stylistic counterparts are then meshed together by brass layers and flute flumes. Laid-back bongos, clinging tambourines, gorgeous marimba backdrops and freely floating flute melodies near the end make this tune – excuse the harshness – one bastard of a dubious mirage: is it a good interpretation or a bad raggamuffin? I’m not so sure, but the arrangement is top notch! Delgado’s own La Gaucha meanwhile succumbs to dazzling technicolor flares of rubicund notions as the marching band seemingly walks through a remote Mexican hamlet. Inspired by the flutes, guided by the orderly played tambourines, the aspect of carefree traveling by foot is eminently stressed. Side A closes with two takes of less-considered compositions: Norrie Paramor’s Mañana Pasado Mañana is a maraca/marimba grove complete with juxtaposed acoustic guitar globs, celesta coils and fluffy flutes, whereas Milton Nascimento’s O Cangaceiro sees Brazilian caxixis snore amid balalaika-accompanied brass blotches. The instrumental variety is a boon, the tone sequences and unison remain way too saccharine, so this one’s a dud, I’m afraid.


Side B continues to see Delgado and his men marching through Latin lands, no strings attached, all flutes on board. The traditional La Boliviana opens the second side with a joyously fast-paced Merengue complete with sprinkler-like shakers, delicious bongo grooves, interstitial marimba markers… and cautiously injected yippieh chants. Can it get any more clichéd? You already know the answer. Thankfully, the next three offerings come directly from Delgado’s feather and are thus comparatively exciting sparklers that are only featured this way on this album: Urubamba is a hot and humid downbeat diorama with pristine percussion, but otherwise somnolent – and somewhat majestic – brass braidings, evoking a mountainous outlook over a dry, etiolated valley.


A Sunny Siesta then turns out to be a rather upbeat marimba-backed flute-focused protrusion of glee and happiness, with only the marimba ameliorating the scenery due to its fir-green color reminding of the purified jungle. Mucho Prospero then ends Delgado’s triptych with a wildly rufescent extravaganza of ecstatic flutes and glittering money-resembling percussion devices, before making room for the traditional Camaron and its multiplied brass sinews that float through the sizzling-hot sun-dried panorama. The finale Mocoto, originally written by Brazil’s famous vocalist Jorge Ben, opens up for gorgeously lava-like Hammond organ slides. Backed by bongos, complemented by flutes, it is a great outro of an undercooked LP.


It would be too easy to stress the impetus of the flutes when it comes to describing the lure of Latin Flutes in a nutshell. While they are indeed omnipresent and hence featured on each and every composition, the six brass players are of equal importance, as they bring enough fuego into the sceneries to take a stand. However, Latin Flutes is not a good work per se, let alone recommendable. The principal problem with Roberto Delgado’s works is the only halfheartedly camouflaged German attitude that shimmers through the cracks and interstices. It is crystal clear that this album is recorded in Germany due to its fantasized delineations. Well, la-dee-da, isn’t this what Exotica is all about? Indeed, but it also becomes clear that the vivacious works of composers and conductors from Los Angeles are able to capture the Latin spirit more efficiently… and let’s not talk about dedicated works from Brazil, Argentina and whatnot.


Here is the good part of this plastic tactic: Latin Flutesmight exactly offer the kind of timbre and instrumentation that is otherwise sorely amiss. Depending on one’s heritage and favorites, the alpenhorn-like chords might turn out to be delightful. And why not? Unique tracks like Salambo Nr. 1 and the interpretation of Mocoto are superbly envisioned and tower above the occasionally petrifying melancholia that is unveiled by the reeds. Latin Flutes is unfortunately not yet available as a digital download version, but the LP is easy to get, with many of its parts having found their ways onto compilations.


Exotica Review 384: Roberto Delgado – Latin Flutes (1972). Originally published on Oct. 25, 2014 at