Morton Gould
Latin, Lush And Lovely






Composer and arranger Morton Gould (1913–1996) is a busy man in the 60’s, being approached time and again to score films and come up with what could be called mild concept albums. 1964 not only sees him return to the jungle and deliver the follow-up to his symphonic Exotica opus Jungle Drums (1957), cheekily called More jungle Drums, he also has time to remain in the green gardens for a bit longer. The result is poured into Latin, Lush And Lovely, and the concept is more exciting than the self-explanatory title might let you think. “Latin? Yawn!” Indeed, the 60’s encountered multitudinous Latin-based records by duos, quartets, big bands and orchestras. The new kind of Latin, concocted by Cal Tjader on Latin Kick (1957) and fully carved out on his LP Soul Sauce (1962) as well as on Barney Kessel’s Contemporary Latin Rhythms (1963), focused on the sunnier and dreamier sides of the genre alloy.


Sun and reveries the listener shall receive on Latin, Lush And Lovely as well; the title is really this translucent. 12 takes make it to the LP, all of them Latin classics, with Morton Gould’s own Tropical as the cream of the crop. Even the mercurial material, the scintillating Sambas and blissful Bossa Novas are toned down, or to be more precise: their lively hrooves are toned down, but not their colors! String washes, flute airflows, marimba moirés and a surprisingly tropical bunch of percussion instruments – at least by Gould’s own standards – grace the LP. Unfortunately, Gould’s LP suffers from a stylistic peculiarity found in many string-focused works of the Exotica kind or ones in the genre’s periphery. It depends on the listener what to make of this potentially nerve-racking inclusion. Well, it always depends on a listener whether to like an album or not (it most certainly is not enforced by the reviewer!), but how can one cope with magnitudes of… pizzicato strings?


I am a huge fan of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s One Note Samba, and what a coincidence, it is the opener of Morton Gould’s LP. Since the melody lives up to the title, with a leitmotif comprising of quasi-identical – yet gorgeously catchy – notes and only a few halftone steps plus backing chords in-between, it is the segues and asides that make the thousands of renditions so exciting. Morton Gould injects the favorite song of street combos and Exotica quartets into an orchestral arrangement. Delight ensues. The horns gleam joyously, with their antagonists droning Crime Jazz-like in close proximity. The bongo groove is exciting, as are the warbled and mellifluous flutes. A clear cut Exotica piece of the symphonic kind, Gould’s transformation has worked out well. The smarmier More (Theme From Mondo Cane) by Marcello Ciorciolini, Nino Oliviero, Norman Newell and Riz Ortolani is a letdown by comparison and sees lilac-colored string washes merge with brass accentuations. It lives up to the album title, but is too arbitrary and chintzy.


Whereas Alan Bergman’s, Michael Keith’s and Norman Luboff is taken out of Arthur Lyman’s —sphere— and moulded into a superbly dreamy rendition supercharged with legato strings, bubblier intervening spaces of harps and castanets and rounded off by an acoustic guitar backdrop, Roman Vatro’s Anna (El Negro Zumbon) surprises with its main melody being played on limewashed marimba drops before it is completely replaced by a much more common brass and string polyphony. The melody remains fully intact though. Xavier Cugat’s Adíos then is pestered by all too sugary pizzicato strings and equally ameliorated by an aqueously galloping bongo thicket and fresh flute tones before Morton Gould’s own Tropical finishes side A with a much more flamboyant arrangement. The partially scything brass sections push the Space-Age strings ever-forward, the vesiculating maracas and tonewoods form a verdured background in the quieter sections.


Side B opens with Lord BurgessJamaica Farewell, an oft-considered classic in Exotica cycles, curiously enough more often found in symphonic settings. Gould’s take is the – probably unintended – counteraction to the many bucolic interpretations out there, as it is comparably majestic, laid-back and somewhat mountainous; the flutes deliver an air of freshness, the harpsichord-evoking guitar is the sunset-colored antidote. Vamos (Deixar De Conversa) is based on Cole Porter’s Let’s Not Talk and unleashes brazen cowbells in a very quiescent-soothing take. The rattling bongos are cautious, the claves and flutes frilly, but it is once again the soothing phases that enthrall.


Encantado by Eden Ahbez is fittingly flute-focused but suffers from an all too Sicilian flavor violin-wise, with Billy Towne and Manos Hadjidakis bringing back the sun to the endemic panorama of sceneries, sporting harps, pizzicato strings and xylophones aplenty which form the upwards spiraling and cascading notes of the world-famous melody. The rendition is unfortunately a tad too tipsy and comical, but a good take nonetheless. Gabriel Ruíz’s and Sunny Skylar’s Amor is a much better take, as Gould succumbs exclusively to legato washes, paradisiac string movements and shadier trombone formations, all the while the finale Desafinado by Antonio Carlos Jobim provides a fantastic endpoint with its many textures, the Caribbean marimba underbrush and delicately shrill fifes. The horns are more colorful than ever. Success!


Latin, Lush And Lovely has its raison d’être, for you one does not necessarily expect nor link the Latin genre to mellifluous mélanges of mellowness, but this is exacty what the listener receives. Two columns are important for Gould’s transformative success: on the one hand, the many brass instruments are not fiery at all. In lieu of ardored heat and devotion, a golden shimmer is emitted throughout the album; even the shadier trombones reside far away from the yearning of a dedicated street musician’s tone sequences. On the other hand, this implies a constant level of glee and sugar-sweet unfolding of events. Unfortunately so, I might add. Gould’s take on Latin classics is not based on realness. I do not have the slightest problem with this approach, or else I should need to kiss Exotics goodbye.


No, I am disappointed because of the unnerving amount of pizzicato strings. Each of their tones contains too many calories. Gould’s orchestra plays best when Space-Age strings and similar flutes are unchained, be it on the gorgeous opener One Note Samba, Gould’s own – and only – Exotica anthem Tropical or the vulturine Yellow Bird. In the end, Latin, Lush And Lovely cannot be blamed by the humble reviewer. It does indeed offer what its title suggests, but said characteristics let the magic decrease quite a bit. Otherwise, the album features a large orchestra and sports many surfaces and patterns that were amiss in Gould’s material of the 50’s, especially so the drums. Latin, Lush And Lovely is available on vinyl and a reissued download version. 


Exotica Review 389: Morton Gould – Latin, Lush And Lovely (1964). Originally published on Nov. 15, 2014 at