Pérez Prado






Cuban multitalent Pérez Prado (1916–1989) is well-known in Exotica circles for two particular works: Voodoo Suite (1955) and Exotic Suite Of The Americas (1962). These artifacts proudly delineate Prado’s drum-infested shapeshifting aural cinematography like no other works. He continues to maintain and nurture the suite-related formula for years to come, as even Concierto Para Bongó (1975) houses such a long-form cascade. Drums play a big role as well, but unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be enough to consider a bit of Prado from time to time, or else Exotica fans wouldn’t rave about the same two above-mentioned albums time and again.


However, I don’t want to play the role of the spoilsport, for there is another work that lurks in the shadows, but is enormously varied, with two distinct sides of a single vinyl disc, one supercharged with Mambo and Cha Cha Cha, the other a Spy Jazz/Crime Jazz eldorado for the coinnosseur. Simply called Prez and released in 1958 on RCA Victor, its eleven tracks burst at the seams with bongos and congas, trumpets and trombones, guitars and chants. The material is Latin alright, but also quite exotic. Featuring Carlos Vidal on the congas, Leo Acosta on the classic drums, Tony Facciuto on the trumpet and René Bloch on the alto saxophone among many others, the lively aura is never amiss and a closer inspection close at hand.


Agustín Lara’s Maria Bonita sweeps into the scenery. After the wonderfully colorful ay ay ay scream, the Cha Cha Cha rhythm becomes a force to reckon with. Callisthenic congas, raspy guiros, Tony Facciuto’s trumpet juxtaposed with the piercing brass layers make for a tropical rendition, especially so since the percussion is always wonderfully benthic and hollow. Next on the agenda is Tomas Mendez’s Cu-Cu-Rru-Cu-Cu-Paloma, and yes, the two r’s in the middle are exactly rrright, matey. Fiery chants, sunset trumpets, jungle drums and cymbal-underlined show tune hooks boost the luminosity despite a few weaker hooks being sewn in in-between.


While Ignacio Fernandez Esperon‘s La Borrachita (I’ll Never Love Again) unfurls a wonderful horn punctilio that is both cheeky and upbeat amidst the polylayered brass cataracts, Prado’s own Machaca enthralls with eponymous screams, echoed reactions and a particularly hollow fusillade of viridian drums. Coupled with the warm trumpet sinews, this one is a winner as well. Señor Esperon’s second song Adios Mi Chaparrita (Goodbye My Little Angel) meanwhile surprises with the golden freshness of slapped guitar strings, with the farting brass reticulation being the contrapuntal mephitic addendum to the guiro-accompanied sunscape. Moisés SimonsMarta finishes side A with a Mambo that’s as slow as molasses. The trumpet is yearning, and if it weren’t for their glow and the coppice of drums, the arrangement would resemble a Dixieland tune more than anything.


Sophisticated material by George Shearing introduces the listener to the crepuscular double agent scheme of side B: Lullaby Of Birdland is a long piece of four minutes that oscillates between Crime Jazz aortas, ever-pulsating bongo bubbles, dubious double bass streamlets and dun-colored brass layers which experience lava-like eruptions. The melodies aren’t the forte of this piece, but the wealth of textures, rhythmic stopovers and alterations make it a feast for Jazz lovers. The next alteration is a gorgeous cut that outshines everything else! Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight Of The Bumblebee is transmogrified into a pesky moskito mayhem with high-rise trumpets, vesiculating jungle beats, cowbell intermixtures and a similarly spy-related Jazz nucleus. This piece has everything: energy, exoticism, elaboration.


Leo’s Special is up next, written by drummer Leo Acosta who is in the limelight here. The drums are indeed enormously punchy and vivid, the brass layers serve as the slaves to the performance of five minutes! The drums are like a buffalo stampede… Prado’s forcefully savage LP Voodoo Suite comes to mind. Ernesto de CurtisCome Back To Sorrento is much more mellow, spawning femme fatale tonalities and large cityscapes before the conga-augmented brass pointillism interpolates the bluesy friendliness. Afterwards, King Guion’s Fireworks is a bongo Bolero which not only foreshadows the slick guitar-based Surf Rock lifestyle but also gyres toward show tune escapades all to willingfully. The aqueous guitar licks are most welcome and add much seasoning to the gustatory aura.


Prez is a Latin album par excellence, comprising of all the archetypical ingredients one might possibly wish for, but the compression and stacking of these very ingredients is what pushes the album near the top. The melodious Cha Cha Cha dioramas of side A are followed by raucous adventures and spy-themed escapades, and it is really up to the listener and the current circumstances to decide which side he or she prefers. Here we have the rare case of a Latin Exotica album that offers enough variety to consider the two sides different biotopes of the same habitat. The array of chants, the magnificently hollow drums and the incisive precision of the horns are all more than welcome. Whether they burst, shuffle or float, the trumpeters, trombonists and saxophonists work well together. Bonus points are added for the guitar licks in two arrangements. The blue front artwork is more or less a ploy, although one without a sinister motive (or motif), for the energetic material doesn’t feel blue at all… only Marta is probably compatible with this color, but synesthetes might beg to differ. Prez is a smasher and thus available on vinyl, CD, digital download and considered by many streaming service. 


Exotica Review 445: Perez Prado – Prez (1958). Originally published on Aug. 8, 2015 at AmbientExotica.com.