Pastora Pavón Cruz, best known as La Niña de Los Peines (“the Girl of the Combs”), was born in Sevilla, Spain in 1890 and is probably the most important flamenco singer of the 20th century. She never learned to read or write, but began singing at 8 years old and was a prodigy. She was already celebrated in her teens and came to be regarded as a genius of many Spanish song-forms, or “palos”, including: tangos, tientos, malagueñas, tarantas, cartageneras, granaínas, peteneras, and the bambera. Cruz has been compared to historical illuminators of music like Bach, and her mark on Spanish cultural history is indelible.

In 2010, UNESCO declared flamenco one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity; the contribution of La Niña de Los Peines undoubtedly playing a large part in this distinction.

Here she sings an absolutely haunting “saeta”, a revered style of Spanish religious song, here simply titled “Saetas”, and she is joined by cornets, trumpets and a tambourine player. Stark and striking, her voice so thick and impassioned, this kinda of performance slows down time with it’s gravity and almost certainly evokes mortality. This is one of the great songs of all time, and I am so lucky to have found an impeccably clean copy of this Columbia-reissued classic.

 

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Pablo Rodriguez Lozada, better known as “Tito” Rodriguez (“tito” meaning “uncle” and sometimes “giant” in Puerto Rican Spanish) was a massively popular bandleader, singer and arranger in the 1950s when the mambo and cha-cha craze was at its height in the U.S. During this era he was just about as renowned and requested as the great Tito Puente, another legendary timbalero, who was also Rodriguez’s rival in the salsa and Latin scenes of the 50s and 60s.

This is the other side of Tito Rodriguez, “Desert Dance” (on TICO #10-035A) from the last post, and it is a beautiful, medium-burning mambo called “Donde Estabas Tu?”, “where were you?” in Spanish.

 

 

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Pablo Rodriguez Lozada, better known as “Tito” Rodriguez (“tito” meaning “uncle” and sometimes “giant” in Puerto Rican Spanish) was a massively popular bandleader, singer and arranger in the 1950s when the mambo and cha-cha craze was at its height in the U.S. During this era he was just about as renowned and requested as the great Tito Puente, another legendary timbalero, who was also Rodriguez’s rival in the salsa and Latin scenes of the 50s and 60s.

This side, “Desert Dance”, written by R. K. Mozian, is a characteristic mover-and-groover from his repertoire that features flawless execution from the horns and rhythm section, particularly the pianist who I can’t seem to identify, and of course Señor Rodriguez’s timbales sound crisp and solidly “in the pocket.” Such a hidden classic.

 

 

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Tito Puente is a musical legend whose success and popularity helped bring the music and culture of Puerto Rico, Cuba and Africa to larger mainstream audiences around the world. Very often referred to as the “King of Timbales”, Puente was born in NYC in 1923 to immigrant Puerto Rican parents, and was raised in Spanish Harlem. A naturally talented and artistic child, his career spanned six decades of the 20th century, with many, many international performances, achievements, and awards; and his discography is considered a cultural treasure. A couple of notable examples of his lasting legacy are: his 1958 album Dance Mania is listed in the National Recording Registry, and his song, “Oye Como Va”, which is considered a standard (and which Carlos Santana took to even greater heights when he released his version in 1963.)

Here he is performing his pulsating, hypnotic “Mambo Rama” with his orchestra in 1955; and man do those horns sound amazing. On the New York label TICO.

 

Tito Puente - Mambo Rama

João Paulo Batista de Carvalho was a famous Brazilian singer and songwriter who had a life in music lasting almost 50 years. Born in 1901 in Rio Janeiro, he began his career in the 1930s by introducing the music of Umbanda, “a Brazilian folk religion combining elements of macumba, Roman Catholicism, and South American Indian practices”, also considered white magic, to live radio programs. He was arrested many times for this because Umbanda is a religion of possession and transfixation, and people were falling into trances listening to his groups on the airwaves in Rio! (needless to say he was a hit!)

This 1947 recording of  “You Went Away”, or “Foste Embora” in Portuguese, is a really snappy and catchy batucada, which is a samba essentially but with more a pronounced African percussion style and using a specific assortment of drums. Enjoy with a caipirinha and some space to move your feet…

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This sax-driven tune, written around 1947 by a musician from Rhodesia (current day Zimbabwe) named August Msarurgwa, became a worldwide hit in 1954 and was quickly covered by many popular groups of the era, including this exceptional mambo by one of the undisputed kings of the style, Prez Prado. “Skokiaan” is the name of a home-made hooch, basically a moonshine often made with maize, that was popular in Southern Africa at the time.

Also nice that this wonderful performance comes on a mid-50s RCA shellac, which are known for their high fidelity and warmth.

 

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This Latin side from 1933, on the Brunswick label, is a terrific little rhumba, and the bottle percussion is just the perfect, final piece for the arrangement. Palm trees, sea, and sun come to mind immediately when this tune gets going. Mr. Molina, who was born in Puerto Rico in 1899, was a very popular orchestra leader for about 40 years or so, and he had a big role in introducing tango and rhumba to Californians in the 1940s. And though his 78s are tough to track down in any condition, I found this one, and luckily in Excellent shape – “dime” (di-me) is “tell me” in Spanish.

 

Carlos Molina - Dime