Don Tosti

Pachuco Boogie

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The Zootsuit Riots and the Sleepy Lagoon case of the 1940s made Americans aware that a young Latino subculture existed in their country. Thanks to the press slant, however, it was presented as something to be feared. The reality, of course, was quite different. They were no more dangerous than teens anywhere and everywhere. They did, however, have their own music, a mix of Latino styles and jump blues, a selection of which is offered on this illuminating record, headlined by the title track, a straight-up jump blues that has more in common with African-American music than any rock & roll that might follow. The bandleader, young bassist Don Tosti, would go on to record plenty of similar sides for the pachucos, or young Mexicans, under several different names, like Cuarteto Don Ramon, Sr.. He'd even re-record "Pachcuco Boogie" in the early '50s, quite possibly because the original version is rumored to have sold over a million copies. Most of the other acts here pick up on his small-band, eight-to-the-bar idea, but there's at least one exception, the acoustic "Frijole Boogie," a lovely piece of guitar work from Jorge Cordoba (the genre was elastic enough to include the corrido "El Bracero y la Pachuca," too). Every culture celebrates itself. Some of the tributes come from within, as Tosti's do; some are exploitative. But it's wonderful to see daylight shining finally on this little piece of American history.

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