Antobal's Cubans


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First released on LP in 1991 as Harlequin HQ 2081, the liner notes have been revised and many new tracks added. Antobal was the excellent Don Azpiazu's brother; both led bands in the vanguard of the movement to bring Cuban music to the North American public. The rhumba was the main musical form that these bands showcased, but this compilation also includes some congas. Both Antobal and Azpiazu were educated in the United States and thus in a good position to present Cuban music in a way that would appeal to Yankee tastes. They apparently calculated well, for both bands were very popular in the '30s, making tours of Europe and appearances at plum U.S. venues. This doesn't mean that the polyrhythms were utterly watered down, though. These recordings are as compelling as any Cuban music recorded in the '30s and are still thoroughly exciting to listen to. There is a strange mix between Tin Pan Alley and Havana that can be heard on this disc. Antobal's wife was Marion Sunshine, a prolific songwriter who would come up with English lyrics for Cuban songs and write songs herself that had a Latin flavor. The music bounces between the hot Cuban sound of "El Maraquero," with its strong conga beat, chattering timbales, and muted trumpets, and the Americanized sound of "Marianna," which is basically a Tin Pan Alley tune with polyrhythmic accompaniment. They could achieve a happy medium when performing the English-language version of "El Maraquero" as "Spic and Spanish," which not only has a bad pun as a title but sports this gem of a lyric -- "She's such a neat trick that Dietrich would envy her and Robert Taylor would hail her supreme!" For those who don't understand Spanish, you needn't worry. In the late '30s, Antobal's Cubans cut some sessions with ubiquitous crooner Chick Bullock at the mike, billing him as "Chiquito Bullo." The result is some smooth, romantic singing in the mainstream American mode over some very hot congas and rhumbas.

The liner notes are full of tidbits from interviews with Antobal's family and musicians who worked with him (many of whom went on to achieve fame with their own bands) as well as illustrations. As there are no photos of Antobal himself, one is left of the impression of a reclusive impresario who was good at managing his band, but wanted to avoid the spotlight himself.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:02
2 3:01
3 3:07
4 3:06
5 2:58
6 2:56
7 2:57
11 2:39
15 2:52
16 3:00
17 3:14
18 3:16
19 2:53
21 2:18
22 2:43
23 2:56
24 2:36
25 2:53
blue highlight denotes track pick