Xavier Cugat

Among His Earliest 1932-35

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Less flashy and in some ways more historically interesting than many of his commonly available albums, this excellent Harlequin compilation opens with ten of the oldest known recordings of Xavier Cugat & His Orchestra, predating Cugat's tenure at the Waldorf Astoria. Culled from obscure 1932 Western Electric transcription platters, these delightful performances were waxed in Los Angeles only months before Cugat took his act to New York. The beautiful "Lamento Borincano" has been reinterpreted by dozens of modern musicians, perhaps most notably by martyred Chilean activist, guitarist, and folksinger Victor Jara. While some of these tracks are less than 120 seconds in duration, the graceful waltz "Noche Azul" stretches out to nearly four and a half minutes. The New York recordings, dating from 1934 and 1935, sound similarly austere and authentic when compared with records made by Cugat's orchestra only a few years later. There are more waltzes and less gringo vocalists in this collection than in most of Cugat's current discography. Thank goodness the British and the Czechs have reissued these gems of Latin American music recorded in North America during the Great Depression.

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