Best of Esquivel

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Although eccentric lounge-pop pioneer Juan Garcia Esquivel is remembered on numerous compilations, it's hard to go wrong with any of them, including his mid-'60s collection The Best of Esquivel. Many CD compilations of Esquivel's unique orchestrations are a bit lengthier, and each includes a few songs also present on this collection, but there aren't many other distinctions to justify purchasing one release over another. Nearly every Esquivel release features his trademark blend of Latin influences, big-band experiments, quirky instrumentation, and humorous sound effects. The result is a completely fresh take on such well-known compositions as "Guadalajara," "Take the 'A' Train," and "My Reverie" (based on Debussy's Reverie). Even a listener familiar with several different versions of these songs may be surprised by the originality of Esquivel's bizarre reinventions. Piano and xylophone glissandos interrupt unpredictable string and horn crescendos while charming nonsense vocals make cameo appearances, for an effect that is equal parts genius and novelty. Nearly half of this compilation consists of Spanish titles, but Esquivel's eclectic versatility prevents any musical style from dominating for very long. Simply by virtue of its title, The Best of Esquivel may attract more curious newcomers than any other collection, but every Esquivel album offers a representative demonstration of his idiosyncratic musical vision.