This is tango in the manner most Americans thought of it until Astor Piazzolla broke in this market -- the music of drama and romance, but without many rough edges. A music of sophistication, removed from its lower-class origins in Buenos Aires. This CD conjures up images of palm courts, rooftop gardens of five-star hotels, and elegant society couples who danced to this music.
Xavier Cugat did much to popularize Latin music of many genres in the U.S. His band was mostly sweet, but could occasionally get hot. One of Cugat's first bands was Xavier Cugat and his Gigolos, which specialized in playing tangos for the patrons of Los Angeles' Coconut Grove. (Although the track was credited to Gus Arnheim, it is believed that the recording of "La Rosita" on this CD is actually by Xavier Cugat and his Gigolos.) Cugat began playing tangos during the height of its popularity in the United States and continued injecting them into his repertoire even after he became more famous for Cuban music. Harlequin has released much of Cugat's material from the '30s and '40s, spotlighting his tango material with this compilation, as opposed to the rhumbas and congas that he's better known for. About half of the material is from 78s that were commercially released; the remainder is from transcription discs. The recordings span the period from 1931 to 1945. Missing in these recordings is the passionate timbre of the Argentine bandoneon, but some of the treatments are inventive nonetheless. All in all, it is a pleasant collection of "uptown" tangos.