Pérez Prado

Voodoo Suite/Exotic Suite of the Americas

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The pairing of Perez Prado's two orchestral tone poems on one CD is something of an occasion to celebrate. Recorded seven years apart, The Voodoo Suite and The Exotic Suite of the Americas are the defining moments in Prado's long career as king of the mambo. Though The Voodoo Suite, with its larger-than-life orchestra -- six saxophones, three trombones, seven drummers, six trumpets, and more -- was equal parts a Latin dance band and a jazz orchestra, its tight charts by Shorty Rogers made it a dramatic beast to wrestle and a sublime one to listen to. For all the critics who had discussed Prado in the derogatory, The Voodoo Suite gave them something to listen to, because here was the first popular attempt at the marriage of Cuban, African, and jazz elementals ever attempted in a work that was essentially for the general populace a mood record. The loping horn arrangements, bluesy solos, and hypnotic drumming took it outside the realm of mood music and placed it squarely into the camp of progressive big band jazz. To prove it was no fluke, the original album was rounded out with the other tracks that appear here from another session: "St. James Infirmary," "In the Mood," "I Can't Get Started," and others which burned the Latin jazz flame just as bright. On The Exotic Suite of the Americas, Prado took a decidedly more laid-back approach and made his score more cinematic in scope and tone. Relying deeply on textured strings and found-sound objects to accent the jazz orchestra, this is 16 minutes of pure, exotic ecstasy. And again, Prado, always wanting to round out his records and give the paying customer something to sink his butt into, offered mambo renditions of "Son of a Gun," "El Relicario," "Midnight in Jamaica," and more from another session later in 1962. The folks at Bear Family have done a fine job remastering the original tapes and assembling the greatest-ever statements by Prado. This is essential.

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