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Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Mambo By The King - Perez Prado

Mambo de Paris

Mambo By The King
Perez Prado and His Orchestra
RCA Victor LPM 3108 (10 inch Long Play)

From the back cover: It's hard to believe today that there was once a time, something over a century ago, when the waltz was considered an undignified, if not downright improper, if not actually immoral dance. There were denunciatory sermons and angry "what-are-we-coming-to?" newspaper editorials about it. Then Queen Victoria danced it, and despite the bluenoses it became popular.

We've come a long way in a hundred years. There've been the bunny hug and the turkey trot – the foxtrot and the Charleston – the Black Bottom and the Big Apply – and then, having run out of ideas ourselves, we began borrowing from South America. First the rumba, then the samba and now the mambo. Short of St. Vitus dance or delirium tremens, it's hard to see how we can go any further.

Acknowledged father and king of the mambo is Cuban-born Perez Prado, who packs a heap o' energy into his mere five-foot six-inch frame. Perez learned music in his native Matanzas, and played with Cuba's leading orchestra, the Orquesta Casino de la Playa. But he didn't make a dent in the public consciousness until he dreamed up the mambo while doodling away at the piano and took it to Mexico City in 1948. The Mexican took to the primitive rhythms of the mambo like ducks to a well-known non-alcoholic beverage. They've made Perez a millionaire in the few short years since then, and only last year his orchestra was awarded the Gold Record Award – Mexico's musical Oscar – as the best orchestra of the year.

Of course Perez has more than the mambo up his sleeve. He's mastered American rhythms so well that no less authoritative a voice of American jazz that Metronome magazine has dubbed his "the swingiest jazz band in this country." His progressive jazz feeling is said to offer more musical excitement per groove than any band since Woody Herman's and Stan Kenton's.

On first hearing, the mambo sound like nothing on earth to Yankee ears, but Prado defines it as "a three-movement dance step to four-beat rhythm." It's characterized by the unusual use of the trumpet section and by the rhythmic, guttural sounds Prado make to urge musicians on. All mambo musicians grunt now and then during a typical six-minute number, apparently without any musical reason. But Prado says it is an emotional response. It sound to uneducated ears like "ugh," but the musicians are actually saying "dilo" – Spanish for "Give it!"

RCA Victor first introduced the mambo by Prado to this county on its International label some years ago. A few disc jockeys heard the records and began playing them over the air. Americans by the thousands were quickly intrigued by this excitingly new, primitive rhythm. As the demand for Prado recordings shot up, RCA Victor transferred him to its regular pop label.

Prado has toured the western part of the United States with great success, and is now touring South America and playing to enthusiastic crowds everywhere.

His home base is Mexico City, where he lives with his wife and daughter. For relaxation he favors movies and listening to the music of contemporary Spanish composers – and Stravinsky! Could be he borrowed something of the mambo from the latter's Rite Of Spring ballet music.

Mambo Jambo
In A Little Spanish Town
C'est Si Bon
Whistling Mambo
Cuban Mambo
Mambo de Paris

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