I moved from New York City to Jersey City 1n 1993. I went from not needing a car at all to only technically not needing a car. After a year and a half of hauling groceries all the way from the upper west side where I worked, it became clear an automobile could be helpful. Since I didn’t need it for commuting, I wasn’t that concerned with gas mileage. I just wanted to drive to the store 2 miles away once a week. I got this bright idea that maybe I could get a big old gas guzzling luxury car on the cheap. There were plenty of them around. A 1981 Buick Park Avenue turned up on my street with a FOR SALE sign.
I managed to get it for only $600. What a car! Power everything. I called it the Land Barge. After three weeks of cruising in style, the cassette deck died leaving me with the radio. I hadn’t been a regular listener of commercial radio in decades and was a little worried. There was always WFMU, but the signal was intermittent, and half the time they play dumb hipster trash.
I found La Mega, the big Spanish station, at 97.9. Listening to it made me feel as if I was on vacation all the time, and I liked it. After a while I was able to tell the difference between the good songs and not as good ones. At the time I belonged to the BMG record club and went on a Latin music buying spree. It was my music for over a year. The “Barge” began to rapidly disintegrate, so I sold it for what I paid for it to a friend of a friend. Periodically I’d hear it was still on the road. It was replaced by a 1986 Toyota Camry with a sun roof and a working cassette deck.
One weekend I’d gone to Rickels, a long out of business chain of home improvement centers, to buy some mesh to keep the basketballs out of my yard. I can’t remember the details, but I decided I’d been ripped off somehow and furiously drove back to the store to yell at incompetent employees. My blood boiled as the Land Barge hurled toward the store. I swore out loud to nobody. I had La Mega cranked and just as I pulled into the parking lot “Soul Drummers” came on. It caught my attention. I sat in the car listening in awe. I forgot to be angry. I went into the store and on closer inspection realized I was the incompetent boob. I didn’t yell at anyone. I got back into the car and drove home. I worked with Spanish speakers from all over the Carribbean. Soon I found out Ray Barretto was responsible for “Soul Drummers”.
Ray Barretto (April 29, 1929 – February 17, 2006) was a Grammy Award-winning Puerto Rican jazz musician, widely credited as the godfather of Latin jazz.
In 1946, when Barretto was 17 years old, he joined the Army. While stationed in Germany, Barretto met Belgium vibist Fats Sadi, who was working there. However, it was when he heard Dizzy Gillespie’s “Manteca” with Cuban percussionist, Chano Pozo, that he realized his true calling in life.
Perez Prado (b. December 11, 1916, Cuba – d. September 14, 1989, Mexico City, Mexico) was a Cuban/Mexican bandleader and composer. He is commonly referred to as the “King of the Mambo”.
The mambo, reinvigorated under the name salsa, is still the signature dance of Latin popular music, and his son, Perez Prado, Jr., continues to direct the Pérez Prado Orchestra in Mexico City to this day.
I found Perez Prado when I watched “Parents”, a creepy, but interesting movie starring Randy Quaid. His hit “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom Time” was used during the opening credits. It was a bit of a novelty hit, and “Caballo Negro” is not.
Don’t know much about the Blazers. They’re from East LA and their 1995 album “East Side Soul” was produced by Cesar Rojas of Los Lobos. It contains the very rockin “Cumbia Del Sol”. They Are Manuel Gonzales-vocals, guitars, bass, drums & percussion, Ruben Guaderrama, vocals,guitars, tres, piano, Lee Stuart-vocals, bass, and Mando Goss drums
This song was featured on the soundtrack of “Curdled”, another creepy movie, this time starring a nondescript Baldwin brother.
It was a cutout I bought for it’s Latin content.
I have several versions of this, none are the original with Chano Pozo. The one by Dizzie Gillespie I have is a concert from 1961 and sounds too much like Jazz. Cal Tjader’s is very “cool”. I picked this 1967 version by Chico O’Farrill because it rocks pretty damn hard. Manteca, with it’s anchoring riff, is kind of like the “Louie Louie” of Afro-cuban music.
Arturo “Chico” O’Farrill (October 28, 1921, in Mexico – June 27, 2001, in New York City, New York USA) was a musician who led an Afro-Latin big band, the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra in New York City.
He composed and arranged, and played the trumpet. He also composed many works for Machito (Afro-Cuban suite with Charlie Parker, 1950) and Benny Goodman’s Bebop Orchestra.
From 1995 the orchestra, which took up residence at New York’s famous Birdland nightclub, was led by Chico’s son, a pianist who is also named Arturo O’Farrill. Arturo went on to form the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, which played at Lincoln Center. Under his direction the group recorded the Grammy-nominated album Noche Involvidable in 2005, and Song for Chico in 2008. He was also a professor of jazz at The University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Manteca is Lard, but actually translates to Grease. Also slang for heroin, which one the composers, Chano Pozo had a taste for.
He was was killed in a fight in a Harlem, New York bar at the age of 33, on December 2, 1948, allegedly in an argument over the quality or authenticity of a bag of marijuana he had bought from his murderer. He is buried in the Colon Cemetery, Havana.