Ole, indeed, for here is the ebullient maestro of Latin American music, back again with a sheaf of brand-new interpretations that are little short of magnifico. So inextricably linked is Xavier Cugat with these bouncing rhythms that anyone in a word-association test will inevitably shout "Cugat!" in response to the keyword "rhumba," or any of the other names of lively Latin dances. Plenty of other musicians have built a group around some jawbones and gourds, but they have come and gone, and Cugat, like ol' man rio, keeps rolling along, unquenchable and inimitable.
A reigning favorite with North Americans for the better part of two decades, Cugie has recently returned from a tour of Europe that was wholly triumphant. Continentals have long been addicted to tangos, mambos and rhumbas, but much of their music has been afflicted with a kind of watery politeness that drained it of vitality. Cugat and his uninhibited crew were revelations to the citizenry, and their richly orchestrated presentations met with a response that kept them abroad for months.
It would be difficult at this stage in his career for Cugat to meet with anything but success. A natural-born showman, he instinctively gives his audiences what they want, together with that extra something that is second nature to those who possess it and the despair of those who do not. Gifted with a bubbling personality, he transfers it to his music, and the result, whether fast or slow, is guaranteed to produce rhythmic twitchings in anyone within earshot. Passivity is not possible with Cugat's music; one responds to it, willy-nilly.
Cugat's career threads its way through a series of ups and downs until the middle Thirties, when he took the lead in popularizing the rhumba, and since that time it has leveled off at a high peak. Born in Spain, he moved to Cuba as a child with his family, studied the violin and attained considerable stature as a soloist. He toured with Enrico Caruso as assisting artist, drew cartoons for a Los Angeles newspaper, and formed a small relief orchestra to alternate with major outfits. Then he shifted into high gear, organized a full-sized group of his own, and began his tireless mission work for Latin American music.
That it has born plentiful fruit can be noted from the extensive listing of his Columbia collections that follows; that the crop is rich can be noted only from listening and/or dancing to this music. Whether the choice is from the old favorites, or from the new, equally delightful tunes in this collection, it is a choice that cannot lose, for all the music is catchy, polished and brilliantly performed. And if one is inspired to a few modest shouts of Ole, that is the primary purpose of the music. Here is Cugat, as delightful as ever, and here is a splendid new collection of his music for continuing pleasure.
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