Perfect Vision: The Esquivel Sound
Metropole Orkest conducted by Vince Mendoza
Release: June 10, 2013
JUAN GARCIA ESQUIVEL
Basta Music has long had a fondness for pioneering orchestra leaders, composers and arrangers. The label has released music by such legends as Leroy Shield, Raymond Scott, Les Baxter, Roger Roger, André Popp, Ferde Grofé, Gordon Jenkins, and Russ Garcia. But one name was overlooked. Until now.
Basta proudly announces the release of an album featuring newly recorded versions of music arranged and composed by sophisticated Latin-jazz maestro Juan Garcia Esquivel (1918-2002). Often called the King of Space Age Pop, Esquivel was a visionary perfectionist who controlled every aspect of his wide-screen sound in the studio.
In the late 1950s, Esquivel was renowned for his explosive arrangements and dynamic use of stereo effects. His music featured exotic percussion, wordless vocals (such as ‘pow-pow’ and ‘zu-zu’), shimmering keyboard glissandi, and crystalline piano fingering. On a technical level, his orchestrations made his recordings instantly recognizable. His style reflected his personality: brash, confident, mischievous, sexy.
Unfortunately, Esquivel’s original sheet music arrangements cannot be located. The Metropole Orchestra (a.k.a. Metropole Orkest), based in the Netherlands, commissioned new arrangements based on Esquivel’s RCA Victor recordings. While capturing Esquivel’s idiosyncratic colors and textures, the Metropole arrangements take the maestro’s magic in new directions. The Metropole employs a full string section, which Esquivel rarely used. “Mini Skirt,” one of his most popular tunes, had only been recorded by the composer with a small ensemble. The Metropole recording represents the first time this work has been arranged for full orchestra.
The recording is spectacular, featuring the Grammy-winning Metropole Orkest conducted by 6-time Grammy winner Vince Mendoza. Producer Gert-Jan Blom (The Beau Hunks, Raymond Scott, Metropole Orkest) supervised the project, which involved some of the finest audio technicians in Holland. The orchestra is augmented with soloists such as Fay Lovsky (Theremin), Ocobar’s Bart Wijtman (bass accordion) and Cornell van Vuuren (slide guitar), as well as three-time (2004, 2005 and 2008) world champion whistler Geert Chatrou.
One of the project’s challenges was that Esquivel’s original recordings were already available on CDs and as digital downloads. How to make the new recordings exciting and different enough to merit the undertaking? This became clear once recording began. To hear the brilliance of Esquivel’s arrangements in 21st Century sound quality is striking. The Metropole recordings radiate more definition and detail than the original recordings, which were often saturated with reverb, or filtered and compressed at the expense of delicate nuances. While acknowledging that the “Living Stereo” aspect was a large part of the Esquivel charm, the Perfect Vision production team chose to restrain the stereo panning and effects. Rather than conform to the original mixes, they chose to emphasize the orchestral genius of Esquivel’s arrangements.
Mastering was done by Darcy Proper (another Grammy winner) at Wisseloord Studios. To add a touch of early 1960s fidelity while maintaining full-spectrum 2013 dynamics, the recording engineers used large vintage plate reverbs (EMT140s) dating from 1961, which helped bridge the five-decades audio gap.
The package, designed by Piet Schreuders, includes liner notes by Irwin Chusid, who helped launch the first Esquivel revival in 1994 by producing the first CD compilations, and who served as Esquivel’s last business manager. The booklet also features a number of rare photos of the maestro from his private collection.
We hope these new recordings will introduce a new generation of listeners to Esquivel’s sparkling universe, and that the project will be a welcome addition to the Esquivel catalogue for those already familiar with his work.
- lounge pop