Sunday, August 21, 2011
photograph by james joern.
It was vaguely my intention, late into last week, to bring Alice Coltrane onto the bleachers. To dispel all notion of Yoko to her John. I don't know.
Dizzy psychotropic laments. Meandering astral flights in the footsteps of pharaohs, priests.
Instead, I tumbled through Friday afternoon into the weekend proper swaddled not by harp, but immersed in bugalú. Old Seeco and Tico releases from the barrio. Feverishly documented by Teddy Reig, Pancho Cristal, Miguel Estivill, Art Kapper and Joe Cain. Engineered, in the main, by Fred Weinberg.
A handful of Puerto Ricans dug in with the cockroaches up in Spanish Harlem before those Beatles disembarked at JFK: Tito Puente, Joe Cuba, Héctor Rivera.
By the end of it, I was itching to book a ticket to Havana. Pummelled half unconscious by mambo; cha-cha-cha; salsa; too much hot sauce.
I don't own a passport, and I am a woefully poor dancer, but I like to marvel at the women. The cars. Those tail fins; the radiator grills like the grins on a party of circling sharks.
Hot-pants. Basketball vests. Mojitos. Fidel's rationing out the good times when the generators fail. The gangster resorts of the Batista regime reclining in the twilight, a ring of fingers along the Malecón.
It is a little late in the summer to be thinking this way. The riots have subsided into facile politicking. A mother of two, languishing in gaol after receiving looted goods, has seen her ludicrous sentence overturned; David Cameron has set off to Cornwall to reconvene his holiday in the sun; the fractured jaw of the Malaysian student mugged on a London pavement seems to be mending nicely.
The tabloids have commenced a campaign to reclaim England's streets.
Tico Records was established as an outlet for Latin music by New York garment dealer turned impresario, George Goldner, in 1948. While Goldner was allegedly compelled to sell all stakes in Tico, Roulette Records, Rama and Gee in 1957 - to cover considerable gambling debts - his commitment to the label never waned. Artists signing to the label in its lucrative first phase included Mambo Kings, Tito Puente, Tito Rodriguez, and Machito; huge draws on the dance hall circuit, but unable to capitalize on local demand for recorded product.
By the early 1960s, however, the US embargo on Castro's socialist republic was making an impact on those Cuban influences so integral to Tico's trademark sound. Its islands fell under quarantine as the Bay of Pigs fiasco ushered in yet worse to come.
The second generation of Latin youth, too, in New York City - born and raised in Manhattan's north-east quarter - was gravitating more towards those influences filtering out of Detroit, Berry Gordy's Tamla Motown. Incorporating elements into a new wave of homegrown music. Bugalú. Salsa.
Percussively anchored in familiar Caribbean rhythms, but buoyed - energized - by drifting currents.
Partly in response to Tico's success - now exclusively under the partnerhip of Joe Kolsky and Morris Levy - and partly informed by its decline, Fania Records opened business on 888 7th Avenue on March 25th, 1964. Dominican born musician, Johnny Pacheco, and Jerry Masucci, an Italian-American divorce lawyer who had previously worked in Havana's visa department, forged an alliance which sought to service that fundamental shift in focus.
To refine it. Market it to a global audience.
Fania incorcorated Tico records in 1974, with Masucci stepping out as chief producer for the imprint between that time and its ultimate collapse in 1981.
Bang, bang. Revolution - 45rpm - and foment.
▼ JOE CUBA SEXTET: EL RATÓN from "Vagabundeando! (Hangin' Out)" LP (Tico Records) 1964 (US)
▼ JOE CUBA SEXTET: LA MALANGA BRAVA from "Wanted Dead Or Alive ('Bang! Bang' + 'Push, Push, Push')" LP (Tico Records) 1966 (US)