Arsenio Rodríguez – Primitivo (1965)

Arsenio Rodríguez
Primitivo
Original release, 1965 – Roost Records LP 2261
CD reissue, 1999 Tico Records SLP-1173

The blind Afro-Cuban tres player, percussionist, composer and bandleader Arsenio Rodríguez was one of a handful of individuals who fundamentally changed Latin music in the twentieth century, a fact which history and audiences were somewhat slow to recognize.  This record features a lean, stripped-down ensemble he put together in early 1958 at the behest of Teddy Reig, who for some reason sat on the recordings for a full seven years.  Reig was apparently interested in “folkloric” Cuban music but Arsenio brought him a dozen new compositions.  It is kind of an “unplugged” album, though – the tres is unamplified, without the pleasingly gritty tone he would get when running it through an amp, and hence so of the most crystal clear playing he ever committed to tape.  The clarity is also helped by the absence of piano and bongó, leaving the middle and middle-upper registers all to the tres and the trumpets.  For me, “Rumba Guajira” is the most spell-binding cut here but all the tunes are excellent.  Maybe Reig’s thirst for folklore was quenched by the vernacular poetic form showed off in ‘Coplas de España” with Arsenio ripping 16th-noted arpeggios with hints of flamenco.  Shortly after this recording session, Arsenio made one of several tours to Chicago, playing for the Puerto Rican and  Cuban audiences on the city’s north side at clubs like the Capri.*

1 La Pasion
2 Me Engañastes Juana
3 Lo Que Dice Justi
4 Rumba Guajira
5 Coplas De España
6 Que Mala Suerte
7 Fiesta En El Solar
8 Me Equivoque Contigo
9 A Gozar Mujeres
10 No Lo Niegues
11 El Lema Del Guaguanco
12 Guaguanco De Puerta Tierra

Sessions recorded in 1958 in NYC.  Also issued as Arsenio y Kike: canta Monguito (Tico LP-1173) on vinyl.

Credits:
Ramón “Monguito” Quián – first vocal
Davy González – first vocal
Candido Antomattei – second voice
Israel Berrios – second voice and guitar
Agustin Caraballoso – trumpet
Johnny Malco – trumpet
Arsenio Rodríguez – tres
Abelardo Chacón – timbal
Kiki – tumbadora

Producer – Teddy Reig
Written songs composed by Arsenio Rodriguez except track 3 by Justí Barreto

*Information for this post was drawn from the excellent book, Arsenio Rodríguez and the Transnational Flows of Latin Popular Music by David F. García, 2006 Temple University Press.

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2 Comments

  1. i had to smile about your mention of the “gritty tone” when he played through an amp. when i first went to Cuba in 1982, there was live music and dancing every night at the hotel (a former casino and brothel). it was all good, but the PA and amps were minimal and mui vintage so everything was turned up, as we would say later, to “11”. mui gritty indeed…
    thanks for the chance to hear this,
    d

  2. Incredible! Unplugged, stripped, acoustic, naked… Thank you for sharing; I hadn’t heard this LP. Although I’m somewhat familiar with his music (e.g., enough so I recognize Monguito’s voice), I am embarrassed to say I had no idea Arsenio was blind! By the way, this website (https://gladyspalmera.com/coleccion/disco/17300/) has the tumbador’s name as “Israel ‘Quique’ Rodríguez.” Thank you again.

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