Here it is... the ultimate music for the new cocktail culture: after Grunge comes Space Age Bachelor Pad Music ... A sound that is guaranteed to astound your stereo. The sound has it's origins in the Hi-Fidelity Sound Explosion of the early 60's when all of America was buying those new-fangled, two-channel stereo systems. Folks needed specially designed records to test-drive their hi-fi's and people like Martin Denny, Perrey Kingsley and Henry Mancini delivered the goods. Tinged with cocktail lounge and ballroom overtones, the music was re-christened Space Age Bachelor Pad Music by used record scavengers in the 1980s. Today, bands like Combustible Edison and The Coctails are carrying on the tradition, and a nation jaded with rock and thirsty for new musical sounds, is plugging in.

The undisputed King of Space Age Bachelor Pad Music was -- and is -- a cat from south of the border named Esquivel. One reviewer called him a "pop avant-gardist." Esquivel's orchestrations were like an exploding musical pinata with arrangements that were strikingly futuristic: scattered among the pianos and trombones were slide guitar, echo, dissonance, beatnik percussion and weird juxtapositions of mood and volume. His "kitchen sink" approach incorporated Chinese bells, organ, jew's harp, gourd, and timbales.

Esquivel recorded for RCA from 1957 to 1968, this is a collection of his wildest recordings. His arrangements took full advantage of the stereo phenomenon. The music made hi-fi's resonate with bongos, glass-shattering brass, and perky xylophones. He stripped lyrics from pop standards and replaced them with whistling, humming, or a disjointed phrase. His smooth vocal choruses would croon "Zu-zu-zu," or shout "Pow! Pow! Pow!" As one producer put it, "Esquivel is one arranger who really writes for stereophonic sound."

Born in Tampico, Tamaulipas, on January 20, 1918, Juan Garcia Esquivel was appearing as a featured soloist at the age of 14 on Mexico City's most popular radio station. Three years later the ambitious prodigy organized his first orchestra, a 15 piece ensemble. By the age of 18, he was composing, arranging, and conducting his own 22-piece band, which was augmented by five vocalists. Over 25 years, he attained immense popularity in his native country on radio and TV, and in nightclubs and theaters.

Esquivel came to the United States in 1957 to record for RCA Victor. From his first US release, To Love Again, to his last, The Genius of Esquivel, the man created a unique musical legacy that deserves more attention than it has received in the intervening decades. Variety dubbed him the "Mexican Duke Ellington," while affirming, "Esquivel is to pop music approximately what Aaron Copeland is to serious music or what a John Coltrane is to jazz."

The liner notes on To Love Again (l957) describe Esquivel's "dashing appearance," and the "tasteful elegance of his clothes." As for Esquivel's romantic life, "fortune has amply blessed this good-looking young Latin American -- there has been a long and uninterrupted succession of names of beautiful and famous women mentioned in connection with him."

Esquivel kicked off the Sixties with Infinity in Sound (l960) and one of his finest achievements -- Infinity in Sound Vol. 2 (l96l). Fans of pioneering TV visionary Ernie Kovacs will note that "Jalousie" and "Sentimental Journey" (both from the latter album and included on the Bar/None compilation) were used in a famous video sketch, in which Kovacs synchronized the music to remote-controlled office furniture and secretarial equipment.

Latinesque (l962) -- in the opinion of many, his wildest and most ambitious effort -- was released as part of RCA's Stereo Action series ("movement so real your eyes will follow the sound"). This tour-de-force featured "raindrop" pianos, mariachi trumpets, "steel guitar zings," cross channel echoes, along with an array of French Horns, tympani, flutes, and tuned bongos.

To ensure the purest stereo separation, the album was recorded with half the orchestra ensconced in RCA's Hollywood Studio 1 under the baton of Esquivel, with the other half at Studio 2 -- a block away -- under the direction of a guest conductor. The album mix included a then-startling array of stereophonic panning, as pianos and percussion sailed from speaker to speaker, with generous brush strokes of "infinite tape reverberation."

Esquivel continued to work and record into the late '70's. Now retired, he lives in Mexico, preferring privacy to celebrity.

 Esquivel's world renown earned through his RCA Victor albums coincided with a period when rock groups eclipsed orchestras as the popular standard-bearers of pop music. Consequently, Esquivel was the last great big band leader. Saxophonist/composer John Zorn called him "a genius arranger who created a beautiful pop mutation." Esquivel certainly deserves credit as the visionary whose musical fuel-injection propelled the pop orchestra into the 21st century.

Producer Irwin Chusid <chusid@wfmu.org> used a panel of Esquivel aficionados to scour the RCA vaults for the finest moments of Juan Garcia's long and varied career. Here, for the first time on CD, is the best of Esquivel -- Space Age Bachelor Pad Music! 


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