Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Night at the Tropicana: Generoso 'Tojo' Jimenez

Havana, Cuba was Sin City for many Americans for the first half of the 20th century. Sugar barons, gangsters, dancing girls and spies haunted the clubs and bars along the the water front.  They say there were more Cadillacs per capita in Havana then anywhere else on earth. Night spots like Sloppy Joe’s, Floridita and the Tropicana were household names even in small town America.  The good times rolled faster and longer in Cuba than anywhere else in the world. It was a hoot, 24 hours a day.

And when it came to music Cuba gave the world the rumba, the chacha, son and all sorts of jazzy cocktails.  Music was everywhere. In the 5 Stars as well as in the dives. In the churches and in the streets.  Just as America was making Havana into its own little naughty off-shore play land, Generoso Jimenez, was born in Ceinfuegos, a town famous for producing numerous famous musicians.

He studied music with his father as a young boy and chose the slide trombone as his weapon of choice when he joined the local municipal band. He began developing his unique style in those early years because, the touring brass bands he played in had few trumpeters and it was left to the trombonists to do something ‘interesting’ during the breaks.

In Cuba all roads lead to Havana and soon Jimenez was playing the ‘bone in The Tropicana. The top shelf of American crooners--Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Cab Calloway--were regular performers and Generoso was always in the show band.  After hours he was a regular part of the jam sessions that could be found all over the city.  In the early 1950’s he joined a new band which was performing a new crazy rhythm called batanga, in which a new (to Cuba, if not to Latin America) vocalist named Beny More was the lead singer.  The following year, 1953, More, undoubtedly Cuba’s greatest singer, asked Jimenez, to manage his huge band as well as be the main music arranger.  In later years, he led the band for sometime before making his own records, two of which are highlighted tonight.

This release contains two sessions from the orchestra of Generoso Jimenez recorded several years apart. The first album [tracks 13-23] was recorded in 1960. [The record] includes exquisite versions of of such outstanding songs as Tono Fuentes’ Colombian ‘porro’ La mucura, performed the Cuban guaracha style with some tasty grooves from the saxophone section and a magnificent solo by Chocolate Armenteros

Although Ramon Cabrera’s son A la Bahia de Manzanillo, was immortalized by Beny More, this instrumental mambo version gives the singer’s classic interpretation a run for its money with an exciting trumpet, trombone and sax duel.

This release, originally titled as Ritmo, includes first rate versions of La bamba with its typical rhythm from Vera Cruz; the rumba Senorita Luna with a loose arrangement; the Italian song Come prima, heard here in Havana’s cha cha cha style and many others.

The second session [tracks 1-12] was recorded in 1965 with another brilliant band. The first track is non other than the outstanding descarga (improvised jam based on a Cuban song) composed by Generoso and Rolando Baro entitled Trombon majadero. This is followed by the track  Descarga solfeando, another jam by the trombonist,  which contains a humorous interlude imitating a solfege lesson in the middle of the song. (Liner notes)

I’ve always been a sucker for good trombone playing and so commend these two classic Cuban jazz albums to you this Friday evening.

The sound of pre-revolutionary Havana!

Track Listing:
1-01 Trombón Majadero (Descarga)
1-02 Descarga Solfeando (Descarga)
1-03 Jaky Ky (Descarga)
1-04 La Rosa Roja (Chachachá)
1-05 Las Pilanderas (Descarga)
1-06 Ya No Me Quieres (Bolero)
1-07 Garabato (Descarga)
1-08 El Torrente (Mambo Chá)
1-09 La Vieja Rosa (Descarga)
1-10 Uno, Dos y Tres (Conga)
1-11 Llegaron del Otro Mundo (Descarga)
1-12 El Contrabajo Fantasma (Descarga)

2-01 La Bella Cubana (Chachachá) [feat. Cachao]
2-02 Come Prima (Chachachá) [feat. Cachao]
2-03 La Múcura (Guaracha Porro) (Featuring Cachao)
2-04 A la Bahía de Manzanillo (Son Mambo) [feat. Cachao]
2-05 Sueño de Amor (Chachachá) [feat. Cachao]
2-06 Cachita (Rumba) [feat. Cachao]
2-07 La Bamba (Bamba) [feat. Cachao]
2-08 Señorita Luna (Rumba) [feat. Cachao]
2-09 Besitos de Coco (Merengue) [feat. Cachao]
2-10 El Tambor de la Alegría (Tamborito) [feat. Cachao]
2-11 Maracaibo Oriental (Son Montuno) [feat. Cachao]

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