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Ros at the Opera & Showboat Porgy and Bess

Edmundo Ros

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Album Review

During the 1960s, Edmundo Ros churned out a steady stream of topically triggered albums on which he modified popular melodies of every description using the patented Caribbean dance formula which served him so well as the U.K.'s pre-eminent purveyor of Latin American-styled pop music. In 2005, Vocalion combined on one CD his ambitious Ros at the Opera with an album of melodies from Showboat and Porgy & Bess. While the glib-faced clown holding maracas certainly has stage presence (was that Ros himself under the grease paint?), it's a pity they didn't use the original cover art for Ros at the Opera, which features a beaming Valkyrie sporting a spear, yellow braids, and winged helmet in the act of banging on a brightly painted, extra-tall conga drum. Successful when compared with other Ros albums of this vintage, Ros at the Opera is pleasantly stimulating for those who are not too uptight to relax and enjoy chestnuts from the classical repertoire done up in a zesty, maraca-driven manner.

Certainly the "Toreador's Song" from Georges Bizet's Carmen is perfectly suited to the Ros treatment, as is Carmen's "Habanera" and "Una Voce Poco Fa" from Gioachino Rossini's Barber of Seville. Whereas Verdi's "Drinking Song" from La Traviata is taken at an unusually accelerated tempo, the "Quartet" from Rigoletto is garnished with some rather attractive interactions between flute and bass clarinet. With the exception of "La Donna e Mobile", all of the selections on this compilation are less than three minutes in duration. The shortest track is a two-minute, full-blown samba version of the "Bridal March" from Richard Wagner's Lohengrin. Naturally enough, six airs from George Gershwin's Porgy & Bess were readily adaptable to the Ros treatment, whether spicy, steamy, sultry, or romantic. A tidy traipse through "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man O'Mine" introduces a half-dozen highlights from Jerome Kern's Showboat. Points of interest in this segment of the playlist are the scat vocal during "Bill," the combination of trombones and twangy guitar on "Make Believe," and the brassy, rhythmically charged arrangement used for "Ol' Man River." This fabulous patio party music is suitable for any barbecue, shish-ka-bob, or chili cook-off.


Born: December 7, 1910 in Port Of Spain, Trinidad

Genre: Latino

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Bandleader Edmundo Ros was the living embodiment of Latin music in World War II-era Britain. The toast of London's high society, he effectively introduced the rhumba and samba to the U.K. shores. Born December 7, 1910, in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, to a Scottish father and an African-Venezuelan mother, Ros spent much of his childhood in military school, playing percussion in the military band. The experience was otherwise miserable, however, and at 17 he ran away to Caracas, where he served as tympanist...
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Ros at the Opera & Showboat Porgy and Bess, Edmundo Ros
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