Al talks about Bobby Escoto, Joe Bataan
Column: The Other Side Of The CD
by Al Santiago
Bobby Escoto sang on a few Tito Puente 78 releases in the late '40s. He was very impressive, had a very good voice and could improvise exceptionally well. In the early '60s I was going to record the Tito Puente big band and it occurred to me to reunite Tito with Escoto. My hang out buddy dance promoter Federico Pagani told me that Escoto was in Philadelphia tending bar. We made a few phone calls and Escoto agreed to come to NY and record with the T.P. band. The band tracks had already been laid down when we met Escoto at the studio to lay down the vocal tracks. After hearing a phrase or two we realized that we should let him do all the vocals as best as he could. He intermingled his singing with a little whistle that he blew intermittently among the lyrics. The whistle was a combination of a piece of gum and a thin piece of leather the size of half of a half a dollar. His singing was, of course, a disappointment but the whistle perplexed the shit-out-of-us. The us being Tito, Federico and myself. We paid him and took him to the commuter train. He was looking forward to his new career not knowing that I had already decided to have Chivirico Davila come in and re-do the vocals on another track. We released Alegre LP 842 as Tito Puente y Su Orquesta featuring Chivirico Davila in "Y Parece Bobo" (1964). Chivirico died in 1994. The powers that be at Alegre decided to release the LP as a CD. Good idea? Sure!...however, during the tape transfer to CD technology they transferred the wrong vocal track and released the CD "Y Parece Bobo" with Chivirico's name but with Escoto's voice. Fortunately, they supposedly only pressed 1,000 CDs and if they were to recall them, their loss would be less than $4,000. The old cliche, "every cloud has a silver lining" comes into play here. As when the U.S. Post Office release a stamp with a printing error, let's say with an upside down airplane, it immediately becomes a collector's item and its value increases. My advice is: buy the TP/Chivirico/Escoto CD, it is collectible.
The above CD item is our first news story for Descarga. If our publisher, Bruce Polin, permits we would like to add on the following fictitious "cuatro" story:
The Polish community in Yonkers, NY is very proud that the Pope will visit them again this summer. What the Pope hasn't told too many people yet is that his itinerary has a secondary purpose. Sources close to the Vatican are convinced that the Pope wants to meet with Danny "Flamboyan" Martinez of Orchestra Pueblo and talk about the possibility of taking cuatro lessons. The Pope heard a few selections from The Ponce CD and fell in love with the sound of the cuatro. Congrats to Danny and "Pueblo." If we can fantasize for a minute let's project into the near future and imagine attending a Vatican function where Orchestra Pueblo is playing and the Pope asks Danny, "Can I sit in?"
Joe Bataan performed in public for the first time in 10 years this past April 27th at the De Hostos Community College in the Bronx. On and off Eddie Palmieri finally decided to appear and played, besides his usual fantastic Montuno style, some very modern beautiful chord structures demonstrating his love of Jazz. Tito Puente and Dave Valentin were also there and it was coincidentally both their birthdays, Dave's 43 and Tito's 72. Dave took many great solos, but I think too many solos. The great 4 horn section that Dave led should have been allotted more solos.
Tito, incredibly in superb shape, soloed, mesmerizing the audience into being made aware that the king is still king.
Getting back to Joe Bataan, who happens to work at Spofford Juvenile Center as I do. He flawlessly intermixed two musical cultures and many styles and branches of both cultures. From mambo, cha-cha to guaguanco to bolero to Latin rock to Latin jazz to doowop to soul. In the late '70s Joe coined the word salsoul and we acknowledge that the wide umbrella tag does cover his many bags.
Joe utilizes the talents of Eddie Hernandez as captain of the band. Eddie is easy to ID, he plays a red trombone (yes red), often cues in the band and sings bi-lingual coro. Joe's vocal arrangements have a verse in English followed by a coro in Spanish or vise versa, and it works. Joe's first number was his composition "Mestizo" which will be included in his upcoming CD. Joe writes a lot of his material, most notably "Ordinary Guy," "My Prayer" and "My Cloud." At a recent lunch Joe was heard saying "I've grown up and have come a long way. My band is now even rehearsing."
All the artists should be applauded not only for their performances but also because this was the 5th anniversary of a charity for children called "Pathways for Youth." The artists waived their fees. Congratulations to bassist Oskar Cartaya and drummer Tony Cintron who not only played but also co-produced the event.
The CD has caused various changes in the way music is recorded, manufactured and displayed. Total time per CD is another item that needed and still needs restructuring. From the mid '50s to the mid '60s a 12'' LP contained 12 selections of 3 minutes or less each. Which meant that an LP had a total of about 36 minutes. By the '70s an average LP had 10 selections of varying lengths which gave us LPs of about 40 minutes each. The selections were less but the total time of each was more and we still ended up with about 40 minutes per LP. The average LP costs about $7 retail while the CD costs about $15 retail. The people expect and deserve CDs of at least 1 hour total time or they are not getting their money's worth. CDs that just duplicate an old LP release by re-issuing its original product with no additional tracks are ripping off the public. The public should not stand for this. The public should not buy a re-issue without some bonus tracks. We wrote about this previously and are repeating our main point. CDs should have more recorded music than an LP. Music companies take notice - more music or less sales.