There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Xavier Cugat once petulantly sued Woody Allen over a reference in the film Sleeper—Allen’s smugly sophisticated futuristic characters labeled anything they deemed fashionably superior “So Cugat!” As the Latin bandleader was married to Charo, you’d think he’d have a sense of humor about himself. The 18 vintage variations on mambociousness that make up this collection are Cugat. Also muy Machito and sooo Celia. Ubiquitous liner-note author Eddie Gorodetsky calls that Cugat feeling “high-spirited happiness,” and he’s right, too. Scientists have proven that it is physically impossible to remain still and unsmiling when any of this music plays. That’s partly because it’s a successful blend of African and Cuban traditions with swinging big band jazz. Diz and Bird famously sat in with Latin orchestras; Cab Calloway’s horns lent Cotton Club heat to clave rhythms. These influences are especially apparent on Machito’s “Tanga.” Throughout the recording, Grande Dame Celia Cruz, Titos Puente and Rodriguez, Cal Tjader, and other stellar conguelos send spirits soaring. And Desi Arnaz—a legitimate Latin star well before following his wife into television—aims to please and hits the bull’s eye on “Un Poquito de Tu Amor,” which sounds unsurprisingly similar to the I Love Lucy theme.