Edmundo Ros, England's Cugat

The only major exponent of Latinate music in England, England's former colonies, and most of Europe, Edmundo Ros enjoyed tremendous if not exactly deserved success. With a near monopoly on record sales and fans for several decades, he proved that at least one bandleader could perform Latinate music. But the the cost was his having to ditch his early authenticism in favor of the comfortable dance-band mainstream. The enduring supposition that Ros adequately represents the world of Latin music really indicates Europe's dismaying lack of exposure to other Latin artists.

Ros' career paralleled that of Xavier Cugat in a great many ways, with notable exceptions: only Ros began his career in the military, recorded steadily for just one label, and did little to develop other talent. (Cugat brought out many top singers and players.) Otherwise, the legacy of the Venezuelan-born Edmundo Ros in London, presiding over his own swinging club and television show in the 1960s, has much in common with the Spanish-born Cugat (reigning over New York's Waldorf-Astoria).

Born Decemebr 7, 1910 in Caracas, would-be lawyer Ros entered the Military College in Caracas; an English bandleader inspired his love of music (and civilian life). After working his way up to playing typani with the Venezuelan State Symphony, Ros came to London in 1937. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music by day and played the Cochran Revue nights. He even played jazz drums for Fats Waller. In 1940 he formed his own sextet, which played London's Cocoanut Grove and the Bagatelle Restaurant in Mayfair. From 1941 he was a BBC staple, featured regularly on the "Home and Light" show and broadcasts from the Gold Slipper Club.

Before long, Ros discovered that to reach a wider audience he would have to adapt Latin music to something more familiar. Whereas Cugat had achieved tremendous, original milestones in Latin fusion, Ros tended just to arrange standards so that rhythm never competed with melody. His pop instincts were acute. The Ros band was a favorite of Princess Margaret, and Queen Elizabeth dancing publicly for the first time at a Ros performance. Subsequently the King and Queen invited him to play at Windsor.

Decca/London reissued Ros' 1940s and early 1950s singles on 10" and then 12" LPs. As the long-playing record transformed into a high-fidelity and then a stereo monster, the maestros and their labels seemed to have difficulty adjusting to changes, both in recording standards and resulting changes in tastes. It was not until the early 1960s era of audiophile, multi-channel stereo recording that Ros and Cugat again hit their stride. The new sound level, coupled with by now widespread familiarity with both Latin and Brasilian rhythms, meant that every old standard could be rearranged in many different ways.

In the London Phase 4 albums, Ros' style and sound is remarkably consistent over the span of decades. Facility with the samba and even calypso distinguish him. Somehow he manages to mix samba and Mexican standards in the same album, over and over again. Although known as Britain's chief arranger and exponent of Brasilian and Latin-American rhythms, Ros is at his most engaging when singing in his own plaintive voice. It must be the singing that makes him one of the hippest Latin dance-orchestra leaders.

Buying: Best are the early 10" LPs (and 12" reissues of same) as well as his last LPs. A scant few of the Phase 4 LPs are good; most of the middle is middling, except calypso.

Edmundo Ros 10" LPs

6Latin-American Rhythms; Decca/London LPB-155; (c)1950 ("Congo" very similar to/source for Les Baxter's "Quiet Village")
6Edmundo Ros & his Rumba Band; Decca/Coral CRL-56027; (c)1951
6Samba with Ros; Decca LF-1050 (UK; partly reissued on 12")
4Mambo with Ros; Decca/London LPB-341
7Ros Presents Calypso; Decca/London LPB-367
5Samba with Ros; Decca/London LPB-349
7Latin-American Rhythm with Ros; Decca/London LPB-368
7Edmundo Ros & his Orchestra: Dance the Mambo; Decca/London LB-743 (most but not all cuts reissued on 12" LP)

Edmundo Ros 12" LPs

4Ros Album of Latin Melodies; Decca LK-4104; 1956 (partly on a Richmond LP)
4Ros Album of Latin-American Novelties; London LL-1090 (partly on a Richmond LP)
7Ros Album of Calypsos; London LL-1091 (Calypso Mania; London/Richmond B-20021--minus 4 cuts)
5Ros Mambos; London LL-1092 (Mambo Party; London/Richmond B-20022--minus 4 cuts)
5Ros Album of Sambas; London LL-1117 (Samba!; London/Richmond B-20032--minus 4 cuts)
6Baions; London LL-1118
3Standards..."in the Latin Manner"; London LL-1466
4Rhythms of the South; London LL-1612 (PS-114)
7Calypso Man; London LL-1711 (Decca LK-4202)
2Hi-Fiesta; London LL-3000 (PS-105)
3Ros on Broadway; London LL-3048 (PS-110)
1Sing & Clap with Edmundo Ros; London
2Hollywood Cha Cha Cha; London LL-3100 (PS-152)
2Ros at the Opera; London LL-3104
3More Ros on Broadway; London LL-3126
2Show Boat & Porgy & Bess; London LL-3137
Broadway Goes Latin; London
Sound of Music--Latin Tempos; London LL-3157
4Dancing with Ros; London LL-3183
6Plays the Limbo; London LL-3264 (calypso)
7Fire 'n' Frenzy (w/Caterina Valente); London SW-99019
4Bongos from the South; London SP-44003
6Dance Again; London SP-44015
4Ted Heath/Edmundo Ros: Heath vs. Ros; London SP-44038
6The New Rhythms of the South; London SP-44054
6Latin Boss--Señor Ros; London SP-44073
6Arriba; London SP-44080
4Ted Heath/Edmundo Ros: Heath vs. Ros, Round 2; London SP-44089
6Latin Hits I Missed; London SP-44094; 1967 (Decca PFS-4119)
4Strings Latino; London SP-44107
6Silk 'n' Latin (w/Caterina Valente); London SP-44125
6"Hair" Goes Latin; London SP-44134
4Heading South...of the Border; London SP-44153
6Edmundo Ros--The Latin King; London SP-44169
3This is My World; London SP-44189; 1972
7Caribbean Ros; London SP-44208; 1974
6Reminisce with Ros; London SP-44222; 1975
6Sunshine & Olé; London SP-44229; 1975
7Edmundo Ros Today; London SP-44298; 1977
7Latin Love-In; Pickwick SPC-3200 (reissues London, probably one or both of the Broadway LPs)
5Various: Audition Transcription Volume 1; American Radio Transcription Library; (includes early Edmundo Ros' "Society Mambo" from radio broadcast)

Edmundo Ros 45s & EPs

6Baions; London BEP-6215
4On the Sunny Side of the Street/You'll Never Know; London 1716 (both on LP LL-1466)
6Melodie d'Amour/The Carnation Girl (Garifold Staftl--Greek); London 1751 (B-side not on LP; A-side on LP LL-1711)
5Pansy/Bahia Bamboree; London 1778
I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face/?; London 1875
Spanish Gypsy/Col. Bogey; London

Edmundo Ros 78s

Money, Money, Money--Calypso/Jungle Drums--Afro-Cubano; London 204
Samba Rhapsody/Tipperary Samba; London 204
Zing Zing Boom/It's Only a...; London 625
6It Was Never Like This/The Queen of Tonga; London 1376
And Then...!--Calypso/Anything Can Happen--Mambo; London 1422
6Enchantment/Be True to Me (Carnavalito); London 1455 (both sides reissued on LP)

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