01 August 2013 ~ 0 Comments

Back To the Future! Inside SONORAMA: The Lost Space Age Pop Music of Esquivel

Imagine the Jetsons taking their yearly trip to Miami, lounging around the art deco inspired pool while Rosie the robot wheels on by to deliver a tropical mai tai complete with a tiny paper parasol. If you close your eyes, this is exactly the image that is conjured up while listening to the quirky, space age pop music played by Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica. Comprised of 22 musicians and featuring a quartet of singers, steel guitar, mallet and hand percussion and a B3 organ, the “Orchestrotica” is dedicated to presenting the arrangements of Juan Garcia Esquivel who was once considered the “king of space age bachelor pad arrangements”. The studio orchestra arranger was popular during Hollywood’s golden era for his “use of blistering brass, boisterous Latin percussion, wordless vocals, and mid-century Hollywood sound.”

Juan Garcia Esquivel was considered the "king of space-age pop music".

Juan Garcia Esquivel was considered the “king of space-age pop music”.

Esquivel’s arrangements had all been lost decades ago until the group’s conductor, Mr. Ho (otherwise known as Brian O’Neill), used his unique gifts of perfect pitch and transcription to recapture each and every note off of old recordings made by Esquivel’s own orchestra. The “Orchestrotica” made its original concert debut with 17 musicians in 2005 at a Boston venue. This marked the first time that Esquivel’s studio arrangements had ever been played by an orchestra to a live audience. In 2008, the group garnered international interest and played several sold-out concerts in Esquivel’s native Mexico.

Since their debut, the group has recorded two separate albums entitled The Unforgettable Sounds of Esquivel and The River Rangoon, both released in 2010. The Huffington Post proclaimed both entries, “two of the top ten recordings of 2011”. You may have heard one of their delightful tracks and not known. In May of 2011, the group’s first recording played in over 10,000 Starbucks coffee shops nationwide. These recordings keep Esquivel’s tradition alive by allowing his music to be heard in any setting.

As I searched for the records on Spotify, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As soon as I played the first track, I was instantly brought to a place of romance, relaxation….. and robots. Sounds like an odd combination, I know, but Esquivel’s music is really something to be heard and experienced! The music transcends cultures. Tropical steel guitars and kettle drums are heard playing in collaboration with Chinese bells and Italian tambourines. The musicians themselves come from countries all across the globe like Albania, Brazil and Japan. The vocals are never actual words but rather delightful, nonsensical sounds. It takes one back to the mid- 20th century space age aesthetics while still managing to seem cutting-edge. This is a must hear event for any Jazz enthusiast, big band music aficionado or admirer of world music.

While listening to the band’s albums is an experience in itself, one would not want to miss out on the exciting experience of seeing the group perform live. With its menagerie of exotic instruments, precocious singers as well as the exuberant conducting of O’Neill, Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica must be seen as well as heard to be believed! There is truly nothing like the thrill of seeing a big band in person.

Pace Presents is excited to have Mr. Ho and his “Orchestrotica” on hand to open up our 2013-14 season on September 21! The event also coincides with the Celebrate Mexico Now Festival, a city wide event that celebrates contemporary Mexican art and culture. The festival is produced by CN Management.

For tickets, visit schimmel.pace.edu or contact the box office directly at (212) 346-1715

 See you at The Schimmel!

Michael Torbet

Pace Presents 2013-14 Blogger

The "Orchestrotica" performs the works of "Esquivel" in a big band setting.

The “Orchestrotica” performs the works of “Esquivel” in a big band setting.

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