The Forgotten Arm: Esquivel

Looking back, more bands have been influenced by the iconoclastic music of Juan Garcia Esquivel than you might imagine. After all, his space-age arrangements and productions are so unique, who would dare to imitate them? In addition to his stylistic influence, much of Esquivel’s legacy has to do with his innovative use of recording technology. It was his relentlessly perfectionist ear that led him to create some of the most breathtaking and entertaining records of the late ‘50s and ‘60s.

Esquivel’s music is defined by a multitude of elements. Unlike a traditional jazz band, Esquivel’s performances would feature instruments for isolated measures at a time; presenting their parts then dropping out entirely. Slide guitars would add a Polynesian flair for a few bars before one of Esquivel’s own complex piano solos tore through. All of this (with the exception of those piano solos) was intricately arranged, with very little improvisation. On top of these arrangements were the trademark wordless vocals (most of Esquivel’s song choices were instrumentals already). The “whoops” and “zu-zus” became instantly recognizable features of Esquivel’s style, as well as popular tricks amongst his imitators.

One of Esquivel’s most compelling works is See It In Sound, an album recorded in 1960. Finally released in 1998 during a resurgence in interest, See It In Sound was Esquivel’s most ambitious work, stereophonically speaking. Though Esquivel had been playing with stereo imaging for years, his techniques were put to their best use on See It In Sound. Combining ambient noise with everyday sound effects, Esquivel created an immersive world of audio. In “Brazil,” one of the most covered songs of Esquivel’s era, the listener takes a trip through café- and lounge-studded streets, where each house band plays the tune in a different style. Cocktails are heard being mixed and poured as the music wafts from channel to channel to mimic our wandering about the club. You even get to take a roadtrip to a sultry nightclub where patrons chatter and clink their glasses in time to the music. It’s a stunning production, and a testament to Esquivel’s genius as a sonic experimenter.

Listen: Esquivel – “Brazil” from See It In Sound (1960/1998)

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~ by E. on December 8, 2010.

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