Thursday, May 10, 2018

Bobby Montez-Viva! Montez

Bandleader and vibraphonist Bobby Montez hailed from Sonora, Arizona, but good luck finding it on a current map or on the actual horizon because it’s one of those copper mining towns like Ray that no longer exits.  Montez was able to quickly rise from his dusty desert beginnings to space age heights by creating a vast array of musical stardust by blending Latin jazz with elements of exotica.  Viva! Montez is one of two albums he recorded with World Pacific after previous releases on Jubilee (1958’s Jungle Fantastique) and GNP Crescendo (1959’s Lerner & Loewe in Latin). Viva! Montez abounds with his sophisticated, yet sweeping arrangements which slide open at times to reveal their percussive infrastructure.  One of his most evocative numbers is “Garden of Allah” which refers to the long-gone West Hollywood hotel and favorite haunt of F. Scott Fitzgerald. While Montez’s vibraphone and piano carry the waves of melody, the congas and timbales swirl and then crest before the chanting chorus. His playful instrumentals “My” and “Brazilian” sound way ahead of their 1961 time due to their freshness, vibrancy and understated elegance.  It was written that by day he worked as a landscape architect and by night he led his quintet at fledgling nightclubs from the M Club in East Los Angeles to The Crescendo in Hollywood during the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. The last printed mentions of Montez playing live were engagements at the Golden Sails Lounge in 1967 and a residency at the Executive Suite on the Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach in 1970, according to listings in the Long Beach Independent. The paucity of biographical information across the interwebs, only heightens the mysterious allure of this versatile artist and his incredible musical journey from Sonora, AZ to this century’s belated acclaim as an integral figure overlapping the West Coast Latin jazz & exotica scenes.

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