In answer to this call heard from New York's Roseland Ballroom to the Los Angeles Palladium, Manny Lopez has assembled in his first album for RCA Victor as danceable a potpourri of cha-cha-cha's as has ever been transferred from the ballroom to the recording tape.
If any artist can be considered an ideal exponent of the cha-cha-cha, Manny is the man. Born and reared in the United States, his Mexican ancestry gives him an hereditary love of Latin-American rhythms. This love lured Manny to the Conservatory of Music in Mexico City, after two years in the Far East with the United States Navy.
The three years of extensive study in Mexico City, combined with his early American environment to make Manny a true cosmopolite of Latin-American music. In 1950 he organized a five-piece combo that was the forerunner of the driving beat of the Lopez band of today.
The cha-cha-cha properly played needs a strong, steady beat to carry its rhythm to listener and dancer alike. Musically, the cha-cha-cha has been described as a refined mamboor mambo with violins. Cha-cha-cha definitely has its roots in the fascinating rhythm of the sonmontuno, just as the fabulous swing music of the Thirties grew from the early New Orleans jazz.
Again, the heredity, environment and schooling of Manny Lopez make him the natural choice for the exponent of this Latin-American dance rhythm. Listen to the selections in this album and you will understand why this is so. Some of these selections have already become best-selling singles and favorite standards on the RCA Victor label. If you are a high fidelity follower, tune up those tweeters and woofers to pick up the imaginative combination of singing violins with throbbing bongos, which Manny uses to carry the beat of the cha-cha-cha.
Two of the selections in this album may just happen to sound a little bit familiarthey should. Of course, we mean a fascinating version of last year's popular Canadian Sunset, for one. Played in an up-tempo cha-cha beat, we can't help feeling that the title in this case should be "Havana Dawn." But no matter what the title, any listener will agree that Lopez has taken an already beautiful song and, inconceivable as it may appear to be, added another dimension to make the record a Latin-American collector's must. The same is true of the popular standard My Prayer, which enjoyed a revival last year and, again, Manny Lopez has dressed this American favorite with an enchanting cha-cha melody.
No one has ever thought of the vibrant rhythms of the cha-cha-cha as being in the class of mood music. You may feel differently after listening to the soothing quiet manner of Manny Lopez, especially in a selection like Ooh Ah. Although the cha-cha beat is ever present making the song perfect for dancingit is also perfect for listening. The subtle blend of violins and flute over a background of rhythm instruments has a charm all its own.
The chants found in Guajira Guantanamera and Dejenme Bailar, for example, are not the raucous shouts too often called to mind in Latin-American music. Instead, they form a perfect complement to the music, enhancing its listening appeal. Any student of the dance who is learning the cha-cha-cha will find this a perfect album for practice performancesand enjoyable listening, too.
Big musical achievements still lie ahead for Manny Lopez. Just as Perez Prado climbed the musical ladder of popularity on the excitement of the mambo, so we predict it will be with Manny Lopez. For if Prado is the "King of the Mambo" . . . then Lopez is the "Count of the Cha-Cha-Cha."