In April, 1954, while on one of his periodic recording trips to Hollywood, Herman Diaz, Jr., of RCA Victor's Artists and Repertoire staff, found himself rather routinely surveying prospective material with Perez Prado. During the conversation at which, by one of those odd quirks of fate, RCA Victor's jazz director, Jack Lewis, was also present and without attaching too much importance to it at the moment, Messrs. Diaz and Lewis suggested that, at least at some time in the future, Prado prepare an orchestral work that would depict the marriage of primitive rhythms to American jazza sort of tone poem in which the African, the mambo and the basic aspects of jazz would be united in such a way as to show their true relationship. As soon as the idea was formulated, Prado expressed a wild and uncontained enthusiasm so, amidst really frantic preparations, while Diaz and Lewis corralled the necessary musicians, Prado retired to write and arrange the music. Shorty Rogers was called in as a consultant, and twenty-four hours later, on April 8, everyone was back in the studio Prado had his manuscript, Diaz and Lewis had twenty-two musicians, and the recording commenced as though it had been planned for months.
The Voodoo Suite is the result of that now-historic session. Prado's score, which called for four saxes, six trumpets, three trombones, French horn, bass and seven drummers, required a greater personnel than that included in his own band, with the result that several of the West Coast's leading jazz musicians were hastily recruited, including practically every available drummer in the area.
The Suite opens with soft, mysterious beatings on the tom-tom, depicting an African dawnthe throbbing becomes increasingly more frantic until it is joined by a series of softly chanting voices. The drums become more fiercely predominant, introducing a heated vocal exchange. The music recedes and starts to build slowly again, with brass and percussion still predominant, spelling out the early African setting. A fast jazz figure enters, featuring a walking bass, after which the entire band pours in, preluding an extended sax solo. The part ends with a jazz figure punched out by screeching trumpet notes.
The following section is introduced by a frantic rhythm in which seemingly all the percussion participates; another sax solo is introduced, floating high above the background; the band drives into a mambo beat and the sax returns, binding the basic rhythms of jazz and mambo into an obvious totality.
The last movement also commences with percussion, leading to a wild jazz interchange between reeds and brass. An almost jungle-like atmosphere is introduced by a growl trumpet, setting forth the absolute dependence of jazz on its African patterns. Changes of rhythm occur at frequent intervals, finally leading to the mysterious African chanting and to the opening phrases of the first section. The Suite ends on a short flash of the drum, again underlying the reliance of the whole on its percussionistic, rhythmic base.
The Six All-Time Greats which are featured on Side Two of this album constitute
Prado's tribute to some of the outstanding bandleaders of our time. In four of these,
played in mambo/La Culeta style by PradoJumping at the Woodside (Count
Basie), / Can't Get Started (Bunny Berigan), St. James Infirmary (Cab
Calloway) and Music Makers (Harry James)Prado has added strings to his band,
producing a new, more colorful, and immensely heightened tonal effect. In the remaining
twoStomping at the Savoy (Benny Goodman) and In the Mood (Glenn
Miller)we hear the band in its usual mambo style, but usual only in that it is what
we have come to expect of the highly contagious music of this modern master.