Arsenio Rodriguez

No Latin record collection of any worth lacks an Arsenio section. There is no more hallowed name, no more influential presence felt in either Cuban roots music or its New York Puerto Rican derivates than that of Arsenio Rodriguez. Blind since the age of seven, he played the country "tres" guitar and gave a voice to black/African Cubans at a time when white/Spanish Cubans were presumed to be "it." He called his folkloric music "quindembo," a Congolese word meaning a mixture. And as the father of modern Latin dance music, Arsenio established clave as the basis for Afro-Cuban music, introduced the son montuno in 1940, and profoundly influenced all who followed.

Arsenio was born August 30, 1911, in Guira de Macurije, in the province of Matanza, Cuba, the fourth of eighteen children. He learned the musical instruments and traditions of both his Congo heritage and Spanish influences. After percussion and bass instruments he learned the tres (folk guitar), which he eventually mastered. He came to New York to record, live, and play. Also there was an attempt by doctors to restore his sight, which he'd lost in 1917 to a mule kick. He died December 30th, 1970.

Arsenio is credited with inventing the mambo rhythm in a tune from 1937, which greatly influenced both Cachao and Perez Prado. Musicians associated with Arsenio who became stars in their own right include legendary trumpeter Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros, Felix Chappottin (who led Arsenio's Cuban orchestra after the master moved to the U.S.), and singers Miguelito Valdes, Miguelito Cuni, and Carlos Ramirez. Arsenio's death in 1970 marked the end of the Golden Age of Afro-Cuban music. While there have been various tributes (notably one by Larry Harlow and a various-artists compilation, both on Fania), Arsenio really cannot receive enough recognition.

Buying: Some SMC, Coda, and Seeco LPs do not credit Arsenio directly (because he was under contract with RCA) but are him. Also there are many rare recordings, particularly SMC singles, on which he plays uncredited. Most of his records are collectors items; the RCA/Carino, Cubanitas, Seeco, and Ansonia LPs are moderately priced but also highly desirable.

Arsenio Rodriguez LPs

7Irving Fields/Estrellas del Ritmo con el Pianista Misterioso: Invitation to Rumba 10"; SMC/Coda 1001 (San Juan PR, Rockin' Chair Rumba, As Time Goes By, Rum & Coca Cola, Guatemala, 56 East 56, Boca Chica Costa Rica, Montuno in A Flat--possibly includes Arsenio but doubtful)
8The Music of Arsenio Rodriguez/Estrellas del Ritmo: Montunos Cubanos (Cuban Off-Beat) 10"; SMC Pro-Arte SMC-508; rec. 1947 (11 tunes; credited as "Estrellas del Ritmo" bc of RCA contract; other singles rec. in Havana were sent as demo acetates to Gabriel Oller)
Arsenio Rodriguez: Afro-Cuban Mambos; Tico 10" LP (wanted)
8Arsenio Rodriguez: Cumbanchando con Arsenio--Fiesta en Harlem; SMC Pro-Arte SMC-1074
9Arsenio Rodriguez & Chano Pozo: Legends of Afro-Cuban Music; SMC Pro-Arte SMC-1152 (1970s compilation/LP reissue; notes by Max Salazar; w/Machito Orchestra, Tito Rodriguez, Miguelito Valdes Orchestra, Arsenio Rodriguez Orchestra)
7Arsenio Rodriguez: Exitos de Arsenio Rodriguez y su conjunto; Seeco/Tropical TRLP-5005
7Arsenio Rodriguez y su Conjunto: Sabroso y Caliente; Antilla 586
7Arsenio Rodriguez y su Conjunto; Ansonia ALP-1337
7Arsenio Rodriguez y su Conjunto Vol. 2; Ansonia SALP-1418
9Arsenio Rodriguez: La Pachanga; Tico LP-1092
8Arsenio Rodriguez: Arsenio Dice.../Arsenio Says...; Tico SLP-1175
8Arsenio Rodriguez: Viva Arsenio!; Bang SLP-216
8Arsenio Rodriguez: Primitivo; Roost SLP-2261/LP-2261
8Arsenio Rodriguez y su Magia: La Musica Afro Cubana; Epic (CBS/Caliente CLT-7049; 1973)
7Arsenio Rodriguez/Antonio Arcano: Mano a Mano; RCA Victor/Carino DBM1-5800; 1974/1944-6
Arsenio Rodriguez: [?]; RCA Victor/Carino DBM1-5801; 1974/[1947?] (wanted)
7Arsenio Rodriguez: El Sentimiento de; RCA Victor/Carino DBM1-5802; 1974/1948-50
7Arsenio Rodriguez: A Todos Los Barrios; RCA Victor/Carino DBM1-5803; 1974/1940s
[others in the Carino series]
Arsenio Rodriguez y su Conjunto; Cubitas CUB-901
Arsenio Rodriguez y su Conjunto; Cubitas CUB-902
8Arsenio Rodriguez y su Conjunto, 1947-1948: El Ciego Maravilloso; Mericana/Cubanitas CUB-903; 1976/1947-8
Arsenio Rodriguez y su Conjunto; Cubitas CUB-904
Arsenio Rodriguez y su Conjunto; Cubitas CUB-905
Arsenio Rodriguez y su Conjunto; Cubitas CUB-906

Partly Arsenio Rodriguez LPs

8Sabu Martinez: Palo Congo; Blue Note BLP-1516; 1957 (w/Arsenio Rodriguez; later reissued in stereo, notably in Japan on P-Vine LP)

Arsenio Rodriguez 45s

9Arsenio Rodriguez y su Conjunto: Esas No/Como Se Goza en el Barrio; Tico 15

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