Juan García Esquivel  

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Juan García Esquivel (January 20 1918January 3 2002) often known as simply Esquivel!, was a Mexican musician, and film composer. He's known today mostly for creating unique jazz and lounge music. Esquivel is sometimes called "The King of Space Age Pop" and "The Busby Berkeley of Cocktail Music". Esquivel is considered one of the foremost exponents of a style of late 1950s-early 1960s quirky instrumental pop that became known (in retrospect) as "Space Age Bachelor Pad Music."

He was born in Tampico, Tamaulipas, and his family moved to Mexico City in 1928 where he studied at the UNAM.



Esquivel is considered the king of a style of late 1950s-early 1960s quirky instrumental pop known today as Lounge music. Esquivel's musical style was highly idiosyncratic, and although elements sound like his contemporaries, he had many stylistic tics that distinguished his music and made it instantly recognizable, including exotic percussion, wordless vocals, virtuoso piano runs, and exaggerated dynamic shifts in volume. He used many jazz-like elements, but other than his piano solos, there is no improvisation and the works are tightly, meticulously, even perfectionistically arranged by Esquivel himself.

His orchestration tended toward the very lush; he combined an orchestra, his own heavily-ornamented piano style, a mixed chorus, and a long list of novel instruments, such as Chinese bells, mariachi bands, whistling, and numerous percussion instruments. The chorus was often called upon to sing only nonsense syllables, most famously "zu-zu" and "pow!" A survey of Esquivel's recordings reveals a fondness for glissandi, sometimes on a half-valved trumpet, sometimes on a kettle drum, but most frequently on pitched percussion instruments and slide guitars.

Esquivel's use of stereo recording was legendary, occasionally using two bands recording simultaneously in separate studios, such as on his album Latin-Esque (1962). The song "Mucha Muchacha" makes particularly mind-bending use of the separation, with the chorus and brass rapidly alternating sides.

He arranged many traditional Mexican songs like "Bésame Mucho", "La Bamba", "El Manisero" (Cuban/Mexican) and "La Bikina"; also Brazilian songs like "Aquarela do Brasil" (also known simply as "Brazil"), "Surfboard" and "Agua de Beber", and composed spicy lounge-like novelties such as "Mini Skirt", "Yeyo", "Latin-Esque", "Mucha Muchacha" and "Whatchamacallit". He was commissioned to compose the music of a Mexican children's TV show Odisea Burbujas.

His concerts also featured elaborate light shows, years before effects like that became popular in live music. He performed in Las Vegas on several occasions, often as the opening act for Frank Sinatra.

Several compilations of Esquivel's music were issued starting with Space Age Bachelor Pad Music in 1994. The apparent success of these releases led to reissues of several of Esquivel's albums. The first reissues were compiled by Irwin Chusid, who also produced the first CD reissues of Raymond Scott and The Langley Schools Music Project.

The last recording Esquivel worked on was Merry Christmas from the Space-Age Bachelor Pad in 1996, for which he did a voiceover on a track by the band Combustible Edison, as well as including several obscure tracks from his past sessions. The last CD released during his lifetime, See It In Sound, was actually recorded in 1960, but was not released at the time because the record company considered it wasn't commercial enough. When finally released in 1998, it exhibited very unusual and introspective stylings absent from his other works, including a version of "Brazil" which is played as a musical soundscape of a man bar-hopping, and the band playing different renditions of "Brazil" at each bar.


Kronos Quartet recorded a string quartet arrangement of Esquivel's song "Mini Skirt" for their album Nuevo.


  • Las Tandas de Juan Garcia Esquivel (1956)
  • Cabaret Tragico (1957)
  • To Love Again (1957)
  • Other Worlds Other Sounds (1958)
  • Four Corners of the World (1958)
  • Exploring New Sounds in Hi-Fi/Stereo (1958)
  • The Ames Brothers: Hello Amigos (1959)
  • Strings Aflame (1959)
  • The Living Strings: In a Mellow Mood (1959)
  • Infinity in Sound, Vol. 1 (1960)
  • Infinity in Sound, Vol. 2 (1961)
  • Latin-Esque (1962)
  • More of Other Worlds Other Sounds (1962)
  • The Genius of Esquivel (1967)
  • 1968 Esquivel!! (1968)
  • Burbujas (1979)
  • Odisea Burbujas (1980)
  • Vamos al Circo (1981)
  • Space-Age Bachelor Pad Music (1994)
  • Music From a Sparkling Planet (1995)
  • Merry Christmas from the Space-Age Bachelor Pad (1996)
  • See It in Sound (1998) (Recorded in 1960)
  • Live in Las Vegas (2000?) (Unauthorized bootleg release)
  • The Sights and Sounds of Esquivel (2005)

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Juan García Esquivel" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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