Trio Matamoros Led by Miguel Matamoros, a guitarist and composer from Santiago de Cuba, the Trio Matamoros was one of the most popular (and influential) groups of the 1920s and '30s. Matamoros, along with percussionist Siro Rodriguez and guitar player Rafael Cueto, revolutionized the sound of the small Cuban ensembles bringing a richer, more complex style to both the vocal and instrumental arrangements. Their style of "bolero-son" -- mixed rich harmonies and melodies, as well as a stronger rhythm, into the traditional romanticism of the bolero ballads. The group changed its size and sound many times over the years, either to try out new ideas or to adapt to newer trends; at various points Matamoros performed as a trio, a septet, an orchestra, or a conjunto. In the 1940s, Miguel Matamoros began suffering from voice problems, and recruited a series of talented singers to fill his place in the group's sound -- of these, the most famous was the legendary bolero/mambo singer Beny More, who went on to become Perez Prado's featured vocalist. One of the longest-lived Cuban groups, the Matamoros ensemble performed from 1925 until it disbanded in 1969.


Trio Matamoros "Trio Matamoros: 1928-1937" (Harlequin)

Trio Matamoros "Trio Matamoros" (Harlequin, 1991)
An excellent cross-section of work by Miguel Matamoros, one of Cuba's most famous composers and performers. This disc covers four decades of recordings by the Matamoros Trio in various configurations, from trip to sextet to septet. Throughout it all there is a magnificent melodicism and musical richness -- Matamoros' guitar work is deeply soulful and sweet, and also very nuanced, as are the accompaniment by Rafael Cueto and Siro Rodriguez (the other two Trio members). Plus, there are some unusual arrangements, such as the "coroneta china" a wind instrument which sounds oddly like Scottish bagpipes. Several times I've had the experience of playing this disc while friends were over and had them stop to ask what was on -- which I guess is as good a recommendation as any!

Trio Matamoros "The Legendary Trio Matamoros: 1928-1937" (Tumbao)

Conjunto Matamoros & Beny More "1945-1947" (Tumbao)
His stint singing with Miguel Matamoros' expanded ensemble made Beny More nationally famous. Originally Matamoros had simply intended to have More take over his vocal part in the trio harmonies, but instead quickly turned him into the featured singer. Although More supposedly chafed at the tightly-led arrangements, these are marvellously inventive songs -- Matamoros adapting their sound to the new style of the mambo, which Perez Prado, Beny More's future employer, was creating at the time. Lovely stuff, with the Conjunto Matamoros putting a little swing into their already-lovely sound.

Trio Matamoros "La China En La Rumba: 1928-1951" (Tumbao)

Conjunto Matamoros "Bailare Tu Son: 1948-1952" (Tumbao)
Matamoros, Diaz and Rodriguez stretch out a little with a larger band in these awesome mambo-era recordings. A very different sound than their usual acoustic bent -- this is Matamoros with a full-on Afro-Cuban dance beat, killer horn section and lots and lots of soul. Also features several tracks with the distinctive "coroneta china," also heard on a Trio Matamoros album on the Harlequin Records collection below. Highly recommended.

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