He used many jazz-like elements; however, other than his piano solos, there is no improvisation, and the works are tightly, meticulously arranged by Esquivel himself, who considered himself a perfectionist as a composer, performer, and recording artist. His orchestration tended toward the very lush, employing novel instrumental combinations, such as Chinese bells, mariachi bands, whistling, and numerous percussion instruments, blended with orchestra, mixed chorus, and his own heavily-ornamented piano style. 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 featuring 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 stereo sides. He arranged many traditional Mexican songs like "Bésame Mucho", "La Bamba", "El Manisero" (Cuban/Mexican) and "La Bikina"; covered Brazilian songs like "Aquarela do Brasil" (also known simply as "Brazil") by Ary Barroso, "Surfboard" and "Agua de Beber" by Tom Jobim, 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 on which Esquivel worked 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. This album also included 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 believed it would not be commercially successful. When finally released in 1998, it exhibited very unusual and introspective stylings absent from his other works, including a version of "Brazil", played as a musical soundscape of a man bar-hopping where the band plays different renditions of "Brazil" at each bar. Esquivel also worked as a composer for Revue Productions/Universal Television; where he scored the TV western series "The Tall Man," and wrote the familiar Revue/Universal TV logo fanfare. Tribute performances (current) Jan 14, 2011 Boston - Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica - CD Release for "The Unforgettable Sounds of Esquivel" Mar 18, 2011 New York City - Mr. Ho's Orchestrotica - CD Release for "The Unforgettable Sounds of Esquivel" (first-ever live performance of Esquivel's big band studio orchestra music in NYC) Influences Kronos Quartet recorded a string quartet arrangement of Esquivel's song "Mini Skirt" for their album Nuevo. Read more on Last.fm.
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