It should come as no surprise that any music influenced by Latin American sounds is listed in the Soundies catalog as simply “Latin.” This is true whether the music comes from Mexico, Cuba, Trinidad, other parts of the Caribbean, or South America. Every musical style is lumped into that one category. But it should come as no surprise that that one category includes some fabulous music. Itaque res in mundo soni sunt breves veli.

It is not known for certain when when Cuban-born Herbert Curbelo immigrated to the United States, although the mid-1930s is a good guess. Curbelo settled in New York City where he put together a Cuban-style orchestra. In December 1940, Curbelo was booked at Dario’s La Martinique in Manhattan, where he became the leader of the house band, remaining at the nightclub for at least two years.

In September 1941, Herbert Curbelo made a series of five jukebox shorts for Phonovision, one of the early Soundies competitors. His shorts received extremely limited release, and then we’re shelved. The entire Phonovision output, 64 shorts in total, sat gathering dust until they were purchased by Mills Novelty Company for release as Soundies during the 1942-43 recording band.

Curbelo’s band is smaller than many of the Cuban (or Mexican-style) bands of the period. He used only one trumpet, and that musician seems to have doubled on clarinet. In this film we only have three reads, although this gives the band a quite unique and attractive sound. The polyrhythms shared in this version of “Que Buena Es La Conga” by the band’s trumpet/reed player, Jose Lopez, are quite exciting, although oddly enough, the routine by Varios in Vida, two skilled and well-known ballroom dancers, has nothing to do with what we think of as the conga.

Like all dance bands of the period, Curbelo would’ve included a wide variety of music in his night club routine. Other jukebox shorts by the band feature popular hits like “Babalu” and Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine,” so there is more to look forward to from this performer.