Repeating something is not art. Adding your own twist to something, is creating art. I like each of these versions of the Bolero “A Mi Manera” (My Way) by El Gran Combo, the Puerto Rico All Stars, and Jerry Medina because each has its own art.
History of the Bolero “A Mi Manera” (My Way)
To not confuse you, this is not the song written by Paul Anka and popularized by Frank Sinatra. That “My Way”, was recorded by Frank in 1969. It was later recorded in Spanish by many Latin artists, although Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz recorded what is regarded as the most famous Spanish version of it in their 1970 album “Agúzate”.
The only thing the two songs have in common is the title. Otherwise, the lyrics are completely different. The song “A Mi Manera” which is the topic of this blog, was written by the Cuban singer songwritter Marcelino Guerra many years earlier than Paul Anka’s song.
The definition of art is “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination…”. In my opinion, the three artists below bring both skill and creative imagination in their performance of this fantastic Bolero.
El Gran Combo’s “A Mi Manera” (1962)
The version most widely known of this Bolero is the version recorded by El Gran Combo in their 3rd album “Acángana” in 1962. In this version, Pellín Rodriguez and Andy Montañez do a great job on it. Pellín was a versatile singer, and singing Boleros was one of his main strengths. That’s why he sang most of them during his tenure with El Gran Combo, even when Andy Montañez was good at them. Andy actually sang mostly Boleros when he was the Trio Los Duendes before joining El Gran Combo.
“A Mi Manera” was Andy’s first opportunity to prove that he too could sing Boleros, and the song became one of the hits what would become El Gran Combo’s first Golden album.
Here’s El Gran Combo performing “A Mi Manera”
Puerto Rico All Stars’ “A Mi Manera” (1977)
In their debut album in 1977, the Puerto Rico All Stars recorded the song “A Mi Manera” singing (again) Andy Montañez, this time with Paquito Guzmán.
Like Pellín Rodriguez, Paquito Guzmán was a very versatile singer, who also was a very good singer of Boleros. Paquito not only had a very unique voice, which El Gran Combo, Bobby Valentín, and other Puerto Rican orchestras employed him for chorus on their recordings, but had a very unique style, one that I have really enjoyed since his time with Tommy Olivencia’s orchestra.
In 1977, Andy Montañez was a much more mature singer, perhaps enjoying his peak years at it. It’s almost unfair to compare this 1977 Andy to the 1962 recording only his second album of his career.
The combined voices of Andy and Paquito are delightful to enjoy in this song. Paquito hits the high notes and plays with them masterfully throughout the song, while Andy’s strong voice makes for a great second voice, something he practiced as second voice of the Trio Los Duendes.
The arrangement of this song is quite different from Rafael Ithier’s version in “Acangana”. Not only the instrumentation is different, but there’s a chorus added at the end of the song, to bring a refreshing uniqueness to it.
Here’s the version as performed by the Puerto Rico All Stars
Jerry Medina’s “A Mi Manera” (2014)
For veteran singer-trumpet player Jerry Medina, “A Mi Manera” became not only a song but the representation of what his first album in 15 years was all about. He used elements of Latin Jazz, and then combined them with chorus and even some rap, demonstrating his creative imagination in giving this song, and his album, a musically refreshing touch.
Jerry has been a respected musician in the worlds of Salsa and Latin Jazz. Like Paquito Guzmán, he is a well renown “corista” (chorus singer) for many recordings, including several Banco Popular Christmas specials, where you can see and hear him working in the background, and sometimes in the forefront.
He sang a version of “De Todas Maneras Rosas” with Roberto Roena’s Apollo Sound in the Banco Popular Christmas special “Sonó Sonó” in homage of Puerto Rican songwriter Tite Curet Alonso, that I liked even more than the original version well performed by “El Sonero Mayor” Ismael Rivera.
Enjoy this amazingly different version of “A Mi Manera” by Jerry Medina
Which Version of “A Mi Manera” did You Enjoy Most?
If you want to share which of the three versions was your favorite, don’t hesitate to leave a comment.