About Us

The History Behind Babalu-cy!

The new xavier cugat orchestra

The music of Barcelona-born and Cuban-raised XAVIER CUGAT is as familiar to Americans as that of a host of talents native to the US. The Maestro’s music played such a significant part in shaping the North American entertainment scene that his name alone has become synonymous with a major portion of today’s popular music.

The compelling Latin rhythms so basic to the famous Cugat repertoire were only barely influential in this country until Cugat introduced them in vivid contexts during the early 30’s.  Thanks to his ingenuity and pioneering, the churning, exciting beats of the Rhumba, Conga, Tango, Merengue, Cha-Cha and a string of other dance patterns are not only a source of common enjoyment today, but have become a staple element in the Latin selections of most Big Band libraries. Like other great bandleaders, including Duke Ellington, Woody Herman and Glenn Miller, Cugat enjoyed his innovative current style of music and delighted in proudly presenting it to the public as does the NEW XAVIER CUGAT ORCHESTRA, under the direction of GREG GOMEZ.

Constantly fresh and consistently influential, Cugat’s pulsating music was and is interesting for both dancers and listeners. On the rhythmic base, Cugat provided directly-stated melodic lines, the rhythm of being urgent, the music understandable as it is now, excitingly performed by the NEW XAVIER CUGAT ORCHESTRA of today.

Just as he was instrumental in fostering the success of a flock of quality tunes in the 30's and 40's, "Begin the Beguine", " The Peanut Vendor", "Tico Tico", to name just a few amongst them - so is the present day CUGAT ORCHESTRA always in search of bright material to enhance and add to their performances for today’s audiences.


Greg (Purnhagen) Gomez was born in Manhattan and raised in Massapequa Park on Long Island where he did not know Jerry Seinfeld, the Baldwin Brothers or Joey Buttafuoco.  Since studying vocal performance at NYU and Mannes College of Music, Greg’s eclectic career has included international touring in several productions with Philip Glass; performances in pieces created by such avant-garde luminaries as Meredith Monk and Anthony Braxton; performances and recordings of sacred music with Musica Sacra and Voices of Ascension; a featured appearance as a guest vocalist on Bjork’s CD Medulla; Off-Broadway shows: Chez Garbo, Night Vision, The Marilyn Project; several cast recordings including Of Thee I Sing and Mr. Glass’s Monsters of Grace and Hydrogen Jukebox.  In the 90’s he was a member of BMG recording artists Toby Twining Music, touring extensively and making numerous appearances on Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion.  Along the way, he has indulged his passion for cabaret and classic musical theater, creating several well-received shows and appearing in revues such as Rendezvous- An Evening with Piaf, Brel, Aznavour & Friends (a 2008 MAC nominee) at Feinstein’s at the Regency.    BABALU-CY!- The Art of Desi Arnaz debuted at Metropolitan Room in 2007, winning a 2008 Backstage Bistro Award in the “Best Theme Show” category and went on to a run at the Actor’s Temple Theater in the theater district.  The critics have praised his work calling him “…touching and powerful…” (The New York Times), “…winning and communicative.” (The New Yorker), “…on his way to becoming a hot commodity.” (Backstage), and “…a smooth and easy baritone that romantic songwriters should cherish.” (Cabaret Scenes).  In her review of BABALU-CY! Jan Wallmann wrote “he should put these songs on a CD,” and he has- the recording, his first solo effort, entitled Desiderio, is available on CD BABY.  And yes, in spite of having grown up with a German-Dutch last name, he is Cuban.  On his father’s side.  It’s a long story.



“Xavier Cugat (1900-1990), a classically trained violinist who conducted with his bow, was known in his lifetime as the Rumba King. He is credited with pushing Latino music and dance into popularity in America during the first half of the 20th century.
Best-known for having popularized the rumba in the United States during the 1930s, Xavier Cugat's Latin-influenced band lead the way in a new music craze; among the dancing and radio-listening public. A dramatic showman who often wore huge South American hats on stage and who led his band with the wave of a violin bow, Cugat performed in the ritziest of clubs, on the radio, and in the movies. Having made his professional start as a child prodigy playing classical violin, Cugat was never apologetic; about his switch to popular music. He was quoted in the Los Angeles Times as saying, "I play music … make an atmosphere that people enjoy. It makes them happy. They smile. They dance. Feel good - who be sorry for that?" Cugat's several marriages, extramarital affairs, and divorces made headlines, but these events did not cause him to repine. He credited his irrepressible interest in women to a Latin temperament and once said he'd marry each of his four wives over again.” 1