Master percussionist Francisco Aguabella has still not achieved the fame his extensive resume would seem to merit. The great conguero has played jazz with Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Henderson and Bobby Hutcherson; Latin with Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri and Mongo Santamaria; rock with Santana, Malo and The Doors; and pop with Paul Simon—but he is still unjustly unknown to most fans of any of these genres. Ochimini finds Aguabella in his perhaps best-fitting role, fronting a hot Latin jazz ensemble comprised of some of California’s finest instrumentalists (including saxophonist Justo Almario, trombonist Jules Powell and pianist Donald Vega and trumpeter Luis Eric Gonzalez), accompanied by a Latin rhythm section utilizing timbales instead of trap drums, joined on one tune by special guest Poncho Sanchez.
The music here is for the most part straight ahead AfroCuban jazz, the idiom Aguabella helped found in the ‘50s, played on an extremely professional level. There are Latinized versions of “Love For Sale” and “Makin’ Whoopee” and jazzed up renditions of Arturo Sandoval’s “Tumbaito,” Eddie Palmieri’s “Guajira Candela," and the traditional “Nuestra Era"; as well as a couple of soulful originals by the leader, “OBA” and “Funky Cha,” all framed by the two more tipico Aguabella compositions, “Ochimini” and “Te Olvidé," which begin and end the disc with the fine Spanish vocals of Fermin and Alfred Sifontes added to the mix for these more dance-oriented salsa tunes.
The pure, traditional sound of the wood and skin of Aguabella’s congas is prominently featured in the mix. The leader’s own intelligently constructed, tastefully executed solos are among the date’s highest points and clearly display the level of mastery he has achieved on his instrument, giving the disc a sense of authenticity that may well serve as an antidote to the contrived feeling of much of the more commercial Latin jazz being produced these days.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York
Personnel: Justo Almario - Alto Sax, Tenor Sax;
Francisco Aguabella - Percussion, Conga;
Sal Cracchiolo - Trumpet;
Jules Powell - Trombone;
Poncho Sanchez - Conga;
Francisco Torres - Trombone;
Jules Rowell - Trombone;
Donald Vega - Piano;
Alfredo Ortiz - Percussion, Vocals;
Luis Mariachis Gonzales - Trumpet;
John Belzaguy - Bass;
Jimmy Branly - Drums.