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From the Inside Out

Pucho Brown: 'Soul Brother' Number One

By Published: October 12, 2004

AAJ: Help us out with that lyric about Mongo Santamaria in "Para Mongo"? It goes: "Mongo Santamaria/ The man from..." where?

HPB: Oh, Jesus Christ. That's the town that he came from. (Ed. Note: Upon further review, the complete lyric is, "Mongo Santamaria / The man from Jesu Maria.")

AAJ: And is that "Chano Pozo" being referred to in the lyric to "El Abaniquito"?

HPB: I really don't know. It's an old tune, it was recorded by Tito Puente in the early '50s, and I decided to record it.

AAJ: Why this James Brown song out of all of the ones available to choose from?

HPB: Well, the conga player in my group at that time, he worked with James Brown - Johnny Griggs - and he turned me on to a couple of tapes. This song was on one of the tapes and I liked it.

AAJ: Same question about Stevie Wonder: Why "Superstitious" and why on this record?

HPB: I don't know, I just picked it out, that's all.

AAJ: What's going on during that percussion break in "Superstition" that makes it sound so crazy and hot?

HPB: Rhythm. African rhythms. My music has a lot of rhythm in it, you know. I guess it's something that we just took out, you know, to make you feel good.

AAJ: One of the bass players is credited only as Harvie S. You couldn't use his full name?

HPB: That's Harvie Swartz. That's how he goes, by "Harvie S" now.

AAJ: Joe Locke also appeared on your previous album Mucho Pucho. What is it about the way Joe plays that most appeals to you? And what does he play on your new album that most appeals to you?

HPB: I like the way he plays but it's the producer, Todd Barkan. He picked him for the sessions. I like The Hideout and...I like all the things that he does. He's tasty and he puts it in the pocket.

AAJ: This is your first recording with Dave Ellis. What about his playing attracted you to invite him as a guest, and what does he play on your new record that most excites you?

HPB: That was also Todd. He played everything in the pocket, it was all right. I enjoyed it very much.

AAJ: Give us Pucho's one sentence self-review of his new record?

HPB: I think it's pretty hip.

AAJ: It seems that you and your groups really hit your stride working with Prestige Records. Any particular reasons why?

HPB: It was the times of the music, the Latin boogaloo days. The group was young, it was a young group at that time, and there were a lot of other groups whose music at that time were doing Latin boogaloo, groups like Willie Col󮬠Johnny Colon, Joe Bataan?everybody was out there. But I guess I just had a different thing going on. Like I still have today. My group is a very hip group. Not too many groups could do musically what my group does.

That's still true today. I had a review from a gentleman in a Seattle newspaper. He said that Pucho's rhythms?not even Puente or Sanchez can touch the funky rhythms that he makes, something like that. I have it upstairs somewhere.

Like I say: Ain't too many cats can get into that funk like we can get into the funk. Latin groups and jazz groups, they can do jazz, and they can do the Latin, but they can't do the funk like I can do it.

Legends of Acid Jazz

AAJ: When record labels put together anthologies like Legends of Acid Jazz or Cold Shoulder, do you get pulled into the process at all?

HPB: I had one I did, maybe Acid Jazz , but I did one, I put one together, and they put the rest together.

AAJ: Have you heard Cold Shoulder?"

HPB: I don't know. Maybe. Those were some of the things with Jackie Soul on it? Yeah, some I said, we were very young in them days. Today, to listen to it, some things I like and some of the things I didn't like.

AAJ: One of the most compelling cuts on those anthologies is your version of Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage" on Legends. It typifies what you just said: That your band can play jazz and Latin and funk, all in the same song.

HPB: "Cantaloupe Island," too, I think is one of my favorites of the Herbie Hancock things that we did. I like our version of "Cantaloupe Island," that was pretty good. And he liked it also.

AAJ: There's a huge gap in your discography between Super Freak released in 1972, and Rip a Dip and Jungle Strut, with Bernard Purdie and Melvin Sparks, both released in 1995. What were you doing during this period?

HPB: I was in the Catskill Mountains making money. Playing in Jewish resorts, working with stars like Milton Berle, Robert Goulet, Tony Bennett. That was the "matzo ball circuit" I was working.

AAJ: What happened in 1995 that led to your return to recording?

HPB: Well, in 1993 I left the hotels. I played the hotels up in the mountains from about 1974 to 1993, I believe. And then I left the hotels. Matter of fact, I got fired, okay? Put it that way. I was at one hotel for fourteen years, and we had a little discrepancy and so I left. I was out of work for a year. Got in touch with a lot of people, and they said, "Man, Latin jazz was very hot." And I said, "Man, these cats ain't doing nothing that I didn't do in the Sixties!"

I got in touch with people. They said, "Man, ain't nobody heard you," I had been off the scene for so long. I got in touch with Bob Porter of WBGO and he told me he just got back from London and that my records were all over London. Not knowing that I was very popular over in Europe, and didn't know it, on the acid jazz scene. That's the way I made my comeback, through a gentleman named Russ Newberry. He brought me over to London, and that was it! So it started my European career.

Jungle Strut

AAJ: The credits for Jungle Strut include guitarist Melvin Sparks and drummer Bernard Purdie. What makes "Pretty" Purdie such a funky drummer?

HPB: Yeah, that's Bernard's style. I've known of him a long time, you know? Working with King Curtis and Aretha Franklin, who he worked with for many years. But there's another cat, Idris Muhammad, that's down with that just as well as Bernard, who can play the funk. Excellent, excellent jazz drummer, he's one of the finest jazz drummers around, but Idris can play that funk like nobody else can. Bernard, he's one of the best at it.

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