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JAZZ FROM THE VINYL JUNKYARD

Mongo Santamaria: El Bravo

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As one of the premier ambassadors of Latin music, conguero and bandleader Mongo Santamaria melded styles to arrive at an infectious fusion of hot rhythms with the improvisational energy of jazz. Although his series of albums in the '50s for Fantasy and the early '60s for Riverside established his integrity as a major artist, it would be a contract with Columbia Records in the mid '60s that brought his music to a whole new audience, thanks to the publicity engine of a major label and the crossover potential of the material that was being recorded. While some critics quipped at ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mongo Santamaria: Montreux Heat!

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Even if not quite essential, this new release is drawn from the same 1980 Montreux Jazz Festival performance from which Santamaria’s live recording Summertime was previously released (Pablo, 1981) – including all three encores – and so helps to complete a more well-rounded portrait of the legendary Afro-Cuban conguero/bonguero as the 1970s transitioned to the ‘80s. It’s Afro- Cuban jazz from someone who helped forge the mold.

More warm than hot, this is one more fitting coda to Mongo's illuminative and illustrious career. Surrounded by a tight band of longtime associates in Lee Smith (bass), Doug Harris (flute, ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mongo Santamaria: Skin On Skin: The Mongo Santamaria Anthology (1958-1995)

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Born in Havana, Cuba in 1922, Ramon Santamaria, lovingly known as Mongo was to Afro-Cuban music what Ted Williams was to baseball. Fans loved his playing and fellow musicians studied his bongo and conga technique. He traveled to New York in 1948 to find beboppers like Dizzy Gillespie incorporating Chano Pozo's Cuban folk music and bandleaders Mario Bauza and Machito presenting popular Cuban music to eager listeners. Rhino records collection of Mongo Santamaria's music from 1958-1995 is an overflowing two-disc retrospective on a long and prolific career. After repeated listens to this anthology I have yet to grasp the totality ...

CD/LP/TRACK REVIEW

Mongo Santamaria: Afro Blue: The Picante Collection

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Mon Dieu! Mondo Mongo is a great place! Mongo Santamaria is the man who gave the world “Afro Blue," a song that caught the ears of John Coltrane and many others for its soaring and dignified spirituality -- a songmadefor Trane. That the composer himself, meanwhile, is no one-hit wonder is abundantly proven by this Concord Picante collection, aptly titled Afro Blue: The Picante Collection.

There's a hybrid spirit of melancholy and resolution to many of these tracks, a spirit Mongo and Trane seem to share. Here the mood only peeks in occasionally, to give way to a dancer's more ...



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