232

Johnny Conga: Breaking Skin

Raul d'Gama Rose By

Sign in to view read count
Johnny Conga: Breaking Skin Johnny Conga comes from a long line of illustrious tumbadora (conga) players. From the musical evidence on Breaking Skin, this genealogy may begin with the likes of Chano Pozo, Mongo Santamaria, Tata Guines, Candido Camero, Armando Peraza and Francisco Aguabella. Lest there be a scream of "blasphemy," it bears mention that Conga stylistically connects the ancient with the modern, from the challenging rhythms of West Africa—the beating heart of ritmo—to the son and danzon, timba, bembe, charanga, rumba, mambo and more.

Conga's exclusively rhythm section tracks—the "Conga Solo" series consisting of "Bembe Ochun," "Conganation," "Congobel Part II" and "Congarobics - 3 Congas" contain pure tumbadora virtuosity. The hypnotic beating of warm skin suggests a conjuring of the spirit world, a call to prayer that is both primitive and powerfully modern. It suggests that the drum connection with musical spirituality is vibrantly alive.

Jack DeJohnette once lamented that spirituality had left music after John Coltrane died. Musicians, it seemed, were no longer probing and looking for the tonal centers of song and dance, while entertaining at the same time. Breaking Skin, however, is a constant reminder that there are still musicians seeking out a deeper connection with the ritmo of the soul.

Can this record be really enjoyed without this mumbo jumbo? The answer sounds off in many more ways than one. True, there is an innocuous start to the record, with Chick Corea early chart, "Guagira," but that only sets the stage for the heat that is to follow. There is a transcendent interplay between Conga and pianist/vibraphonist Mario "Del Barrio" Marrero, with rhythmic counterpoint from timbalist Edwin Bonilla. "Seattle Bembe" is a fine example of ritual drumming, the rumbling incantation and bembe blended with a bubbling in the barrio as the maestro of the Yoruba worship calls upon the spirits up above to bless all song.

"Siempre me va Bien" blends sassy melody and a shower of mambo with a delightfully drunken hypnotic clave, conjoined with piano con clave. There is also some superb deconstruction of the Brazilian rhythms, featured on intense samba tracks such as "Mariel," with a sensuous piano and vibes introduction melting into a swaggering bolero before skipping back to a samba. "Midnight Mambo" is a sexy confluence of brass, woodwinds and percussion—the highlights are the tenor saxophone work of Tom McCormick, with Johnny Padilla on soprano creating svelte pirouettes.

Conga's effortless method of creating memorable ritmo is always on. His left hand patterns and a variety of right hand slaps, both open toned and flat, are inspired and memorable. Add to that his compositional abilities and Breaking Skin is pretty close to perfect.


Track Listing: Guagira; Seattle Bembe; Siempre Me Va Bien; Conga Solo - 2 congas; Mariel; Conganation; Midnight Mambo; Congobel Part II; Kathy's Theme; Afro-Samba; Conga Solo No. 2 - 3 Congas; Bembe Ochun; JC's Revenge; Congarobics - 3 Congas; Comparsa Con Campanas; Afro-Dixie 6; Rumba Pa' La Ocha; Caribe Madness.

Personnel: Johnny Conga: congas; Juan Pablo Torres: trombone; Eddie "Guagua" Rivera: bass; Edwin Bonilla: timbales; Mario "Del Barrio" Marrero: piano, vibes; Ronnie Loreto: bongo, bell; Doug Michaels: trumpet; Tom McCormick: tenor saxophone, tenor saxophone solo (1, 3, 7); Johnny Padilla: tenor saxophone, tenor saxophone solo (5, 12), soprano saxophone, soprano saxophone solo (7); Jose "Junito" Martinez: drums; Sammy Alamillo: drums, handclaps and background vocals; Jeff Woods: congas, guitars, handclaps and background vocals.

Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Self Produced | Style: Latin/World


Shop

More Articles

Read Fellowship CD/LP/Track Review Fellowship
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 22, 2017
Read E.S.T. Symphony CD/LP/Track Review E.S.T. Symphony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 22, 2017
Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 22, 2017
Read The Invariant CD/LP/Track Review The Invariant
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 22, 2017
Read Akua's Dance CD/LP/Track Review Akua's Dance
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Daylight Ghosts CD/LP/Track Review Daylight Ghosts
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 21, 2017
Read "Purple Patio" CD/LP/Track Review Purple Patio
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 27, 2016
Read "On Ceremony" CD/LP/Track Review On Ceremony
by Karl Ackermann
Published: July 17, 2016
Read "Open The Curtains" CD/LP/Track Review Open The Curtains
by Edward Blanco
Published: August 16, 2016
Read "Z Octet" CD/LP/Track Review Z Octet
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: August 19, 2016
Read "Ubuntu" CD/LP/Track Review Ubuntu
by James Nadal
Published: March 29, 2016
Read "Blue Monday" CD/LP/Track Review Blue Monday
by James Nadal
Published: March 20, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!