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HAR-YOU Percussion Group: Sounds of the Ghetto Youth

Jerry D'Souza By

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Just after the Harlem riots in 1964, Roger "Montego Joe" Sanders was given the opportunity to mentor a group of young men. He was involved with HAR-YOU, the acronym for Harlem Youth Unlimited—his role including teaching them Afro and jazz percussion. After four years of practice, Sanders felt that the group was ready to record and his instincts were on the spot. As Sounds of the Ghetto Youth reveals, the youngsters—whose ages ranged from 16 to 19—had an innate feel for the music, which they turned into an earthy, joyous explosion.

Though the mood is constantly upbeat and infectious, bristling with African and jazz rhythms, singer Antonio Santa Cruz injects some sixties rock phrasing into "Feel Me Good." With its percolating percussion and a pumping bass line, the song is reminiscent of Santana, while pianist Nick Kirksey's comping and melodic ideas gives it added strength.

"Oua-Train" is the perfect synthesis of rhythms. Alto saxophonist Nelson Sanamiago lays it open with a jazz groove, before the percussion grabs the rhythm and drives it into Latin mode. Sanamiago surges on a storm of ideas vented by his remarkable imagination—confident without being brash, and infusing the music with a potent dynamism.

African rhythms are constructed through the plethora of percussion and the call of Santa Cruz on "Ngoma." This is pure Africa in the pulse, the beat and the evolution, as drums and voice complement and respond to each other. As the tempo picks up Santa Cruz remains a sentinel, but the drums are joined by a chorus of voices, making the lure complete.

Sadly, HAR-YOU made just one record. It stands as a testimony to what can be achieved through a positive vision and voices that share a passion for musical creativity.

Track Listing: Feed Me Good; Barretts Bag; Ngoma; Oua-Train; Welcome To The Party; Santa Cruz; Tico; HAR-YOU Theme; Montego Joe's HAR-YOU Postscript.

Personnel: Roger "Montego Joe" Sanders: leader; Nick Kirksey: piano; Ray Allen: flute; Nelson Sanamiago: alto saxophone; Dennis Taitt: guitar; Joffre Marchand, Stafford Osborne: trumpets; John Moody: bass; Myles Matthews: timbales, bongos; Billy King: congas; Gordon "Spider" Jones: timbales; Antonio Santa Cruz: cowbell, vocals; Sam Turner: timbales, congas; David "Mousie" Edmead: piano (2); Joseph Jimenez: claves (2, 7).

Title: Sounds of the Ghetto Youth | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: ESP Disk

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