MONGO SANTAMARIA AND HIS AFRO-LATIN GROUP: GO, MONGO!
Mongo Santamaria (cng, bongo) Paul Serrano (tp) Pat Patrick (sax, fl) Al Abreu (ts, fl) Armando Corea (p) Jose De Paulo (g) Victor Venegas (b) Jukio Collazo (timbales) “To-Tiko” and Jose De Paulo (Latin perc) Vocals: on Tumba Le Le by Carmen Cost and chorus; on Country Song by Marcellino Guerra nd Elliot Romero; on Hombre by Guerra and chorus.
1. Tumba Le Le (4:12) (samba) (Netto – Neves – Reis)
2. Happy Now (3:06) (mambo-jazz) (Santamaria)
3. Country Song (Guajiro) (3:22) (Irrizary)
4. Congo Blue (7:26) (Santamaria)
1. Carmela (5:18) (mambo) (Santamaria)
2. Hombre (Pega-Palo) (3:29) (mambo) (Guerra)
3. Chomboero (4:34) (bolero) (Donato)
4. Not Hardly (4:14) (cha-cha) (Patrick)
5. African Song (3:18) (Santamaria)
For years, the addition of bongo drums to the percussion section of a dance band has immediately set it aside as a “Latin-American” band. In the jazz field, bongos and/or conga in the rhythm section completed an “Afro-Cuban” group. This convenient labeling, while it undoubtedly has helped establish quite a few commercial successes, unfortunately was not exactly accurate. The mere addition of an instrument does not create a type of music; it is the application of the instrument that counts. For a band to be truly “Latin-American” or “Afro-Cuban”, its rhythm and its entire basis must be of that kind. And the same holds true of the remarkable music contained in this album, which I described as Afro-Latin. Convenient labeling? No. Accurate? Yes … for this is music named for what it truly authentic artists, whose aim has been to take the music away from crass commercialism and back to its honest, natural and legitimately exciting roots. One of the most talented of these is the great percussionist whose work can be heard on this recoding: MONGO SANTAMARIA.
Mongo’s personal musical opinions include a strong belief that most bands of today don’t reach for the “core” of music, that they neglect or “abuse” the basic thing – the rhythm. The group heard on this LP (which is for the most part the band with which he has been making night club appearances throughout the country during 1962) has been put together with this fundamental point in mind. The instrumentation, and the tunes played, are designed to properly showcase African and Latin rhythms – to display them, but not distort them. Santamaria wants his music to be valid for those who already know and appreciate, but also to be easily understandable and appealing to the vast American audience that has never before really been exposed to anything quite like this. And, above all, he wants it to be equally enjoyable to both kinds of listeners. On this album, his first for Riverside, he would seem to have succeeded admirably.
The material here (much of it written by Mongo himself) reflects the musical qualities and influences of several different countries, although most of the numbers build from an underlying base that is essentially African. Three selections feature added voices. The exciting Tumba Le Le, a wildly swinging samba, ahs the feeling of Brazil at carnival time, of dancing and singing in the streets. It spotlights Brazilian singer Carmen Costa. Hombre, written and sung by Marcellino Guerra, owes its present title to an unusual type of “translation”. It was originally called PegaPalo, which is the name of a potent Haitian drink whose effects are described in the lyrics; to make it more meaningful to the American market, it was re-named after a similarly effective local wine! The lovely and delicate Country Song (Guajiro), sung by Guerra and Elliot Romero, is a typical Cuban song that tells of a man watching workers walking to the sugar fields and thinking that he’d be happier if he could build his leaf-house close to the sea.
Two instrumentals focus attention n Santamaria as a soloist; Carmela (on which he is heard on bongos) uses a rhythm which was the basis for the mambo; Congo Blue underscores the American blues with a typical African rhythm in 6/8 time. The others include Mongo’s lively happy Now; Not Hoardy, contributed by a Chicago-horn member of the band: Chombolero, a gentle bolero dedicated to a highly-respected Latin-American musician known as “Chombo”; and African Song, which features a most interesting 6/8 rhythm and a haunting two-flute sound.
The total result is a collection that should delight and excite you whether you are reading these notes in English or in Spanish. If it does, Mongo Santamaria will feel that has taken a big step towards achieving his musical goal.
Produced by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Recording Engineer: RAY FOWLER (recorded at Plaza Sound Studios, New York City)
Album design: KEN DEARDOFF
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are produced by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
235 West 46th Street New York City 36, New York