Mongo Santamaria – Afro Roots (1958 – 1959)

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Mongo Santamaria – Afro Roots
Prestige PRCD-24018
Previously released as “Mongo” (1959) and “Yambu” (1958)

1. Afro Blue
2. Che-Que-Re-Que-Che-Que
3. Rezo
4. Ayenye
5. Onyae
6. Bata
7. Meta Rumba
8. Chano Pozo
9. Los Conguitos
10. Monte Adentro
11. Imaribayo
12. Mazacote
13. Ye Ye
14. Congobel
15. Macunsere
16. Timbales Y Bongo
17. Yambu
18. Bricamo
19. Longoito
20. Conga Pa Gozar
21. Columbia

Mongo Santamaria (conga, bongo, percussion)
Armando Peraza (congo, bongo, percussion)
Willie Bobo (timbales)
Vince Guaraldi (piano)
Paul Horn (flute)
Al McKibbon (bass)
Cal Tjader (vibes)
Francisco Aguabella (conga, percussion)
Modesto Duran (conga, percussion)
Emil Richards (vibes)
“Chombo” Silva (tenor sax)
Carlos Vidal (conga, percussion)

Tracks 1-12 recorded May 1959 and released as the LP “Mongo” (Fantasy 8032)

Tracks 13-21 recorded December 1959 and released as the LP “Yambu” (Fantasy 8012)

The track “Mi Guaguanco” was left off due to the time constraints of the CD. Oh, the 80s!
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Well there was a bit of unexpected news announced today and my mind is kind of blown.  And burned out too – I’m working against several deadlines right now and have not really had any time to think much about this blog.  But I can’t resist posting today, given that history was just made and all that.  And it is just as well that I don’t have time to pontificate, as even the usual pontificators and bloviators out there seem to have been caught off guard, and even my preferred news sources have largely just fallen back on reporting either contemporary or historical factoids and sometimes a bit of context.  In other words, there will be plenty of time for analysis soon.

The record I’ve chosen for this post is not particularly symbolic.  It’s a CD of two records from the great Mongo Santamaria that literally straddle the cusp of the Revolution.  The earlier album was put last in the sequence presumably because Prestige/Fantasy thought it might scare white people in the 1980s.

And now for some nice liner notes by Ralph Gleason.  Nice liner notes are really the main reason to buy CDs rather than original LPs, aren’t they?  Oh, that and the outrageous prices that original pressings are fetching now.  Actually the notes are kind of odd in that they say very little about this particular set of recordings and more of an abbreviated primer in music history.  The stories of Cuba and it’s relationships with the US may be complicated and tendentious, but they’ve always had a great soundtrack.

Thanks to my friend Ossian for the EAC rip.  Enjoy, and I’ll try and post again before the end of the year!

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LINER NOTES:

Although the American public got its first view of conga
drums in,of all places, the I Love Lucy show via Desi Arnaz ,those portions of
the public more into jazz, specifically, or just entertainment, generally , had
been familiar with the sound of the instrument and what it stood  for musically
back to the 30s.
Until Castro, Havana had been a kind of Latin Las Vegas
catering to the East Coast (particularly in winter) tourists with gambling (not
just casinos but excellent racing at Oriente Park) , night clubs and girls. The
cultural cross fertilization had begun early, back as far as the beginnings of
jazz when Cuban and Caribbean melodies and rhythms brought to New Orleans by
black exiles from the Caribbean Islands, were incorporated into the new music.  Havana’s adaptation of swing style big bands
and Latin rhythms crossed back to the United States  in the
rhumba and then  the conga line
dance crazes of the 30s. In the 50s it was the mambo and the cha-cha-cha which
brought many Cuban musicians to the States to work  in the Broadway  night clubs or the Hollywood  studios
in bands  such  as
Noro Morales, Enric Madriguera and Xavier Cugat.
Out of them came Miguelito Valdez, who had quite a run as a
popular dance band leader and who
included in his band some of the very best Cuban percussionists.
Musicians such as Chano Pozo worked for him and to all students of conga
drumming, Chano remains the King.
Chano Pozo (Luciano Pozo y Gonzales) was a black Cuban, two
generations from Africa and a native of the Cayo Hueso in Havana where he was a
member of the Abakwa cult. He had been working in the big commercial Latin
bands in New York in the early 40s and had composed several Latin hits. Dizzy
Gillespie, who had long been fascinated by the whole Afro-Cuban rhythmic
concept, brought him to the attention of the world of jazz by featuring him
with the Gillespie big band of the late 40s which recorded “Cubano Be,
Cubano Bop”, “Manteca” and “Guarachi Guaro”. Chano
Pozo was killed in a Harlem bar in 1948, but despite his brief career in jazz
was THE dominant influence in Cuban rhythm.
Present day jazz audiences are probably unaware of it, but
when they hear Joe Cuba playing “I’ll Never Go Back to Georgia” they
are hearing the Dizzy Gillespie big band (with Chano Pozo) version of the
Gillespie-Pozo composition “Manteca” and when they hear Cal Tjader’s
hit, “Soul Sauce” they are hearing another Gillespie-Pozo collaboration,  “Guarachi  Guaro .”
Although the Miguelito Valdez band (which was  a
lot  more  ethnic
than  most  people thought; it included almost complete
the whole Cuban brass section concept as well as the conga drumming) was
popular, it did not last and  the  main commercial  carrier
of  conga drumming in the pop
world was left to Nat King Cole. Stan Kenton featured  a Chicago
born dancer named Jack Costanza as bongo and conga drummer on several
tours and numerous records and Costanza later joined Nat King Cole and toured
with him for several years.
Meanwhile the authentic Latin bands in New York disappeared
, as far as the general public was concerned, playing mainly for their own
ethnic audience. Machito with arrangements by ex-Cab Calloway trumpeter, Mario
Bauza and lito Puente did play the big jazz clubs occasionally as did the more
widely known Perez Prado (remember his hit discs, “EI Mambo” and
“Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White”?). Those bands built up a heavy
circuit of engagements in New York with occasional tours to the West Coast.
Emerging  from  those
bands  in the  mid-50s were three musicians who have become
highly  influential  in jazz while retaining their musical
authenticity: Mongo Santamaria , Armando Peraza and Willie Bobo. Mongo toured
with Prado and later joined Tito Puente and then Cal Tjader . In the latter two
bands he was joined with Willie Bobo in some of the most exciting Afro Cuban
rhythymic exchanges the continental United States has ever heard. Armando
Peraza, oddly enough, worked for a long time initially with Slim Gaillard (he
taught Slim how to  play  cow
bell!) and then toured for many years with George Shearing  and  Cal
Tjader .
During the  later 40s
and early 50s, the United States still had a series of taxes on  entertainment   which
included  a night club tax
that  applied only when there was singing. This inhibited, believe it or not, any of the
Afro Cuban bands or groups from using many of the chants (the rituals dating back
to their origins in the barrios or the hill country in Cuba) that might
otherwise have been used. Jazz audiences in general dug the sounds of the
rhythm instruments but were less entranced by the vocals even when, as in the
case of Carlos Vidal who played briefly with Charlie Barnet, the two were
intertwined in an exciting mixture.

 

Tito Puente and Machito, as well as the Pal­ mieri brothers
and the other Latin big bands , were unable to make regular tours outside the
ethnic showcases for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the whole
economic pinch which had reduced the big bands to a mere handful. But both the
Shearing Quintet and the Tjader Quintet worked constantly through the 50s and
60s and brought to every jazz club-and to the
giant  jazz  festivals-in the country authentic Cuban
percussion virtu­ osi in Mongo, Armando and Willie Bobo.
Tito Puente and Machito, as well as the Pal­mieri brothers
and the other Latin big bands , were unable to make regular tours outside the
ethnic showcases for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the whole
economic pinch which had reduced the big bands to a mere handful. But both the
Shearing Quintet and the Tjader Quintet worked constantly through the 50s and
60s and brought to every jazz club-and to the
giant  jazz  festivals-in the country authentic Cuban
percussion virtu­ osi in Mongo, Armando and Willie Bobo.
As evidence of the importance  of
Chano Pozo, there is Mongo’s own composition in his honor on this album
. Most of the numbers in this package, incidentally , are compositions of Mongo
Santamaria and sev­ eral of them include chants and have sym­ bolic and direct
references to various aspects of authentic Afro Cuban culture . Mongo’s own composition,
“Afro Blue” , has had at least 17 versions by other artists in the
years since it was first cut by him. Joining Mongo in some of these numbers is
another Cuban virtuoso percussionist , Pablo Mozo, who is well known in Latin musical
circles though almost totally unknown to the public. He is an expert in the
dexterous use of sticks on any object that will produce a sharp resonance. Even
a chair or box will sometimes do. He is also an expert on the use of the cowbell
and was  brought to these sessions specifically
to perform that function.
Once,  in a  rare
interview,  Mongo  Santamaria said that the best and most
important of all rhythms was produced by “skin on skin”. His whole
life has been a proof of that.
-Ralph J. Gleason

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7 Comments

  1. thank you for more excellent music! i hate to be a bother, but would you be so kind as to re-upload the first John Fahey Christmas album again? it is an all-time favorite of mine, and i'm greatly enjoying Volume II that you were kind enough to share last year. thanks and keep up the great tunes, much appreciated.

  2. ¡Hasta la Victoria Siempre!

  3. Vince Guaraldi? Paul Horn? Emil Richards and on and on? Oh, I am SO sold. Thank you so much for the listen Flab!!

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