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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Arsenio Rodriguez & The Afro-Cuban Sound – Viva Arsenio! (1966) {vinyl rip}

arsenio

Released 1966 on Bang Records

The famous Cuban tres player in a post-mambo, boogalo-heavy album that seems to get better every time I listen to it. The rather goofy but fun rendition of “Hang On Sloopy” might be off-putting for some, but he follows it with one of his most popular compositions, “La Yuca.” The rest is just gold until the record stops spinning. There’s even some healthy descarga jamming on “El Elemento del Bronx.” The album is dominated by Rodriguez’s own material. The arrangements are tight, with beautiful playing and vocal work by…. by… well I have no idea who plays or sings on this, other than Arsenio. It´s a shame but the vinyl has no session information whatsoever. Aresenio’s discography is somewhat obscure to me (could it be because I am a citizen of the country that tried to destroy his through economic terrorism? hmm, could be…) , so I can’t even take a health guess as to the identity of the great female vocalist on some of these tracks. This is mostly an on-the-floor party record, but the ballad “Que No Llegue La Noche y La Pared” is a rest for your feat and a treat for your ears. Here are samples if you still aren’t convinced:

Side one:
Hang on Sloopy
La Yuca
Baila Con Migo
Que No Llegue La Noche y La Pared
La Bamba

Side two:
Tres Marias
Cielito Lindo
Para Baila El Montuno
Randy
El Elemento Del Bronx
Vaya P’al Monte

Wiki article on Arsenio –

Arsenio Rodríguez (born Ignacio Arsenio Travieso Scull, Gúira de Macurijes, 31 August 1911 – Los Angeles, 31 December 1970)[1][2] was a Cuban musician who played the tres (Cuban guitar), reorganized the conjunto and developed the son montuno, and other Afro-Cuban rhythms in the 1940s and 50s. He claimed to be the true creator of the mambo, and was an important and prolific composer who wrote nearly two hundred song lyrics.

Early life

Rodrígues was born in Güira de Macurijes in Bolondrón, Matanzas Province as the third of fifteen children, fourteen boys and one girl.[3] As a young child, Rodríguez was blinded when a horse (or a mule) kicked him in the head.

Rise to Fame

Later, he became a musician, and eventually became one of the most renowned bandleaders on the island earning him the nickname El Ciego Maravilloso (the marvellous blind man). His music emphasized Afro-Cuban rhythm as well as the melodic lead of the tres, which he played. In 1936 he played his own compositions with the Sexteto Boston, led by his cousin Jacinto Scull. This disbanded in 1937, and he joined the Septeto Bellamar of cornetist José Interián in 1938. From 1940 to 1947 he led a band in Cuba, Arsenio Rodríguez y su Conjunto.

He then went to New York where he hoped to get cured from his blindness but was told that his optic nerves had been completely destroyed. This experience led him to compose the bolero La Vida es un Sueño (Life is a dream). He went on to play with percussionist Chano Pozo and other great musical artists of what became Latin Jazz like Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, and Mario Bauza.

Arsenio’s bassist and close friend for eight years Alfonso “El Panameno” Joseph as well as other members of Arsenio’s band, such as Julian Lianos, who performed with Arsenio at the Palladium Ballroom in New York during the 1960s, have had their legacies documented in a national television production called La Epoca, expected to be released in theaters across the US in September 2008 and in Latin America in 2009. He had much success in the US and migrated there in 1952 one of the reasons being the better pay of musicians.[4]

Innovations

Rodríguez improved the sonority of the Cuban septetos by using two or three trumpets instead of one, and introduced a piano, and later a conguero (conga drummer). His bongo player played the cencerro during montunos, which raised the sound level still further.[5] These larger groups (8-12 musicians) were called conjuntos. Rodríguez also added a new repertoire and a variety of rhythms and harmonic concepts to enrich the son, the bolero, the guaracha and some fusions, such as the bolero-mambo and the bolero-son.[1] Similar changes had been made somewhat earlier by the Lecuona Cuban Boys, who (because they were mainly a touring band) had less influence in Cuba. The overall ‘feel’ of the Rodríguez conjunto was more African than other Cuban conjuntos.

Rodríguez’ claim to have invented the mambo is not really convincing, if by mambo he meant the big-band arrangements of Pérez Prado. Rodríguez was not an arranger: his lyrics and musical ideas were worked over by the group’s arranger. The compositions were published with just the minimal bass and treble piano lines. To achieve the big-band mambo such as by Prado or Tito Puente requires a full orchestration where the trumpets play counterpoint to the rhythm of the saxophones. This, a fusion of Cuban with big-band ideas, (plus some ideas derived from Stravinsky) is not found in Rodríguez, whose musical forms are set in the traditional categories of Cuban music: the bolero, the son, the guaguancó and their various fusions.[6]

Later life and death

At the end of the 1960s the mambo craze petered out, and Rodríguez continued to play in his typical style, although he did record some boogaloo numbers, without much success. As times changed, the popularity of his group declined. He tried a new start in Los Angeles. He invited Joseph to fly out to Los Angeles with him but died only a week later. Arsenio died in 1970 and his body was returned for burial to New York. There is much speculation about his financial status during his last years, but Mario Bauza denied that he died in poverty, arguing that Rodríguez had a modest income from royalties.[7]

Tributes

Of the many tributes to Arsenio Rodríguez four are of special interest. The first, in 1972, was a Larry Harlow LP Tribute to Arsenio Rodríguez, Fania 404. On this, five of the numbers had been recorded earlier by Rodriguez’ conjunto. Later, in 1994, The Cuban band Sierra Maestra recorded a CD Sierra Maestra: Dundunbanza!, World Circuit WCD 041. This had four Rodríguez numbers at full length. Jazz guitarist Marc Ribot recorded two albums made mostly of Rodríguez’ compositions or songs in his repertoire called Marc Ribot y los Cubanos Postizos and Muy Divertido!.

Arsenio Rodriguez is mentioned in a national television production called La época, about the Palladium-era in New York, and Afro-Cuban music.[1] The film discusses Arsenio’s contributions, and features some of the musicians he recorded with.[2] Others interviewed in the movie 840AM Interview include the daughter of legendary Cuban percussionist Mongo Sanatamaria – Ileana Santamaria, bongocero Luis Mangual and others.
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Technical information of vinyl transcription:

Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable / Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge / Pro-Ject Speedbox power supply -> Creek OBH-18 MM Phono Preamp -> M-Audio Audiophile 2496 soundcard. Recorded at 24-bit / 96 khz resolution to Audacity. Click Repair on very light settings to remove some clicks and pops. Track splitting in Adobe Audition 3.0. Dithered to 16-bit using iZotope M-Bit noise-shaping. Converted to FLAC and mp3 using DbPoweramp. ID tags done with Foobar2000.

n 320kbs mp3

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