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Jazz Descargas

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Album Review

Some artists go around calling themselves kings or queens when they haven't earned the title, but in the case of the Conga Kings — Candido Camero, Carlos "Patato" Valdes, and Giovanni Hidalgo — the word "king" isn't an exaggeration. These conga players really do have long and impressive resumes in the Afro-Cuban field; anyone who is seriously into salsa and Latin jazz should be familiar with their work. Recorded in 2000, Jazz Descargas isn't innovative or forward-thinking by 21st century standards — most of their Latin jazz sounds like it could have been recorded in the 1950s or 1960s. But while this CD isn't experimental, it is definitely solid. Though few surprises occur, the Conga Kings are hard-swinging and infectious on Latin jazz staples like Dizzy Gillespie's "Manteca," Chano Pozo's "Tin Tin Deo," and Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va" (a gem that many rockers associate with Santana's hit remake of 1970). In Spanish, the word "descarga" refers to a Latin jam, and Jazz Descargas is an appropriate title for this release because the Conga Kings don't hesitate to give the horn players room to stretch out and improvise. The noteworthy soloists include, among others, trombonist Jimmy Bosch, trumpeter Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros, and veteran alto saxophonist Phil Woods, who has some inspired moments on Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia" and Bud Powell's "Un Poco Loco." All of those guests prove to be assets on this consistently pleasing, if derivative, effort.


Genre: Latin Jazz

Years Active: '00s

In the late '90s, three heavyweights of Afro-Cuban conga playing -- Candido Camero, Carlos "Patato" Valdes, and Giovanni Hidalgo -- came together and billed themselves as the Conga Kings. All of them have impressive resumés in the Afro-Cuban and jazz fields -- especially Camero and Valdes, both of whom are regarded as elder statesmen of Latin jazz and what is now known as salsa (a convenient umbrella term that has been used to describe son, cha cha, mambo, guaguancó, danzon, and countless other rhythms...
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Jazz Descargas, The Conga Kings
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