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Mongo Santamaria's Greatest Hits

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Album Review

Some would say the title of this package is deceptive, as it only covers his mid- to late-'60s period with Columbia (and should not be confused with other Mongo Santamaria releases with similar titles covering different eras, such as Fantasy's). Furthermore, some would also say that it's not representative of Santamaria's best work, or that representative of Santamaria at all, since it's largely devoted to some of his most pop-oriented material. That's the purist stance, anyway. Because actually, this disc is for the most part a gas, even if it is not among the more Latin-esque or jazzy of his recordings. His Columbia stint saw the influence of soul become ascendant upon his studio output and indeed, many of the tunes here are soul covers: "Cloud Nine," "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay," "Twenty-Five Miles," "Cold Sweat," and "Green Onions." Being commercial, however — and this was an attempt by Santamaria and Columbia to be commercial, as both Santamaria and producer David Rubinson state in the liner notes — does not always lead to bad music. Sometimes, indeed, it leads to pretty good music. And the 1964-1969 cuts on this disc are cool, often smokin' boogaloo, that mixture of Latin, jazz, soul, and pop that briefly became in vogue during the '60s. If Mongo and his large bands were disenchanted with this direction, it certainly doesn't show at all in the performances, which have an irresistible verve, whether on tailored-for-Santamaria compositions like "Fatback" or shopworn material like "La Bamba."

Biography

Born: 07 April 1922 in Havana, Cuba

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

A Mongo Santamaria concert is a mesmerizing spectacle for both eyes and ears, and even in his seventies, this seemingly ageless Cuban percussionist/bandleader could energize packed behemoth arenas such as the Hollywood Bowl. A master conguero, Santamaria at his best creates an incantatory spell rooted in Cuban religious rituals, quietly seating himself before his congas and soloing with total command over the rhythmic spaces between the beats while his band pumps out an endless vamp (a potent example...
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Mongo Santamaria's Greatest Hits, Mongo Santamaria
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