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At the Black Hawk

Mongo Santamaria

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Album Review

Applying their famous two-fer philosophy to the digital era, Fantasy combines Mighty Mongo and Viva Mongo! on a single CD, showcasing two somewhat different slants on Mongo Santamaria's music during a period of exploration. Mighty Mongo leans more to Mongo's jazz side without sacrificing his Afro-Cuban rhythmic base, while Viva Mongo has a more distinctly ethnic Cuban sound with Rudy Calzado's solo vocals and the band's group chanting, Rolando Lozano's wooden flute riding playfully above the ensemble, and the traditional Cuban use of string counterlines. On Mighty Mongo, "Descarga at the Black Hawk" sets an especially tasty groove, with some timbales/congas/cymbals action on an extended vamp. Lozano shines in an extended flute solo on "Bacoso" before a scorcher of a percussion battle develops, while composer/pianist Joao Donato also doubles on trombone on "Sabor." Viva Mongo's highlights include "Las Guajiras," a relaxed spellbinder at a guajira tempo; "Merengue Changa," a stupefying merger of two different rhythmic feelings; and the appropriately titled "Mambo Terrifico." Jose "Chombo" Silva, the Cuban Stan Getz worshipper who also evokes Coleman Hawkins on occasion, careens pleasingly on both albums. Of the two, Viva Mongo is perhaps the more vital record, but it's a close call; both are vibrant expressions of Mongo's art. ~ Richard S. Ginell, Rovi

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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At the Black Hawk, Mongo Santamaria
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