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Bobo Motion

Willie Bobo

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Album Review

Recorded and released in 1967, Bobo Motion is one of percussionist Willie Bobo's best-known recordings of the 1960s. The album is best-known for its version of the Sonny Henry nugget "Evil Ways" that Carlos Santana and his band made their own a couple of years later, but there's more to it than that. Since Bobo signed with Verve in 1965, he'd been releasing wily blends of hot Latin tunes, and soul-jazz interpretations of pop tunes of the day. His five previous albums for the label had all been variations on this theme. On the earlier ones, safer pop and easy tunes played with Bobo's trademark hand drum grooves won out over original material. Indeed, 1965's Spanish Grease and 1966's Uno, Dos,Tres 1-2-3 had featured one tune apiece that featured the cooking Afro-Cuban flavored jams he'd become known for, and the rest were either soul-jazz arrangements of Latin standards or "with it" pop tunes of the day (Afro-Cuban versions of the organ trio records that Blue Note was shoveling out by the truckload at the time). Bobo Motion, however, is a different animal. While there are no originals on the Bert Keyes/Sonny Henry-arranged set, the grooves are tighter and more sophisticated, and the drumming is mixed way up above an uncredited smaller combo playing horns, electric bass, and Henry' electric guitar. The tune selection is also weirder and reflects the range of Bobo' eclectic tastes, and turns more firmly toward jazz (unlike Juicy, the 1967 precursor to this set, which was pregnant with workouts of soul hits of the day). There are trad standards like "Tuxedo Junction," Neal Hefti's swinging "Cute," — which was almost a Count Basie evergreen of the early '60s — and a smoking blues-out read of Sonny Burke' "Black Coffee." That's not to say there are no pop tunes here, Henry's "Evil Ways" features Bobo's less than hip vocals but the tune itself is so steamy and strange in its minor-key articulations, and the groove is such a monster, it doesn't matter. The same goes for Arthur Sterling's "Ain't That Right," that becomes a whomping boogaloo with the triple-time congas, gourd shaker, and timbales atop a fluid electric guitar groove. The transformation of Joe Tex's "Show Me," into a Latin jazz tune is remarkable to say the least — even if it keeps its funky soul feel (the horns are the melody line here, and Bobo plays all around them setting up a monster conguero groove). Bobo Motion ends with a brief but burning version of "La Bamba." Its traditional roots are all on display here as Bobo's congas drive the rhythms into overdrive. Forget the quaint version by Trini Lopez, this one gets it. Recommended.

Biography

Born: February 28, 1934 in New York, NY

Genre: Latin Jazz

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

Willie Bobo was one of the great Latin percussionists of his time, a relentless swinger on the congas and timbales, a flamboyant showman onstage, and an engaging if modestly endowed singer. He also made serious inroads into the pop, R&B and straight jazz worlds, and he always said that his favorite song was Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Dindi." Growing up in Spanish Harlem, Bobo began on the bongos at age 14, only to find himself performing with Perez Prado a year later, studying with Mongo Santamaria...
Full Bio
Bobo Motion, Willie Bobo
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