It's "Mongorama" Time

Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show

14-06-2011 • 6 mins

Once well known for his composition “Afro Blue" (especially John Coltrane's incendiary interpretation of the song), as well as his hugely popular rendition of Herbie Hancock's “Watermelon Man," the opulent legacy of Mongo Santamaria has been largely overlooked in the years since his death. Jose Rizo's Mongorama rightly brings the legendary conguero’s music back into the spotlight.

This is good time music played by musicians who are clearly having a blast. Rizo, a veteran disc jockey with a flair for music “On the Latin Side”, has assembled, in collaboration with musical director Danilo Lozano, a swinging group (Lozano’s dad was a flautist in one, of Mongo’s early bands). The core band is Justo Almario (tenor sax), Lozano (flute), Oscar Hernandez (piano), Ramon Banda (timbales), Rene Camacho (bass), Joey De Leon (congas), Adonis Puentes (lead vocals), Alfredo Ortiz (percussion, vocals), Dayren Santamaria (violin), and Alberto Salas (piano).

The band swings and sways on “Bubba Boogaloo” (are you listening Carlos Santana? This one cries out for your cover version!), and they sweat their way through the descarga Tin Marin. A flute solo from guest Hubert Laws, himself a Mongo almnus, lifts “Siempre En Ti”, assisted by Almero.

In liner notes, Rizo writes “My purpose was not to copy what Mongo did, but to honor his legacy with growth and musical evolution." Right on both counts.