The Candid label recorded a series of live performances of the great Cuban percussionist Ramon "Mongo" Santamaria (Havana, 1917-2003), the 'King of the Conga', conducting his musical octet for two nights at the jazz club Upper Westside of Birdland (New York) in 1992. This CD, reissued in 1995 and later in 2003 after his death, contains 12 of the tracks recorded. Mongo popularity arose from its ability to accurately combine Afro-Latin rhythms with jazz and blues, marking a very specific tempos and achieving a spectacular and captivating rhythmic expressiveness. In this record Mongo fuses burning rhythms of soca, samba, chacha or boogaloo with jazz or blues themes.
Mango Santamaria utilizes a colorful cast of musicians on this CD. Flutists Hubert Laws and Dave Valentin are featured on two songs apiece (although unfortunately not together) and the nonet has trumpeter Eddie Allen, altoist Jimmy Cozier, and Craig Rivers on tenor and soprano, along with three percussionists. There are a lot of percussion features including the closing nine-and-a-half minute "La Mogolla," making this an excellent if not quite essential recording.
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.
Features 24 bit remastering and comes with a mini-description. Recorded live at the 1971 Montreux Jazz Festival, the blistering Mongo at Montreux captures Mongo Santamaria in the absolute prime of his career, embracing all facets of his expansive musical vision for a set that is far more than the sum of its parts. Spanning from soulful Latin boogaloo grooves like "Come Candela" to psychedelic jazz renditions of pop hits like the Temptations' "Cloud Nine" to straight-up funk excursions like "Climax," Mongo at Montreux is relentlessly energetic music genetically engineered for dancing – most impressive of all is "Conversation in Drums," a virtual primer in Latin percussion.
This single CD has all of the contents of the two Mongo Santamaria Riverside albums originally titled Mongo Explodes and Go, Mongo! The music was last available as a two-LP set also titled Skins. The 1964 session, oddly programmed first, finds Santamaria on conga and bongos at the head of a ten-piece band also including trumpeter Marty Sheller, then-unknown flutist Hubert Laws (also featured on piccolo and tenor), Bobby Capers on alto and baritone, and a seven-piece rhythm section with five percussionists.
Reissue with the latest 2014 DSD remastering. Comes with liner notes. Mongo Santamaria at the height of his Latin Soul years – working on a cool Columbia session titled after an earlier hit, but served up with his new lean sound of the late 60s! The album's got that perfect Santamaria combo from the time – a group that features trumpet and these wonderfully sharp arrangements from the great Marty Sheller – plus very smoking reed work from a young Hubert Laws, wailing away on flute and tenor, and Bobby Capers on alto and baritone – both players who mix jazz and soul instrumental modes, to bring a hell of a lot of feeling to the overall sound of the band – in ways that really get past more familiar use of trumpet or trombone in other Latin combos. The band grooves nicely on original material like "Streak O Lean", "Ricky Tick", "Do It To It", "Fatback", "Coconut Milk", and "Jose Outside" – and they also reprise Mongo's big hit "Watermelon Man".