Mongo Santamaria

El Bravo!

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Although Mongo Santamaria's move to Columbia later signified his transition to crossover fare, his label debut, El Bravo!, makes no concessions or overtures to the pop charts. Armed with a batch of original compositions spanning from boleros to mortunos and backed by a crack session band including trumpeter Marty Sheller and flutist Hubert Laws, Santamaria delivers one of the finest traditional Latin jazz records of the mid-'60s. The virtues of the set are many: Santamaria's conga rhythms are fiery yet tasteful, Sheller's luminous arrangements boast an authentic Cuban flavor, and all of the musicians receive ample opportunity to shine, in particular Laws (whose charanga-inspired flute galvanizes the superb "Monica").

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