Mongo Santamaria

Soy Yo

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On his first Concord album (now on CD), Mongo Santamaria remains anchored to his Afro-Cuban base but is more than willing to acknowledge the 1980s world around him. Just like the 1960s, you would say. With longtime conductor Marty Sheller at the controls, Mongo's band ventures twice into Top Fortyland, covering Anita Baker's "Sweet Love" in a Latin funk manner and finding a perfect candidate for easygoing guajira swing in Sade's "Smooth Operator." Mongo also pays a convincing visit to the Brazilian samba on the title track, and "Salazar" is an ambitious, tense Sheller workout that flits unpredictably in and out of Brazilian rhythms, but not without plenty of complex Cuban drumming from Mongo and his four percussionists. As a one-off bonus, pianist Charlie Palmieri (in one of his last recordings) and trumpeter Piro Rodriguez make galvanizing guest appearances on "Mayeya."

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