Mongo Santamaria

Afro Blue: The Picante Collection

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In assembling its own "Mongo's Greatest Hits" entry, Concord Picante had only a slim catalog of four albums, a narrow time frame, and one of Mongo's less incendiary phases to choose from. But they stuck with a purist concept, avoiding pop covers and experiments, targeting Mongo's vintage standards and numbers that conjure some of the old Afro-Cuban heat, and they came up with a nice overview of the Picante years. Whenever possible, we get authentic guajiras, mambos and guarachas, as well as the charanga-band sound that harkens back to Mongo's recordings of the 1950s -- all now in gleaming modern sound. Some of the highlights: the hypnotic Cuban voodoo-like incantation of "La Tumba," stimulating live renditions of "Manteca" and "Afro Blue," and pianist Charlie Palmieri's valedictory appearance with Mongo on "Mayeya." While this wouldn't qualify as the basic Mongo collection, you will still find it vastly entertaining.

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