Mongo Santamaria

Go, Mongo!

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Mongo Santamaria's first LP for Riverside ranged far and wide throughout Latin America, Africa, and even American blues for its rhythmic impetus. The album leads off adventurously with an African-tinged samba, "Tumba Le Le" and closes with a mysterious "African Song" while settling in with the mambo, Guajiro, cha-cha-cha, and other Latin rhythms most of the rest of the way. There are two of Santamaria's patented rituals on congas -- a bone-rattling one on a complicated mambo, "Carmela," and an unusual 6/8 meter workout, "Congo Blue." One Armando Corea -- aka Chick -- turns up as Santamaria's regular pianist (his first professional gig), comping along effectively in the Afro-Cuban manner. We don't hear the ebullience of Santamaria's hit period -- "Watermelon Man" was still a year away -- but Santamaria is clearly expanding his reach beyond the Afro-Cuban thing.

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