The Conga Kings

Jazz Descargas

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Some artists go around calling themselves kings or queens when they haven't earned the title, but in the case of the Conga Kings -- Candido Camero, Carlos "Patato" Valdes, and Giovanni Hidalgo -- the word "king" isn't an exaggeration. These conga players really do have long and impressive resumes in the Afro-Cuban field; anyone who is seriously into salsa and Latin jazz should be familiar with their work. Recorded in 2000, Jazz Descargas isn't innovative or forward-thinking by 21st century standards -- most of their Latin jazz sounds like it could have been recorded in the 1950s or 1960s. But while this CD isn't experimental, it is definitely solid. Though few surprises occur, the Conga Kings are hard-swinging and infectious on Latin jazz staples like Dizzy Gillespie's "Manteca," Chano Pozo's "Tin Tin Deo," and Tito Puente's "Oye Como Va" (a gem that many rockers associate with Santana's hit remake of 1970). In Spanish, the word "descarga" refers to a Latin jam, and Jazz Descargas is an appropriate title for this release because the Conga Kings don't hesitate to give the horn players room to stretch out and improvise. The noteworthy soloists include, among others, trombonist Jimmy Bosch, trumpeter Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros, and veteran alto saxophonist Phil Woods, who has some inspired moments on Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia" and Bud Powell's "Un Poco Loco." All of those guests prove to be assets on this consistently pleasing, if derivative, effort.

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