There are few things more rare than an interesting jazz duet album featuring two drummers. But Bobby Matos and John Santos are no ordinary jazz drummers. Towering figures on the New York Latin jazz scene, Matos and Santos are respected bandleaders, gifted composers, and, it must be said, white-hot drummers. Their cross-talking polyrhythms are at the soul of these songs -- much of the time, they are the songs -- and even on the mambo "I Don't Speak Spanish (But I Understand Everything When I'm Dancing)," which features a hilariously awful reading of pretentious poetry by the wildly overdramatic Denise Cook, the two percussionists manage to keep a solid groove going, possibly even with straight faces. That misstep aside, Mambo Jazz is a pure Latin jazz delight, a feast of percolating grooves and hypnotic polyrhythms that's genuinely musically interesting for folks other than hardcore percussion freaks. There's a musicality even to all-percussion tracks like the closing "Salida (pa' Cafe Borinquen)" that marks Mambo Jazz as one of the more interesting Latin jazz duet albums of its era.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason