After valuable stints in New York with Quarteto Caney, Xavier Cugat (replacing singer Miguelito Valdes), and Noro Morales, Puerto Rican-born singer and percussionist Tito Rodriguez went out on his own to form a group in the late '40s. Inspired by the incredible success of Perez Prado's "Mambo No. 5" and the subsequent mambo craze, Rodriguez and his band Los Lobos del Mambo (originally the Mambo Devils) began preaching their own tight and swinging brand of mambo music. Featuring four trumpets, piano, and an array of Afro-Cuban percussion, the group steadily rose to fame during 1949-1953, eventually gaining widespread fame and selling out shows in Miami, Las Vegas, and all over Latin America. This impressive Tumbao collection covers Rodriguez's early years, featuring 18 choice cuts from 1949-1951. The mostly up-tempo collection is a mix of engaging instrumentals with loads of percussion and biting horn charts ("Esto Es Felicidad," "Desert Dance") and smoothly swinging vocal cuts featuring Rodriguez's fine pipes ("Ay Que Mambito," "Joe Lustig Mambo"). Other highlights include the original version of Rodriquez's classic "Mama Guela" (here titled "Mama Mona") and two equally classic Chano Pozo numbers, "Blen, Blen, Blen" and "Boco Boco" (Rodriguez worked with the Cuban star and future Dizzy Gillespie collaborator during a brief stay in Machito's band in 1947). Benefiting greatly from subtly complex horn charts, astounding solos by pianist Tom Garcia, and an impassioned percussion base, these highly enjoyable Rodriguez selections make Mambo Mona a stellar collection.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook