Mongo Santamaria

Mongo '70

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Mongo's graduation from Columbia to Atlantic, and from Top 40 covers to funkier soul-jazz, could not have been more welcome. At least half the credit for his new sound goes to Neal Creque, who wrote six of the ten tracks here. Creque, one of the most interesting composers of the late '60s and early '70s, has a sound that recalls Brasilians Deodato and Donato, Herbie Hancock, and the greats of New Orleans piano. The rest of the group (in the studio, at least) also is new for Mongo, although Marty Sheller returns as conductor. Featuring heavy soul-jazz with crack Latin percussion, Mongo '70 is consistently dramatic and evocative, so much so that it could've easily been the score for a movie. Nothing rates as filler, and the end is particularly strong. The funky "Mo' Do'" is followed by "Grass Roots," which has everything: guitar, vibraslap, mournful horns; "Dedicated to Love" is nearly an update on "Peter Gunn." Jon Hart's bass may be mixed a little high, but heavy funk is the message here. That and the fact that Neal Creque has arrived.

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