Mongo Santamaria

Mongo Returns!

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Mongo returns -- to the Fantasy label group, not the scene, from which he had never been missing in action. Yet in another sense, it is a return to the basic Mongo Santamaria Afro-Cuban-rooted sound and concept -- with a few contemporary elements -- that the ageless leader had been employing ever since he stopped trying to chase after hits. Marty Sheller continues to turn out the charts; in addition to three of his own tunes, he gratefully revives two unusual overlooked '70s gems, Stevie Wonder's "You've Got It Bad, Girl" and Marvin Gaye's "When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You" in his old boogaloo manner. The then-current edition of Mongo's large ensemble sounds sharp, at home with the Latin beat, up-to-date electronic instruments and occasional skipping bassline, and Mongo thunders away with his usual polyrhythmic vigor. All we miss is the extra snap and ebullient fire that Mongo's band had when it was right in tune with popular culture, but that's not a deterrent toward having a good time with this disc.

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