Mongo Santamaria leads a potent octet over two nights at Birdland in this live CD taped in 1992. The conga master is joined by trumpeter/flugelhornist Eddie Allen (who serves as music director as well), tenor saxophonist/flautist Craig Rivers, and alto saxophonist/baritone saxophonist/flautists Jimmy Cozier, with pianist Ricardo Gonzalez leading the rhythm section. Among Santamaria's seven originals, the peppy "Brazilian Sunset" especially stands out, along with two pieces by Marty Sheller, his former musical director. Cozier penned the upbeat "Costa Del Oro," a sizzling Latin blues that features its composer on tenor sax. There's also a fun Afro-Cuban arrangement of the standard "Summertime" and a hip-swaying treatment of Herbie Hancock's huge hit "Watermelon Man."
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden