Various Artists

Roots of Mambo 1930-1950

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Before the mambo craze hit the U.S. in the 1950s, there were hints, both subtle and obvious, of its development. The music on Roots of Mambo 1930-1950, along with its liner notes, written in both French and English (though the French ones seem to be a bit more comprehensive), trace the chronology of this development, from "Saint Louis Blues" to "The Peanut Vendor" to "Cubana Be, Cubana Bop" to "Manteca," and explain how different cultural styles (Afro-Caribbean rhythms, African-American jazz) ended up creating Latin jazz (which the notes incorrectly equate with mambo and salsa -- they're related, not identical). But history aside, what's best about Roots of Mambo 1930-1950 is the music itself. As the tracks are listed -- for the most part -- chronologically, the progression from the bluesier sounding "Doin' the Rhumba" by Cab Calloway to the full-out meandering, dark polyrhythms of Dizzy Gillespie and his orchestra in "Afro-Cuban Suite" (the trumpeter, as a bandleader, is included 11 times on the two-disc set, which is fitting, as he was one of the main contributors and innovators of Latin jazz) is heard clearly, like pieces being put into a puzzle. There are a lot of great horn riffs and solos, pulsating beats, and impassioned singing (Calloway even affects a hyper-trilled "R" in "The Congo Congo" as he talks about the extreme popularity of the new music) that make the album move nicely (and it's long -- each disc clocks in significantly over an hour). When "Lamento," Aimé Barelli's version of "Cubano Be, Cubana Bop," closes the second album, the audience is set up well for what is to come next. The opening notes of Pérez Prado's "Mambo No. 5" can almost be heard as Barelli and his orchestra play their last riff, and if listeners weren't already turned on to the energy of mambo beforehand, there's no way they can avoid being so now.

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