The Indianapolis-based group Conga Jazz, led by dazzling percussionist Larry Calland, has chosen a live performance of Latin music as their debut album. Building upon such leaders and pioneers in the field as Mongo Santamaria, Willie Bobo, and the Dizzy Gillespie/Chano Pozo Cuban jazz collaboration, Calland and group touch most of the bases on the Latin-influenced jazz musical playing field. If enthusiasm were the sole criteria for success, this musical group would be at the top of the charts. The excitement oozing from this group reverberates through the entire 62 minutes of the CD. The arrangements strike a strong balance between the throbbing pounding of the various percussive instruments and contributions form Kenny Kipp's tenor and alto saxophones, Dr. Virginia Jefferson's keyboards and piano, and Robert Coleman's guitar. Each track is a spectacular adventure and a contrast. There's the raucous throbbing cacophony on "Patcha Moma," which melts into silky swaying, sensuous rhythms on "Slow Hot Wind." The deliberately paced building of tension on Santamaria's classic "Afro Blue" is driven by relentless drum patterns that find their heritage in the distinctive percussive tattoos unique to drum groups in the West African country of Ghana. "Europa," with its smeary rock-based guitar dominating seems out place on a CD dedicated to South American and Caribbean rhythms. Perhaps it was inserted to keep the rock music-raised audience happy. This distraction notwithstanding, it does not delimit the otherwise effervescent sounds put out by this CD. If the CD is any indication, the live performance which it documented must have been a flamboyant affair indeed. Recommended.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan