Bobby_matos-mambo_jazz_span3
May 2001

Bobby Matos/John Santos
Mambo Jazz
Cubop

Who invented the mambo? Most say it was Perez Prado, who in the 1940s was called the king of the mambo with pop hits like "Mambo #5" and "Mambo #8" that sparked an unprecedented wave of Latin dancehall fever. A big misconception is that mambo is a rhythm, when it's a counterpoint of two melodic lines that interweave in an arrangement as a turn-around to excite the music. It was invented in the late 1930s by Cuban bassist Israel "Cachao" Lopez and his brother Orestes when they were part of the band Arcano y sus Maravillas.

Now West Coast Latin jazz kingpins John Santos and Bobby Matos build on Cachao's ideas for a new millennium mambo that draws from yet another innovation by the great bassist: la descarga-the Latin-jam session. Mambo Jazz opens with a percussion interlude that pulls you into a medium up-tempo Santos original called "Caminando." As musical conversations are exchanged you get a sense of the diverse instrumental voices on the date with singer Martin Padilla spitting out verses in a gritty street-rumba style. "Mambo Mona Mix X" further fuels the loose jam session atmosphere as ex-Black Note trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos leaves a trail of smoke! But it's Cuban drum legend Orestes Vilato who takes it home with a tastefully delivered bongo solo.

The spoken-word pieces-including "I Don't Speak Spanish (But I Understand Everything When I'm Dancing)," a sensuously delivered ode by Denise Cook-are some of the album's most pleasant surprises. Using the Lopez brothers composition "Mambo," the tune that ushered in the danzon-mambo and the syncopated counterpoint originally referred to as "diablo" (devil), Cook warns "beware of those who do not dance." "Cachao" is a word-song delivered by actor Ismael East Carlo and written by poet Jose Castellar to the famous "Descarga Cubana-Como Mi Ritmo No Hay Dos" to celebrate the musical innovator.

Santos and Matos' driving drums swirl "en clave," the two-bar pattern that anchors Afro-Cuban music, and fuel the horns a-plenty from unsung talents like reedist Michael Turre (brother of Steve), tenor saxophonist Ron Stallings, trombonist Wayne Wallace and many others.

Mambo Jazz is a great way to kick-off your sunny days.

Originally published in May 2001
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