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April 2002

Conga Kings
Jazz Descargas (SACD)
Chesky Records

On Jazz Descargas by the Conga Kings, aka Carlos "Patato" Valdez, Candido Camero and Giovanni Hidalgo, we are presented with the feel of a relaxed jam featuring these great congueros along with Phil Woods, Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros, Nelson Gonzalez and others running through a set consisting mostly of old chestnuts like "Caravan," "A Night in Tunisia," "Manteca" and "Un Poco Loco." The music, though a mite predictable at this point in time, still cuts through the chaff owing to the level of musicianship involved. And the resulting surround mix places us right in the middle of St. Peter's Church in Manhattan where these sessions took place.

Audiophiles have always sought for the illusion of three dimensionality from their stereo rigs, to partly derive a real sense of a recording venue's acoustics-well, now they can get there with this sort of honest surround recording. Chesky has staked its reputation on minimally miked recordings that offer more natural sounding portraits of a given performance, built, in part, by substantial hints at the recording venue's acoustic space. Those hints have evolved into discrete channels to fill in the gaps once left to our imaginations. No, you don't sit in the middle of Patato's drums, but you really feel like you are in the same room as the musicians. This is where surround recording of jazz ought to be heading.

Originally published in April 2002
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