After years of playing congas in the legendary Cuban jazz group Irakere and with the Afro-Cuban All Stars, Migel “Angá” Díaz has finally released his first solo CD—though it sounds like a compilation culled from a dozen discs because the tracks are so diverse. That’s the blessing and the curse of the willfully diffuse Echu Mingua, which blends Cuban, African and DJ cultures into one head-spinning mix.
The great bassist Orlando “Cachaíto” López taught Angá the danzón “Pueblo Nuevo.” The conguero adds an n’goni (African guitar), trumpet and some turntables to bring it up to date, while López and now-deceased Buena Vista Social Club pianist Rubén González and his son Rubencito provide the old-school flavor. “Tumé Tumé” combines Cuban and Malian traditions and gets deeply spiritual results, as does his turntable-tinged version of John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” “Conga Carnaval,” penned by and featuring Angá’s former Irakere bandmate Chucho Valdés, is a celebratory blast. Less successful are “Freeform,” an unfocused hip-hop descarga, and a bland, seven-congas-and-four-strings take on “’Round Midnight.”
The album is named after Angá’s saint’s name in the Yoruba religion. “‘Echu’ is Eleggua,” Angá says in the CD booklet, “the God of crossroads, and the owner of all roads in the world.” Apparently he would like to drive them all.