Pablo Menendez: Havana Blues Mambo

Pablo Menendez has gained a measure of fame with the Cuban jazz-rock group Mezcla, but Havana Blues Mambo (Zoho) is his debut as a leader. Teaming with a rotating cast of bassists, percussionists and saxophonists (plus splashes of piano, flute, acoustic guitar and vocals), Menendez plays spicy, Santana-inspired electric guitar on this inviting but somewhat disjointed session. While Afro-Cuban sounds are his touchstone, Menendez nods to various North American idioms, like folk-rock (“Sueno Con Serpientes,” “People Together”), pop balladry (“Quien Fuera”) and even Delta blues (“Bonnie’s Blues Mambo”). The moody 7/8 piece “Grifo-Animal Mitologico” engages musically while adhering to an overall simplicity. The group vocals on “Akete Oba Oba” and “‘Round Midnight” are infectious.