Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Bobby Matos/John Santos: Mambo Jazz

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.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published