Thursday, April 19, 2007

Abstract Index Playlist - April 18/07

I was all set to talk about the great new Soul Jazz comp "New York Latin Hustle", but - damn! I just can't help but fire off a few lines about the song which followed the Latin version of "Ain't No Stoppin Us Now".

Tito Puente needs no introduction to anyone - he was the foremost name in Latin music in the USA for more than 5 decades. The disc that totally converted me was "Puente In Percussion". A few years ago when the Fania/Tico etc. catalog was scattered among several licenses throughout the world, the French label Declic/Globe issued some two dozen titles of greater and lesser known works. Puente In Percussion has been in and out of circulation since the mid 50s when it was recorded. In a way, it relates to the questions I was asking myself in the post about Ziya Tabassian. Here's a drum based record which is predominantly about groove, but given the absence of "tonal" instruments except for Bobby Rodriguez' bass, it's all about the sonic capabilities of timbales, bongos, congas and cowbells.
There's an all-star cast, each one a legend in his own right. Conguero Mongo Santamaria is well known to jazz fans as the author of Coltrane standard "Afro Blue", his version of "Watermelon Man" and damn near causing a riot with his playing in the Fania All Stars Yankee Stadium concert. Carlos "Patato" Valdes is the only participant of this session who's still alive, still grooving into his 80s, responsible for inventing the tuneable conga drum. Most impresive of all is Willie Bobo, who got a 9.6 from Pitchfork. Giants all, but no one outplays the alpha male of Latin percussion, Mr. Puente. He is always on point in every song, heck, with every note, playing with authority and absolutely beautiful phrasing.
Supposedly this session was completely off the cuff, with a bottle of rum being passed around for inspiration. The locked-in rhythms of four percussionists and a bassist riffing off the primary rhythms of Cuba are astonishing. This music is trance-inducing from 15 seconds in. Never is there a desire on the listener's part for some other instrumental sweetener the mix, this is an uncompromising percussion jam which blows away so much of the exotica of the 50s. Perhaps this led to the friction surrounding its release - though Puente was a well established mambo star at that point, this album makes no concessions to pop music forms. "Stick On Bongo", from the last show, is audio testimony of the homicide of a set of bongos. Alternating between mighty wallops and more subtle inflections, each moment says "yeah, I meant to do that".
Here's some You Tube for you - Puente's Latin Percussion Jazz Ensemble (with Alfredo De La Fe on violin!) doing a wicked version of Irakere's signature tune "Bacalao Con Pan"

chtau - co streiff sextet (intakt)
soul to groove - kahil el zabar infinity orchestra (delmark)
urban practise - dell and flugel (laboratory instinct)
next step - zmf trio (drip audio)
steppengraskrieger - reuber (staubgold)
portugal rua rua - glissandro 70 (constellation)
elyoyo - wganda kenya (soundway)
no nos parasan - la charanga 76 (soul jazz)
stick on bongo - tito puente (tico)
parallel views - fuze (wama)
les oreilles de punk - nilan perera (synaptic circus)
moth shaped - tiny hairs (false walls)
agne tolona - hadja kouyate (frikyiwa)
ethiopia - jah beng (cornerstone)
global warning - ras myrdack (minor 7 flat 5)
k2500 - twilight circus (roir)
favi rock - abassi all stars (universal egg) great video showcase!
shine dub - 10ft ganja plant (roir)
i shall be released - freddie mcgregor (studio one/soul jazz)

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