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CD Review: The Colors Of Latin Jazz – Soul Cookin’

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There it was with a dancing lady on its cover. A cheap RCA repackage of Perez Prado in the thrift store record bins just waiting to go home with me for a dollar. Maybe it would be worth more than a dollar if I didn’t like it. My only real exposure to Latin music up to that point was from Seventies Latin tinged disco I had heard on the radio back in my grammar school days. A taquiera had opened next to the record store I worked at and while the only Latin music I heard in there was mariachi, the ladies working the counter were beautiful with their dark eyes and I was always in thrall to women speaking with a foreign accent. So for those purely musical reasons I bought the Prado album. I could always stick one of the tracks from it between Black Flag and Mudhoney for kicks at the college radio station where I dee-jayed.

Within a few months I was gobbling up as much Latin jazz as my disposable income allowed. I blame it all on the timbales. They did something to me deep inside my slam dancing soul. Spanish cries of abandon I couldn’t understand sounded of a world of resonating joy and pleasure. I would have put it down for just simple suburban slumming. You know the kind: suburban kid picks out some music genre more authentic than what the major labels were doing; perhaps blues, reggae, folk, or yes Latin jazz. But if it was slumming I’m still doing it years later. Latin jazz still makes me smile in almost dazed wonderment. It’s bombastic and spirited; a music that’s always in motion, but not one dimensional by any means. It can convey sorrow and pain also. But what I really feel sorrow for are the people that have yet to hear its greatness. Concord has just released a great introductory compilation Soul Cookin’ which should help spread the love to more of you out there.

There are 14 tracks by 7 artists: Pucho & His Latin Soul Brothers, Mongo Santamaria, Poncho Sanchez, Cal Tjader, Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, and Chico O’Farill. Highlights include Tjader’s “Guarachi Guaro (Soul Sauce)” which gets a jazzier take than the version that was a hit. “Bodacious” by Poncho Sanchez is a funky soul jazz throw down. “Greasy Greens” by Pucho & His Latin Soul Brothers gets a thumping intro that gets you looking for the break that never arrives. Tito Puente’s one track is also excellent.

The focus is on soul jazz for the majority of the disc which does limit the improvisational moments, but songs like “Hot Barbecue”, “Fatback”, “Corn Bread Guajira”, and “Tacos” are a blast and perfect for a party. The Poncho Sanchez tracks provide some nice moments for the less pop inclined. There’s also a rousing version of the Dizzy Gillespie classic “Manteca” performed by Chico O’Farill. The only thing I find lacking in this compilation is the lack of recording dates information. It would be nice to know when the songs were recorded and who the side players were on the dates.

Soul Cookin’
makes a fine addition to the Latin jazz enthusiast’s music library or a wonderful introduction for a newcomer to its sonic richness and rhythms.

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About Wally

  • HW Saxton

    Wally, Cool of you to post this review.
    I’m into all kinds of Latin Jazz & Soul,
    Funk,Boogaloo etc. I thought I’d turn ya
    on to what I think are some classic LP’s
    (well,CD’s these days,but 90% of all my
    stuff is on vinyl)that you may/may not
    have heard of.I play a lot of this cool
    stuff when I DJ at house parties.Mixed
    up w/60/70’s Soul oldies,Reggae,African
    funk & classic drum breaks like the cut
    “Jin-Go-Lo-Ba”(covered by Santana) by
    Olatunji of his “Drums Of Passion” LP it
    NEVER fails to get people moving. Never.

    Most all of these are from the late 60’s
    and early 70’s (the Golden Age of Latin
    Jazz) and are leaned more towards Funk,
    Latin Soul & Boo-Ga-Loo with a strong
    dose of Jazz.

    Anyway here goes:
    1) Willie Bobo & The Bo Gents – Do What
    You Wanna Do! (Totally FUNKY!!!)

    2) Candido – Thousand Finger Man (He
    does the most rocking version of “Soul
    Limbo” by Booker T & The MG’s aaaargh!)

    3)Sabu Martinez – Ritmo Espangole
    (No typo thats the way the LP title is
    spelled on this.)

    4)Mongo Santamaria- Fuego (He’s got tons
    of great sides but this may be his best)

    5)Milton Zapata – S/T (This fucker is so
    obscure.I paid an outrageous amount for
    my copy after seaching for about a year.
    It was worth the search and $$$ though.
    Now it’s re-issued on LP and CD.But it’s
    worth it.)

    6)Little Joe& The LatinAires- Camel Walk
    (One of coolest Boogaloo tunes ever,the
    rest of the LP is hit & miss)

    7)Ray Barretto – El Ray Criollo (70’s
    style hard Latin Funk w/Jazz influences

    8)Willie Colon- El Malo (If you’ve never
    heard Willie you haven’t lived yet.)

    9)Harlem River Drive- S/T (This features
    Eddie Palmieri all over it and its most
    definitely my personal Latin fave.)70’s
    Jazzy-Funky-Soul that won’t quit.

    10)Eddie Cano – Brought Back Live From
    PJ’s (If you dig Eddie you’ll dig the
    hell outta this,I promise) Jazzier than
    most of the above but great for dancing
    and for just kicking back and listening.

    Anyway,cool post WB. All of the above
    are available if you check the web or
    cool stores like http://WWW.dustygrooveamerica
    where I picked up about half of these on
    vinyl re-issues.

  • http://www.wallybangs.blogspot.com Wally Bangs

    HW, thanks for the comment and for the list of classic LP’s, some of which I have heard and others I have not. The Milton Zapata sounds really interesting.

  • Eric Olsen

    super review and hot stuff from HW! now I have to go check to see how many I have – probably few to none on vinyl. that’s a post right there, HW!

  • S. Clark

    HW, I totally support you placing Eddie Cano’s LP on your top 10 list. I recently ran across this album trying to search this guy out (He actually appears in the Jerry Lewis version of the Nutty Professor!) and it was a toss up between getting a Cano studio LP or this live one. My instincts prevailed. Cano’s PJ’s album is outstanding! You can tell the crowd is really into every cut and gives you that feeling of being there. All the songs are under 3.5 minutes, so they don’t go on forever and get stale. For all reading this, if you can find this on CD, I recommend you to buy it. Play it in your car, and you’ll never want to take it out(unless you sell the car first.)