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Pello El Afrokan, Un Sabor Que Canta CD
Chihuahua All Stars, Descarga Cubana CD

Review: Short Cuts: Some Brief Reviews Of Catalog Items

by Bosco El Gitano

Pello El Afrokan
Un Sabor Que Canta, Vitral

The Mozambique is adapted from the Conga rhythm and played and danced to in the streets of Cuba during Carnaval. The Conga rhythm is traditionally played in the Comparsa, or carnaval parade, consisting of ensembles of drummers, brass players, dancers and singers — all in colorful costume. This music is based upon a folkloric feel, typically utilizing Rumba Clavé.

The Mozambique was first made popular by singer/bandleader Pello El Afrokan in his native land, Cuba. His orchestra is like a mini carnaval, complete with musicians, dancers, costumes and hard-driving street festival sounds and feel in the form of up-tempo, Afro dance grooves and heavy, heavy percussion.

Un Sabor Que Canta is no disappointment. It is all of the above and more, featuring Mozambique fused with Guanguancó, Son, Bembe and Calipso. The result is a sound that keeps pushing you to move your feet and body. Pedro Mena, the impressive bass player, works those strings and shines throughout this recording. The Paila player, timbalero Ignacio Pérez has a funky style that grooves on and on. Completing the instrumentation are two trombones, guitar, piano, bongo, bombo (bass drum), several cowbell players, a conguero, four background singers and last but not least, leader vocalist Pello El Afrokan.

This is high energy Afro-Cuban dance music and a lot of fun.

Chihuahua All Stars
Descarga Cubana, Palladium

Osvaldo Chihuahua Martinez first came to New York City from Cuba in 1959 as a member of José Fajardo's charanga orchestra. Chihuahua, a skilled timbale and guiro player eventually went on to perform with Israel Cachao Lopez, Ray Barretto, and Johnny Pacheco as well as many other top Latin American musicians. By 1964 he had formed his own group and had recorded the 16 tunes contained in this landmark session. He died in New York in the early 1980's.

This is 74 minutes and 28 seconds of fine work featuring charanga, cha cha cha, pachanga, guajiro-son, bugalu, and salsa descarga. Pupi Lejarreta's flute and violin work will take you back to the old days of Havana, Cuba, and Chihuahua's smooth timbale playing is a joy to listen to. Also featured are José Chombo Silva on tenor sax, Pedro Rudy Calzado, the accomplished arranger, composer, and singer and the great Cuban trumpet player Alfredo Chocolate Armenteros who so artfully adds his touch. The piano montunos here are really motivating while the strength of the bass player's tumbao easily carries the band.

Particularly exciting is "Descarga Chihuahua," with a unique guiro solo supported by paila (small timbales). Also look for the charanga classic "Me Voy Pa Morón." The vocals and coro here really cook. The entire collection of cuts here will supply you with a solid dance foundation. An interesting note: The term Salsa as it is used in the Latin music context, was not widely used until the late sixties and early '70's. However, on this 1964 recording the word Salsa can be heard several times!

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