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World - Released January 1, 1970 | Columbia - Legacy

Some would say the title of this package is deceptive, as it only covers his mid- to late-'60s period with Columbia (and should not be confused with other Mongo Santamaria releases with similar titles covering different eras, such as Fantasy's). Furthermore, some would also say that it's not representative of Santamaria's best work, or that representative of Santamaria at all, since it's largely devoted to some of his most pop-oriented material. That's the purist stance, anyway. Because actually, this disc is for the most part a gas, even if it is not among the more Latin-esque or jazzy of his recordings. His Columbia stint saw the influence of soul become ascendant upon his studio output and indeed, many of the tunes here are soul covers: "Cloud Nine," "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay," "Twenty-Five Miles," "Cold Sweat," and "Green Onions." Being commercial, however -- and this was an attempt by Santamaria and Columbia to be commercial, as both Santamaria and producer David Rubinson state in the liner notes -- does not always lead to bad music. Sometimes, indeed, it leads to pretty good music. And the 1964-1969 cuts on this disc are cool, often smokin' boogaloo, that mixture of Latin, jazz, soul, and pop that briefly became in vogue during the '60s. If Mongo and his large bands were disenchanted with this direction, it certainly doesn't show at all in the performances, which have an irresistible verve, whether on tailored-for-Santamaria compositions like "Fatback" or shopworn material like "La Bamba." © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Latin Jazz - Released June 12, 2015 | Columbia - Legacy

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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World - Released February 27, 1967 | Columbia - Legacy

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Mongomania maintains a solid, upbeat jazz groove, with several interesting departures from his usual approach (such as the percussion on the album's two bossa novas). Whereas his previous Columbia albums may have had only one or two great tracks amid gratuitous covers of pop tunes, this one is at least half good. Although the band finally seems to be shaking the yoke of needing a hit single to follow "Watermelon Man," "I Wanna Know" (not to be confused with Francisco Aguabella's later masterpiece) may fit the bill nicely. Songs such as "Funny Man" are solidly in Mongo's Columbia vein. This Mongo material may not be worthy of mania, but it does provide a solid foundation for live performances, and is always great for blasting out the windows on a sunny day. © Tony Wilds /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1989 | Fantasy Records

A CD reissue of a mid-'70s repackaging of Mongo Santamaria's first two Fantasy albums, 1958's Yambu and 1959's Mongo, Afro-Roots is superb Latin jazz. Although these were Santamaria's first albums as a leader, the conga player had already worked with Pérez Prado, Tito Puente, and Cal Tjader, giving him absolutely impeccable Latin jazz credentials to go along with his obviously amazing chops. Considering that these albums were recorded for a general jazz audience and the tight, concise arrangements don't allow Santamaria room to stretch out as he did in concert (most of the songs are in the two- to three-minute range), Afro-Roots is still an impressively genuine album; although the '50s were the age of Martin Denny-style exotica kitsch, most of these tracks are extremely traditional Cuban music. Some, like "Bata" and "Timbales y Bongo," are simply hypnotic solos on the titular instruments, while others are traditional Afro-Cuban folk songs and chants. The delightful original "Afro Blue," which quickly became a Latin jazz standard, almost sounds out of place in this setting. © Stewart Mason /TiVo
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Latin - Released January 7, 2021 | flor del caribe records

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Jazz - Released January 30, 1969 | Columbia - Legacy

By now, Mongo Santamaria was basically tied to the formula of translating pop and soul hits of the day - "See Saw," "Love Child," "Little Green Apples" etc. - into his Latin soul jazz idiom, but he and his band perform with so much energy and pizzazz that the music seems anything but routine. Way up front on most of these tunes is featured soloist Sonny Fortune, wailing in a blatantly exciting R&B mode on alto sax. Marty Sheller does most of the hyped-up charts, but the best one may be the sensuous cha-cha treatment of "Where We Are" by pianist Rodgers Grant. Mongo even got a Top 40 hit (No. 32) out of his flaming treatment of the Temptations' "Cloud Nine" -- and he gets to work up a fine sweat on his "Hitchcock Railway" solo. A great match of a hot-tempered Latin band and commercial considerations. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1996 | Candid Productions

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Jazz - Released March 2, 1970 | Columbia - Legacy

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Dance - Released February 27, 1998 | Rhino Atlantic

Recorded live at the 1971 Montreux Jazz Festival, the blistering Mongo at Montreux captures Mongo Santamaria in the absolute prime of his career, embracing all facets of his expansive musical vision for a set that is far more than the sum of its parts. Spanning from soulful Latin boogaloo grooves like "Come Candela" to psychedelic jazz renditions of pop hits like the Temptations' "Cloud Nine" to straight-up funk excursions like "Climax," Mongo at Montreux is relentlessly energetic music genetically engineered for dancing -- most impressive of all is "Conversation in Drums," a virtual primer in Latin percussion. © Jason Ankeny /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1996 | Fantasy Records

Arriba! has all of the music from two of Mongo Santamaria's first records after leaving Cal Tjader: Arriba and Mas Sabroso. Featured is Mongo's modern charanga band, with strong flute from Rolando Lozano, occasional tenor solos from Jose Silva, spots for pianist Joao Donato and violinist Pupi Legaretta, and singing from Rudy Calzado. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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World - Released January 1, 1976 | Fania

The June 2003 reissue of late Mongo Santamaria's 1976 album Sofrito -- he died in February 2003 -- by Vaya brings many questions to the fore. While the record was greeted by somewhat lukewarm press reviews at the time of its release given its preoccupation with groove-jazz-oriented sonics and production, and was considered a minor work by many. But on compact disc and with the new look at the era's recordings by virtually everyone, from Willie Bobo, Willie Colón, Ray Barretto, and other jazzmen of the time, such as Deodato, Lonnie Liston Smith, and Herbie Hancock, Sofrito is, perhaps, a timeless Latin soul-jazz classic. Recorded in New York by Jon Fausty with a killer band of salsa and jazz musicians, Sofrito is a wonderfully mixed bag of laid-back Latin-flavored jazz tunes such as "Cruzan," drenched in a beautiful baritone solo by Roger Rosenberg, with Armen Donelian's electric piano and beautiful timbales and traps by Steve Berrios, and Santamaria's congas. On "O Mi Shango," the lone traditional song on the set, killer bata drums by Angel "Cachete" Maldonado work well in juxtaposition to the modern synthesizer and funk backdrops. The gorgeous son rhythms on "Spring Song," lend it a timeless, Nuyorican Soul-feel as an Afro-Cuban orchestra is playing it on a Harlem street corner. Simmering, shimmering, soul-jazz harmony with gorgeous Latin percussion informed by age-old Cuban melodies and funky basslines make this one of the most beautiful tunes on the set. In all, there are no weak tracks on Sofrito, and it offers a near-perfect view of the seamless kind of transcultural music-making that was happening at the time that so informed virtually everything in both genres now. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Jazz - Released May 29, 2015 | Columbia - Legacy

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Jazz - Released May 29, 2015 | Columbia - Legacy

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R&B - Released October 6, 1969 | Columbia - Legacy

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The Mongo Santamaria/Columbia formula of Top 40 tunes retrofitted with an Afro-Cuban boogaloo beat gets another hyperactive workout here. The title tune, "Spinning Wheel," "Proud Mary," "My Cherie Amour" and "Get Back" are among the choices here, with Sonny Fortune occasionally scorching the earth on alto sax (and probably on flute), Joe Farrell turning up on tenor, and ever-versatile Bernard "Pretty" Purdie stoking the fires alongside Mongo. Yet the band is finally beginning to show some audible weariness with the whole operation -- for which one cannot blame them. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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World - Released January 1, 1975 | Fania

Originally released in 1975, this set by master Cuban percussionist Mongo Santamaria is an exercise in smooth jazz and jazz-funk. Besides its amazing cover by Ron Levine, this disc holds a special place in Santamaria's catalog. This was the first time he was able to reach his goal of making a large band -- in this case, 14 musicians -- sound like an intimate combo. "Creepin" kicks it off; it's an easy-groove number reminiscent of the Crusaders' slippery moves at the time -- think Scratch. "Funk Up," "Mambomongo," and "Funk Down" juxtapose Afro-beat, War-style R&B and funk, steamy salsa horns, and just a touch of Jimi Hendrix for a smokin' raw slice of heated riffing on a theme and two variations. Drummer Bernard Purdie kept the entire band anchored, while saxophonist Justo Almario cuts a mean swathe with his solo in the middle of the track, in the heart of a horn stomp that is unequaled on any of Santamaria's other records. There's even a version LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade" that has a vocal chorus to back up Almario's razored saxophone lines; with its Afro-funk backbeat and driving horn section, this one was made for the dancefloor. There is some schlock here, though, in the Joe Gallardo-arranged "Song for You" (not the Bernie Taupin/Elton John tune), a syrupy waste of time and energy with the wimpiest, most anemic flute solo ever recorded (this makes Hubert Laws' most sentimental moments seem like the theme from Rocky). At seven-and-a-half minutes, this would have been better served on the cutting-room floor. Despite a few dumpy cuts, this one is necessary for fans of classic '70s soul-jazz and jazz-funk; it's also of peculiar but pointed interest to those interested in the evolution of Afro-Cuban beat science. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Dance - Released August 7, 2006 | Rhino Atlantic

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1998 | Fantasy Records

Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man" was a gigantic hit for Mongo Santamaria in 1962, doing for him in the '60s what Pérez Prado's big mambo hits did for him in the '50s. Naturally, then, the follow-up LP to the single is devoted to 12 airplay-length tracks loaded with bright, swinging Latin cha-chas and mambo rhythms mixed with blues, soul, and jazz, presumably suitable for twisting the night away. Rodgers Grant's piano supplies a good deal of the harmonic foundation of jazz, with the help of an occasional jazz solo from saxes Pat Patrick and Bobby Capers, while Marty Sheller's commanding party-time trumpet rides above Santamaria's thundering congas. In this setting, even the venerable "The Peanut Vendor" is brought right up to date. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Jazz - Released January 1, 1990 | Concord Picante

This is as close to Latin purist Mongo as we have heard in recent years, an eight-piece salsa band -- including several members of the 1997 Tito Puente ensemble, like trumpeter Ray Vega, altoist Bobby Porcelli and tenorman Mitch Frohman -- playing a brace of Mongo classics and Latin jazz pieces live before a hushed crowd in Seattle's Jazz Alley. There are no pop covers, one electric instrument (a bass), lots of extended jazz solos (Porcelli and Frohman really burn on the pioneering Afro-Cuban classic "Manteca"), and an unusual (for Mongo) emphasis on the timbales on many tracks, which shoves the rhythms closer to the salsified Puente manner. However, tracks like "Juan Jose," "Home" and "Bonita" do have the smooth Mongo cha-cha and guajira grooves, and elsewhere, Mongo lifts himself out of the background often enough to deliver some stirring polyrhythmic conga salvos. For a specific jolt from Mongo's own past, there is "Para Ti" and 10 1/2 stimulating minutes of "Afro Blue." Though the general electricity level of the gig could be higher, Mongo's ageless spirit triumphs again. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Jazz - Released May 27, 2016 | Columbia - Legacy

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Jazz - Released November 13, 1967 | Columbia - Legacy

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Mongo bores at the Village Gate until "Afro Blue." His ten-minute Afro-Cuban smoker recovers all the melodic impact, engaging solos, and general feel that have been missing from his work for years. The early Chants album on Tico never sounded this good. Still, the song might have been slowed and stretched a bit further. Side two opens with the album's only uptempo number, but more interesting are the lazier "Springtime" and "Elephant Pants," a laid-back cousin of "Baby Elephant Walk" complete with trumpeted elephant sounds. Live is probably how most of the earlier Columbia material ought to have been recorded. Explodes at the Village Gate has the intensity and sound, but most of the tunes are not especially strong. © Tony Wilds /TiVo