Mambo Mucho Mambo - the Complete Columbia Masters
Havana born bandleader/singer Frank Raul Grillo, aka "Machito" (or simply "Macho"), may not have achieved the same sort of mass appeal as Xavier Cugat (for whom he played and sang in the 1930s), but his fusion of African and Latin rhythms with the improvisational bent of New York's post-war bebop scene would have a huge and lasting impact on Latin music. The tracks gathered here date to the early and mid 1950s, an era that saw Machito's musical peak and the exploding popularity of Latin rhythms neatly coinicide. Partnered with his classically trained brother-in-law Mario Bauza, Macho and band bound through swinging, jazzed-up takes on "Sambia", the staple "Adios" and the de facto mambo anthem "Mambo Inn"; harmonise with the Skylarks on a vocal tribute to the Savoy Ballroom ("Mambo A La Savoy"); and engage in some saucy sexual innuendo with Graciela on the live hijinks of "Si Si--No No". With its infectious Latin rhythms and loose-limbed bebop and swing seasonings, it's! music with a remarkable contemporary resonance that eclipses transient lounge revivalism; small wonder many Latin musicians hail Machito as "The Godfather". --Jerry McCulley
Machito was a key figure in the development of Latin music in the nineteen forties and fifties. Like virtually all of the big names in the genre he was born in Cuba but eventually moved to New York, where different communities collide, and diverse musical styles cross breed.
Machito created a unique fusion of the swing of the US big bands of the 40s and the tang of his Cuban roots, aimed fairly and squarely at the dance floor and at popular appeal.
It's a style which has been a little devalued by five decades of mistreatment by imitators. But hearing the original again, it still packs a hefty enough punch to dispel all those weird memories of "Come Dancing". When the expertly drilled and thoroughly impressive band start riffing on "Holiday Mambo", the opening track here, there's nothing remotely cheesy about it.
These recordings are from the fifties when the Orchestra was at its peak. If you've never heard this stuff properly before what's intriguing is both the variety on offer and some of the bizarre contrasts,which unintentionally reveal a lot about the society of the time. So the very Cuban Latin swing, complete with Machito's own singing of "Carambola" sits side by side with the "uptown" slick white trio vocalising in English on "Mambo A La Savoy".
"Oboe Mambo" features, pretty obviously, an oboe. There's ballads, straight ahead swing and the occasional chance for some good solos. And of course, sexual innuendo on the slow cha cha cha of "Si Si No No", typically muddying the waters of the "when does no really mean no?" debate.
Recording quality is good. For the budding student of all things Latin this CD is pretty essential.If you're old enough to remember the days when people used to actually touch each other when they danced (they still do in New York), you may find yourself mamboing around your living room before you know it... --Nick Reynolds
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