1 x LP
2004 UK reissue on 180g virgin LP=Machito is perhaps the best Latin jazz bandleader of the 1940s and '50s, he set lofty standards for the fusion of American and Afro-Cuban rhythms. Frank Raul Grillo, also known as Machito, was the leader of The Af...
Release date: 16-01-2004(originally released in 1957)
2004 UK reissue on 180g virgin LP=Machito is perhaps the best Latin jazz bandleader of the 1940s and '50s, he set lofty standards for the fusion of American and Afro-Cuban rhythms. Frank Raul Grillo, also known as Machito, was the leader of The Afro-Cubans, a fiery definitive Latin-jazz big band. Not only did they sport a topnotch percussion section, featuring Candido Camero, Jose Mangual, and Uba Nieto, but they worked the arrangements of Mario Bauza, the father of modern Afro-Hispanic jazz in the U.S. This outstanding album, recorded in 1957, the same year that Tito Puente cut his historic Top Percussion sessions and Israel "Cachao" Lopez laid down his influential descargas. Named in honor the African country, Kenya, with pianist Rene Hernandez and A.K. Salim contributing compositions and arrangements, swings with the ancestral anthems that fueled the best Afro-inspired dances. "Wild Jungle" is a roaring rumba capped by special guest Doc Cheatham's zesty trumpet solo. The title track is an elegant Palladium-style lullaby graced by tenor saxophonist Ray Santoz's Lester Young lilt, and the Florida-born Julian "Cannonball" Adderley's Charlie Parker-like alto-sax riffs fly on "Oyeme," with another American, trumpeter Joe Newman. On the bata-drum-driven blues "Congo Mulence," Adderley and Newman create inspired solos off of the clave, highlighting the wonderful Afro-American and Afro-Cuban musical language Machito spoke and swung so well.
A1 Wild Jungle
A2 Congo Mulence
B2 Blues A La Machito
B4 Tin Tin Deo
B5 Minor Rama
Classic Afro-Cuban jazz albums are not so plentiful that any can escape being called "essential." By 1958 the idiom had lost its original spontaneity and excitement, but new life had come from the recording possibilities of high-fidelity stereo. Kenya belongs to the style typified by Tito Puente's great work for Victor in this period. There are colorful African masks on the jacket, the obligatory dozen tight arrangements, three first-call percussionists, and a horn section guaranteed to be heard at least from one edge of Manhattan to the other.
While Kenya can be thought of as formulaic, at least the formula was still relatively fresh and highly desirable. For all its homegrown, New York credibility, Kenya sounds very much like 1950s Hollywood. Television and film crime dramas of the period relied heavily on Latin and jazz, which helped to popularize Afro-Cuban jazz. The bombastic horns created suspense and excitement, while the bongos and congas signaled the exoticism and feverishness of a world slipping out of control. But the old complaint about Afro-Cuban jazz is the same as for other Hollywood jazz and even standard pop albums of the period: The tight arrangements and rhythm are fine for ensemble playing, but the horn solos fail to communicate the individualism and passion one expects from jazz. Consequently the most successful pieces, such as "Manteca," have a live, gritty sound, like a riot in an old New York nightclub. Kenya ranges in tempo from a Cuban blues "Blues á la Machito," to a fast rumba "Wild Jungle." Everything else falls between these, but mostly on the upbeat side. "Congo Mulence" is played in the "bata" style (though probably without bata drums), and "Tin Tin Deo" is the Chano Pozo classic. "Minor Rama" and "Tuturato" are the most adventurous pieces. Overall, the Kenya powerhouse falls just short of being fantastic by sounding hurried, as if the studio clock was ticking. Perhaps too, a sense of anachronism (even in 1958) affected the recording. In any case, it could have been produced as two very welco
Extra info: Remastered
Label: Pure Pleasure Records
Originally released: 1957
This release: 2004