A brilliant recording by Cuban percussionist Mongo Santamaria, Afro Roots (Prestige, 1989) collects the Latin jazz hero’s first two albums released on the Fantasy label, 1958’s Yambu and 1959’s Mongo. The music is some of the best the genre has ever produced and shows just how good Santamaria was before making the unfortunate leap to Latin fusion in the late ‘60s. The supporting musicians on these sessions are also impeccable, numbering among them Cal Tjader, Francisco Aguabella, Willie Bobo, Armando Peraza, Emil Richards, and Vince Guaraldi. With most of its songs falling within the four-minute mark and the LP featuring a beautiful black woman on its cover (a style very much of its time), Afro Roots is designed for a popular audience with the aim of making this music enjoyable and accessible.
It’s not every day that you run into a musician who joins a protean range of talents—as a composer, saxophonist, writer and bandleader–-with a commitment to Marxist ideology….For twenty years now Fred Ho and his Afro Asian Music Ensemble have been defending the turf where the personal and the political slam into the maelstrom of new jazz…a fiercely imaginative baritone saxophonist and composer.
Recorded over two days in spring, polished over a month this autumn but in preparation for over a year: it all started on the road, on the tours that took the trio to the four corners of the earth. One can still feel this first live layer in the deep organic vibrations. The tracks had been developed in a live setting and then worked on again and again. And thus the clear outlines and highly melodic approach never prevent harmonic detours and rhythmic eruptions. Your work can be devoted to serving the voice without neglecting the dynamics of the trio. It’s all in the subtle proportions. Production, a key factor in this, was taken on by Eric, as a great admirer of Danger Mouse, Grizzly Bear and Daniel Lanois, not to mention one of John Barry’s most faithful followers.