These welcome reissues will enlighten recent aficionados and remind others of the alchemy Cuban music has long worked upon its North American counterparts. Havana expatriates Machito and Mario Bauza were the original mambo kings, already two decades into their long New York careers when they scored and recorded Kenya in 1957. Other notables on this definitive blend of rumba, batá, cha cha, mambo, jazz and blues include congüeros Candido Camero and Carlos "Patato" Valdes, Cannonball Adderley on alto, journeyman Leslie Johnakins on baritone sax, and trumpeters Doc Cheatham and Joe Newman. No pretense, no filler, no exotic hype, just eminently danceable, straight-ahead Latin jazz at its classic Harlem best.
Apart from his own lead outings and work with Machito and Tito Puente, Havana percussionist Candido Camero traded rhythmic figures with a daunting register of North American musical royalty: Duke Ellington, Errol Garner, Dizzy Gillespie, Elvin Jones, Stan Kenton, Charlie Parker, Sonny Rollins, Billy Taylor and (believe it) Tony Bennett. You wouldn't necessarily guess from Thousand Finger Man, a genre-blending 1969 New York studio recording keyed (as in clave) to the dance beats of a singular era in cultural politics and social history. Mix Willie Bobo, Pucho and the Latin Soul Brothers, Slim Gaillard, Maceo Parker and the JB's gone (way) south. Call it "Mishugana Mambo," funky Cuban Broadway, "Shotgun" boogaloo, beans-and-cornbread Latin soul, ¡sea lo que sea! Some fatback Memphis horns, Hammond B-3 carpet bombing, Crescent City tin-pan 88's and fuzz-tone guitar shot through with the Afro-Cuban conga groove that never sleeps, a half-dozen savory, simmering, saxified descargas, from Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn's "Soul Limbo" to the grits and greens of "Hallelujah! I'm Comin' Home." From Mobile to Matanzas, one thousand tentacles of Señor Jelly Roll's fabulous "Spanish tinge," Caribbean ceviche soul. Y'all get you some, hear? - Michael Stone
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