Jukebox Mambo: Rumba and Afro-Latin Accented Rhythm & Blues 1949-1960 was compiled by DJ Liam Large. This is the cat who dug crates to assemble Jazzman’s previous Jukebox Jam set of vintage jumpers, swing, and blues. This comp explores a very particular kind of jukebox recording that existed primarily in the middle part of the 20th century and showcased music that has simply vanished — in this form anyway — on North American shores. The period began the same year Tito Puente nailed his first hit single (“Pa’ los Rumberos”) and brought the mambo to the mainstream, but given these recordings, it was clearly flourishing even on the margins before that; an underground era that made direct connections between Afro-Cuban and Latin music, American R&B and jazz.
While many jazz fans are aware of historic recordings like Afro-Cubop by Machito, which featured Howard McGhee on trumpet, or his recordings with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker during the height of the bop era, these sides are more obscure, and focus more deeply on employing the “Latin tinge” in dance music. Since these records were made for jukeboxes and, by association, for dancers, they were dismissed — at best — or completely ignored by jazz purists. (They have issues anyway and always have.)
Check out set-opener “Ojai” by Joe Lutcher, which marries hard-swinging big band to Latin percussion, skittering, low-end beats and rich harmonies. Danny Cobb’s “My Isabella” may have a killer R&B vocal, but dig how the bongos and timbales ride atop even the horn section. Gerald Wilson’s “Mambo Mexicana” gets right inside the contrasting time signatures between a sprinting mambo groove, and bebop’s furious tempi, all the while arraying the horns with a rich, timbral palette that walks the line between Mexican folk and North American swing melodies. Another highlight is Dave Bartholomew’s “Shrimp & Gumbo,” with its cowbell, claves, and wailing New Orleans’ R&B vocal. The tune’s rhythms walk a tightrope between Cuban mambo and Caribbean calypso infused with the blues. All of these tunes are deep groovers. DJ Liam Large dug deep, got his hands dirty, and came out with a jewel; it’s one of the finest archival collections of 2012. [Thom Jurek]
STUNNING! collection of Exotic Afro-Cuban, Latin and Caribbean style 50’s R&B dancers