Mongo Santamaria / April 7, 1917 - Feb 1, 2003

The great Cuban conguero and bandleader Mongo Santamaría brought some spice to the American popular music scene. He had been bandleader for the prestigious Tropicana house band in Havana in the '40s before coming to NYC in 1950. He was the composer of "Afro Blue" and had a huge hit with Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man".

In addition to his own groovy ensembles, he played with Cal Tjader, Tito Puente, Perez Prado, Fania All Stars, Willie Bobo, Dizzy Gillespie and others. It's always a pleasure to hear his Afro-Cuban arrangements of popular soul tunes, as well as his Orisha-guided rumbas. He played jazz, charanga, boogaloo, salsa, funk and pop. He was making vital recordings and performing into the late 1990s.

Here's a 1980 performance, followed by some favorites:

Older Post Newer Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published