“Palo Congo” by Sabu - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1957Album Chart of the Decade: 1950s1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die external-link.png

TJR says

”First I played on tin cans in backyards. Then when I was 11 years old I joined a trio and got a job on 125th playing for 25¢ every third night” said Louis Martinez in 1968. Some people are just born with rhythm and “Sabu”, as he was most commonly known, was one such person. By the age of 18, the New York born percussionist had replaced Chano Pozo in Dizzy Gillespie's orchestra, and a year later began performing with Benny Goodman's Bebop Orchestra. On “Palo Conga” he takes his first opportunity as a band leader with aplomb, serving up an exotic potpourri where African chanting and drumming mix it up with Latin American rhythms to create an interesting and, at times, mesmerizing listening experience. Congas and bongos are to the fore – up to 5 at a time – as well as vocals and chants. Musical accompaniment is generally light and acoustic, giving an authentic, traditional feel. “El Cumbanchero” begins with a vocal introduction by Sabu, asking everyone to listen to the drum which expresses his soul. These hand rhythms are immediately infectious. This impressive start is maintained by “Billumba - Palo Congo” which seems to be some sort of religious ritual, with Arsenio Rodriguez preaching in an Afro-Cuban cult dialect to antiphonal responses by the group. “Asabache” closes side 1 on an African Safari as the congas take over completely. Side 2 opens up by continuing that journey as “Simba” utilizes more of that trance-inducing conga drumming alongside more ritualistic chanting. Best of the lot is “Tribilin Cantore” at the close of play, probably the most Latin of all the pieces here. It’s a gentle pastoral tribute to the scenery, climate, and products of beautiful Cuba, with more guitar by Arsenio and an extremely manic bass solo by Evaristo Baro. Very enjoyable – and a very welcome break up to the hipsters play lists of 1957.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [05:38] 7.0.png Sabu - El Cumbanchero (Rafael Hernández) Latin
A2 [06:06] 7.1.png Sabu - Billumba-Palo Congo (Louis Martinez) Africana
A3 [04:02] 6.8.png Sabu - Choferito-Plena (Inacio Ríos) Latin
A4 [04:22] 5.3.png Sabu - Asabache (Louis Martinez) Latin
B1 [05:55] 6.0.png Sabu - Simba (Louis Martinez) Africana
B2 [04:39] 5.7.png Sabu - Rhapsodia Del Maravilloso (Louis Martinez) Latin
B3 [04:28] 6.2.png Sabu - Aggo Elegua (Louis Martinez) Africana
B4 [05:19] 7.3.png Sabu - Tribilin Cantore (Louis Martinez) Latin

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