By the time this Lp was released most people thought Eddie Palmieri had invented the driving Mozambique rhythms. Cutting edge, jazzy, rhythmic and radical, “Molasses” continued the distinctive lead Palmieri led as bandleader during those changing times when mambo, charanga, big bands and boogalu were scrambling for top billing. Opinionated and daring with leftist leaning visions of a socialist society, Palmieri had already conquered the Palladium Ballroom, a favorite among African Americans on Sunday night showcases. ...MORE >
By the time this Lp was released most people thought Eddie Palmieri had invented the driving Mozambique rhythms. Cutting edge, jazzy, rhythmic and radical, “Molasses” continued the distinctive lead Palmieri led as bandleader during those changing times when mambo, charanga, big bands and boogalu were scrambling for top billing. Opinionated and daring with leftist leaning visions of a socialist society, Palmieri had already conquered the Palladium Ballroom, a favorite among African Americans on Sunday night showcases.
La Perfecta was less than perfect breaking with traditional recording norms (their previous Azúcar hit was an unprecedented eight minutes long) while mixing rhythms and genres that gave the band its searing, sweaty sound. Pat Quintana’s inspired singing in the traditional sonero style underlines the foundations’ son montuno on the hit “Tirándote Flores” where Palmieri’s piano paves the way for a driven Tommy López conga solo.
Puerto Rican percussionist Manny Oquendo was only half of Eddie’s secret weapon with trombonist Barry Rogers rounding out the circle of revelation. Manny had his Cuban chops chiseled under the bands of Tito Puente, Tito Rodríguez, Johnny Pacheco and others. He had hung with the legendary Chano Pozo, taking the Musician’s Union cabaret license test for him (you read it here first folks) enabling Pozo to work in New York clubs during his stay between 1946 –’48.
When everything Cuban was forbidden after 1960, Manny listened to the Mozambique sounds of Pello El Afrokán over his short wave radio and on pirated records. Back in his apartment on Kelly Street in the Bronx, he’d practice hitting the timbal with the left and playing the rhythm on the right until he nailed the Cuban genre so well he made it his own. Palmieri had several guarachas Manny felt were pliable for the Mozambique beats so rehearsing together with conguero Tommy López and Barry Rogers, New York Mozambique was born.
Listen to how Manny slightly retards the abanico in the intro to “Melao Para El Sapo,” forcing Tommy to come in after the timbal roll. His solo is distinctive in its short yet determined, driving style. With strains of Azúcar Pa’ Tí, “Melao” ends in a swinging call and response finale between the thundering ‘bones and the chorus.
A simple little dittie about Carmelina’s drinking, “Traguito” is an uncomplicated son montuno featuring some great trombone work by Rogers highlighted by López’s talking drum (quinto). While the following André Previn “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” brings out the band’s Latin lounge style, (probably cultivated through Rogers’ many years with Harlem R&B & jazz groups) and highlights Quintana’s Bobby Darinesque approach.
“Bombonsito De Pozo” rings tribute to the gangsta Cuban percussionist gunned down on Harlem streets. A driving polyrhythmic Mozambique over the rumba/guaracha/comparsa feel, Manny shines on a solo that would make Chano proud. Kinda makes you wanna jump up and do a conga line. The guaguancó finale as defined by Tommy López’ quinto stops and repeats then sadly fades out to the syncopated bell of Manny’s drum just as Lopez is warming up.
Palmieri next takes us to a Carnaval in the town of Camagüey before making a pit stop in Puerto Rico and back to New York in this traditional style rendition of Cuba’s festivals. López’ quinto solo heralds in Pat’s Yoruba verses followed by blasts of Barry’s ‘bone in a booming solo that could only have been inspired by the orishas Quintana sings to.
Ending with a mozambiqued up “Campesino (El Pregón De La Montaña),” Oquendo once again speaks up in congo style taking that timbal into a conversation with gods that underscore his virtuosity. Followed by the harmonized horns of Barry Rogers and Brazilian José Rodrigues, this charanga sports a completely different swing to anything that was happening during that time.
No matter how great the music, musicians run the risk of obscurity when they become too eclectic, innovative and radical. Palmieri however irrigated a fertile path to the top going on to earn eight Grammies while launching the careers of singers and musicians that made classics still emulated today.
Eddie Palmieri – Leader, Piano
Barry Rogers – Trombone
José Rodrigues – Trombone
Manny Oquendo – Timbales, Bongoes
Tommy López – Conga
George Castro – Flute
David Pérez – Bass
Lead Vocal – Ismael Quintana
Producer – Pancho Cristal
Original Album Design – Steven Craig Prod.