Wednesday, April 7, 2010

ROW: Patato y Totico (Verve)

Much like conguero Sabu Martinez’s self-titled album for Blue Note released over a decade earlier, this 1968 slice of authentic Afro-Cuban street music stands distinctively apart from the remainder of its label’s catalog. Verve was home to various popular purveyors of Cuban jazz including bandleader/composers like Chico O’Farrill, Willie Bobo and Machito. Principals Carlos “Patato” Valdez and Eugenio “Totico” Arango were pundits of progenitor rhythms, players enamored of the Yoruba-derived rituals of the island-indigenous Lucumi. Coupled with that guiding appreciation, they possessed the keen insight to conscript living legends of the idiom to help bring the music to contemporary audiences. Chief among the cast of chosen ringers were tres-master Arsenio Rodriguez (who also held court on the aforementioned Sabu outing) and pioneering son-bassist Cachao. Conguero Patato fronts a modest-sized percussion section. Totico directs a small cadre of vocalists. The songs are the equivalent of street music standards and highly infectious due to pervasive polyrhythms and stinging strums from the aging Rodriguez’s whose wizened digits still carry an impressive deftness. Now that the great thaw has officially commenced around these formerly-frigid parts, this platter makes a welcome return to my regular rotation. It’s an apposite aural accompaniment to a snifter of Sailor Jerry’s and a backyard strung hammock.

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