King Conga

Johnny Blas
King Conga


01-Con Ganas
02-King Conga
03-Mi Madre
04-The Sidewinder
05-The Beat of the Conga
06-Quien Sabe
09-Rican Conga
11-M.J.'s Mambo
12-Little Sunflower
13-Our Sound
14-Debbie's Mambo
15-Bomba Dance


Johnny Blas: Congas, percusión
Angelito Rodríguez: timbales, percusión, bongó, campana
Dan Weinstein: trombón
Kerry Loeschen: trombón
Humberto Ruiz: trombón
Edwin Blas: trombón
Mark Gutiérrez: piano
Paul Pérez: bajo
Terry Delgado: coro

Recorded at Private Island Trax, Hollywood, California on June 23 & 24, 1999. 
Includes liner notes by Dan Weinstein.
This latest release from percussionist/bandleader Johnny Blas, his fourth as a leader, exhibits signs of growth and more depth in his and the group's musical interpretations and compositions. Propelled mainly by the triple threat of Johnny Blas on percussion and flute, Dan Weinstein on trombone and violin, and Mark Gutiérrez on piano and guitar, the group has hammered out their own style and sound, working together for years.

Also present in this recording as in previous releases is the healthy herd of four trombones, deploying monster brass colors, reminiscent of some of the early urban sounds of New York's Latin bands. Aside from the title track King Conga, a Dan Weinstein composition in the traditional Latin jazz genre, the CD also features many other compositions which fuse other Latin rhythms and styles with jazz. Mi Madre is a jazzy chachachá which pianist Mark Gutiérrez takes advantage of. The classic Lee Morgan composition The Sidewinder is transformed here into a boogaloo. Sobale, a Johnny Blas original, is a pachanga borderline descarga where everyone gets off. Another interesting composition is Socorro, composed and arranged by Dan Weinstein in the vein of the bossa nova and the bolero-chá. But my choice track is M.J.'s Mambo. Composed and arranged by Gutiérrez, the selection smokes with mucho sabor and commendable solos by Gutiérrez on piano and tres guitar, Johnny Blas on percussion, and Edwin Blas on the trombone.

Seven years into his career, percussionist Johnny Blas continued to propel the Latin jazz idiom further into the 21st century with some of the most exquisitely arranged, consummately executed music the genre had heard in some time. Not a major departure from his first two albums with Ubiquity's Cubop imprint (1997s Skin & Bones and 1998s Mambo 2000), King Conga nonetheless maintains the standards of those sets. Joining Blas once again are guitarist/pianist Mark Gutierrez and trombonist/violinist Dan Weinstein: linchpins of the percussionist's combo since his 1995 debut, A Night in L.A. In addition to lending their substantial improvisational skills to the date, they combine with Blas to form a formidable writing trio. Percussionist Angelito Rodriguez also makes impressive contributions, sharing credit with Blas on five cuts. It's worth noting that King Conga's eight originals (not counting the tasty percussion interludes sprinkled throughout) are more than capable of holding their own alongside Freddie Hubbard's "Little Sunflower" and Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder," the second and third cover versions ever recorded by the group. Album highlights include "Sobale," an up-tempo track that adds both flute and violin to an otherwise trombone-heavy mixture; "Socorro," a soft-stepping ballad adorned with a rich string arrangement by Weinstein; and "Debbie's Mambo," a lively eight-minute track presumably dedicated to Blas' wife. The latter features an outstanding arrangement for the band's four trombones and an inspired (and slightly deranged) piano solo from Weinstein. This is Latin jazz (circa 1999) at its very best. 


Feq'wah said...

Thanks for the Johnny Blas...had heard something from him before but wasn't very impressed. This one is quite good.

Miguel said...

Yes CuBop had golden hands and loving producers at that time...

hope they still have them...

but so many record shops closed in the last ten years :(

so I did not SEE any new stuff lately...