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Jose’ Rizo’s Mongorama: Mariposas Cantan

by George W. Harris • September 17, 2020 • 0 Comments

LA DJ Jose’ Rizo practices what he preaches on radio station KKJZ, as he leads a sizzling band that could fill the airwaves on anything I’d like to cruise to on a Friday night. This time around, violinist Dayren Santamaria gets the spotlight on many of the pieces, and she adds a passionate lilt to pieces like “Fiesta De Charangueros” the exotic “Mambo Mindoro”and the hyper tonic “Descarga Ramon Banda”. Justo Almario is the anchor to this outfit, bringing his beefy tenor to side up with singer James Zavaleta on the title piece and simmering with Ramon Banda on timbales on “Mongorama”. Danilo Lozan’s flute rides the percussive wave like a longboarder on “East LA Meets Napa” , “Helen Of Jazz” and “Quiero Menudo” with the team giving a fest take to Herbie  Hancock’s classic “Watermelon Man”. Jump into the Chevy,  put the top down and head to Bob’s Big Boy afterwards.

Mariposas Cantan

by Scott Yanow 


September 2020

Jose Rizo is famous in Los Angeles as the host of the long-running Jazz On The Latin Side (30 years and counting) on KKJZ-FM. He is also a notable bandleader and songwriter who in 2000 put together the Jazz On The Latin Side All-Stars. While that group has recorded four albums, Mongorama, which he founded in 2009, has now recorded three.
Mongorama is inspired by the great Mongo Santamaria’s early 1960s band. On Mariposas Cantan, Rizo features flutist-musical director Danilo Lozano, tenor-saxophonist Justo Almario, violinist Dayren Santamaria, pianist Joe Rotondi, bassist Ross Schodek, Joey De Leon on congas, Alfredo Ortiz on bongo, guiro and chekere, singer James Zavaleta, a few guests (most notably trombonist Francisco Torres who wrote nine arrangements and co-write five songs with Rizo), and the late timbale master Ramon Banda who was making his final recordings. Banda’s spot is taken by George Ortiz on half of the set.
The CD is dedicated to Banda who took his last recorded solo on “Mongorama” and is celebrated on the exuberant “Descarga Ramon Banda.” Other highlights include the fluent violinist Santamaria’s playing on “Mambo Mindoro,” the stirring work by the percussionist on “Helen Of Jazz” (for the late disc jockey Helen Borgers), the warm melody of “A Little Dab’ll Do Ya,” a playful version of Mongo Santamaria’s “Quindimbia,” and the strong tenor solo of Almario on “Watermelon Man.”
This is a fun set of danceable Afro-Cuban jazz, arguably the finest recording so far by Mongorama. It is available from


Music That Sticks To My Soul

  BY Jonathan Widran​


A vibrant, alternately sensual and explosive celebration of Latin jazz (and some of its greatest practitioners) in Southern California, Mongorama’s latest album Mariposas Cantan continues the tradition of percussive and brassy magic that influential DJ and bandleader/songwriter first envisioned when he formed the ensemble in 2011 in the spirit of Mongo Santamaria’s early 1960s band.

Showcasing a variety of the region’s most acclaimed, adventurous musicians – including saxophonist Justo Almario, flutist/musical director Danilo Lozano and vocalist James Zavaleta – the collection features zesty, freewheeling romps through Rizo/Francisco Torres originals (the title track, “Quiero Menudo,” “East L.A. Meets Napa”), a whimsical, piano driven call and response gem by Lozano (“Fiesta de Charangueros”) and party-ready arrangements of classic Latin jazz jams by Cal Tjader (“Mambo Mindoro”), Santamaria (“Mongorama,” “Quindibia”) and Herbie Hancock (the always engaging and adaptable “Watermelon Man”).


Though the session features dynamic solos and ensemble playing throughout, the tragic loss of timbale master Ramon Banda halfway through the recording process rightly turns the emotional focus to the six selections featuring his hypnotic, explosive grooving (including “Mongorama,” featuring his last solo right after Almario’s buoyant sax run) and the lightning quick vocal/piano/trumpet driven tribute penned by Rizo and Torres in his honor (“Descarga Ramon Banda”).


All great ensembles carry on, however, and George Ortiz’s work as the new member in Banda’s chair is equally spot on. An album that will truly make butterflies (and many others!) sing, Mariposas Cantan is ensemble Latin jazz at is most engaging and inspiring.

Thrilling Latin jazz Jose Rizo’s Mongorama – Mariposas Cantan


 Dick Metcalf, editor, Contemporary Fusion Reviews


July 29, 2020

Thrilling Latin jazz Jose Rizo’s Mongorama – MARIPOSA CANTAN (Butterflies Sing):  You won’t find any samples for this one yet, as it doesn’t release until 18 September, 2020, but I can tell you right now that it’s some of the most thrilling Latin jazz you’ll ever listen to… no videos/trailers from the current album (yet – hint! hint!), but here’s a rousing performance of the group from 2015…

…you’ll find several other videos/performances when you SUBSCRIBE to the Mongorama channel on YouTube… I subscribed right away.

Jose has assembled a stellar cast of players for the new album, too… Justo Almario (tenor sax, flute) Danilo Lozano (flute, musical director) Ramon Banda (timbales) Dayren Santamaria (violin) Joey De Leon (congas) James Zavaleta (lead vocals) Joe Rotondi (piano) Alfredo Ortiz (guiro, bongo, bell, chekere, vocals) George Ortiz (timbales) Ross Schodek (bass) GUEST VOCALISTS: Darynn Dean, Yoshigei Rizo, and Alexis De La Rocha all work together to make the listener’s life better on splendid and rousing tunes like “Helen Of Jazz”… this 4:01 gem will be getting lots of airplay, I expect!

The blend of percussion, piano & horns on the title track, “Mariposas Cantan” (Butterflies Sing) is certainly among the best Latin-based tunes I’ve heard (yet) in 2020… I just loved the vocal on this song, and you will, too.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more danceable version of Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” than the one on this album… it runs for 6:27, giving each of the players a shot at superb solos!

Of the dozen tunes offered up for our ears, I found the opener, “Mambo Mindoro”, to be my choice for personal favorite… be sure you listen to this with your headphones on, so you can catch all the subtle nuances… you’ll be spinning this one over & over again.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Chick Corea "Plays" His Favorites & Jose Rizo's Mongorama Brings Us Some Great Latin Jazz








Long-time disc jockey Jose Rizo collected an all-star cast of musicians to perform his latest set of compositions titled "Mariposas Cantan." Rizo's band, Mongorama has been around for almost a decade now and this latest twelve-song set brings to life the Latin Jazz music that Rizo has been promoting on his long-running "Jazz On The Latin Side" radio show." The album begins with the rhythm fueled "Mambo Mindoro" and the upbeat vibe of the title track "Mariposas Cantan," featuring the stellar lead vocals of James Zavaleta. The energy keeps on flowing with the salsa swing of "Helen Of Jazz," before the sultry sway of "A Little Dab'll Do Ya" just relaxes your senses Jose Rizo's Mongorama adds a bit of Latin flair to the timeless Herbie Hancock song "Watermelon Man," before finishing their new album with the fun, exciting, eight-minute adventurous jazz piece "Descarga Ramon Banda" and a return to the rhythmic flair of "East L.A. Meets Napa." To find out more about Jose Rizo's Mongorama and their latest release "Mariposas Cantan," please visit


Posted by JP's Music Blog 


                     Joe Ross, Roots Music Report


Album Review of

Mariposas Cantan 

Jose Rizo’s Mongorama

Label: Saungu

Genres: Jazz

Styles: Latin Jazz 

Visit Artist/Band Website

Written by Joe Ross
August 24, 2020 - 6:23pm EDT    

Inspired by the great Cuban percussionist Mongo Santamaria, Mongorama is the brainchild of Los Angeles disc jockey, bandleader and songwriter Jose Rizo who formed the group in 2011. Their third album, “Mariposas Cantan,” features ten masterful musicians who blend infectious Latin rhythms with jazz melodies on a very solid and satisfying set featuring hot percussive beats, intricate horn charts, inspired solos, and tastefully rendered vocals. Always a crowd pleaser, Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” is given a relaxed treatment featuring solos on tenor sax, piano, congas and vocals. Mongo Santamaria’s “Mongorama” and “Quindimbia” are strong covers in the hands of these accomplished musicians. Guest trombonist Francisco Torres arranged nine of the songs, and he also co-wrote five of the songs with Jose Rizo. Their approach emphasizes lively dance tunes like “Mambo Mindoro,” “Mariposas Cantan,” “Helen of Jazz,” “Quiero Menudo,” and “East L.A. Meets Napa.” Songs typically pair evocative vocalizing with spirited violin, sax or flute solos. Their co-penned “Descarga Ramon Banda” is a highly charged offering, arranged to provide opportunities for driving solos from several in the band. The band’s musical director and flutist Danilo Lozano wrote the spirited “Fiesta De Charangueros.” Dedicated to the late and legendary timbalero Ramon Banda who appears on six tracks, this album is an outstanding set of Latin jazz and salsa.   (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)    

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