The Jazz Weekly

Jose’ Rizo’s Mongorama: "Mongorama"


         LA’s own Jose’ Rizo is a real renaissance man. Or, as they might say in East LA, “Jose’ Rizo is a real renaissance, man!” He leads the hot band Jazz on the Latin Side, which plays all over town, plays a nice horn himself, composes and is one of the best djs on KJazz with his fantastic show on Latin music.

        This time around, he brings together a band that’s a bit different, dedicated to the sound, music and vibe of legend Mongo Santamaria. In theory, the group is a nine piece unit, but there are so many guests jumping in and going out it’s like an open house party, with people staying for awhile having some fun, and moving on out. The regulars include the Latin Coltrane himself, Justo Almario/ts, as well as Danilo Lozano/fl, Oscar Hernandez/p, Ramon banda/timbales, Dayren santamaria/vio, Joey De Leon/perc and Alfred Ortiz/perc. The mixture of flute and violin on tracks like “Bacoso” or Las Guajiras” is a sublime green salsa, while the band simmers like grilled onions and peppers on “Bulchanga.” Sensuous vocals and choruses by Destani Wolf, Freddie Crespo and Adonis Puentes create a mood as smoky as a low ceilinged club, particularly on “Siempre En Ti.” Hubie Laws brings his feathery flute for extra textures on “Bacoso” and even Ponco Sanchez gets out of his Chevy to pull up and play a few solos, as on the cooking “Asi Es La Vida” and “Guajira at the Blackhawk.” Get this band into a club and let the good times roll. Great stuff!

Gapplegate Music Review

Jose’ Rizo’s Mongorama: "Baila Que Baila"


        We're levitating over the floorboards this morning with some more fine Latin Jazz. As the opening strains of Baila Que Baila(Saungu 004) waft over my cheesy computer music system I want to dance. But no, I must type. The band is Jose Riza's Mongorama. It's their second. Charanga-jazz modern style by a large band kicks up some dust here and I must type, not dance.

Needless to say Mongo Santamaria has influenced them. When they get the violin, flute, horns, piano, percussion, bass and vocals going, you fall into it without reflecting on influence. The vocalists are very good. There are a couple of songs in English and one is better than the other. Spanish sounds percussive when the vocalists go at it. English doesn't always have that hitting it quality. But no matter; we are talking about twelve kickers and in the end it makes no difference to the quality of this disk.

These folks are on it!

Ljn - Latin Jazz Network

Jose’ Rizo’s Mongorama: "Baila Que Baila"



        You will not be able to stop dancing when you listen to the first few seconds of this master album Baila Que Baila, creatively produced and played by a musical dream team. All the way from Los Angeles, California, composer and radio personality José Rizo brings in this second album with his phenomenal band Mongorama. Thirteen songs compose this new cd made with exceptional talent by some of the most prolific musicians on the Latin jazz scene.


      As Afro music lovers know, the name of this band is a tribute to the legendary Master of Afro Cuban music, Mongo Santamaría. This project is a landscape of what Mongo contributed to Latin music. In Baila Que Baila, the most essential soul of Mongo’s lines is expressed with beautiful subtlety and incredible expertise when interpreting the classical rhythms like charanga, cha cha chá and montuno.

This is the second recording of Mongorama after his debut album two years ago. With a new lead vocalist, James Zavaleta, Baila Que Baila has the fortune of having arrangers like the brilliant Oscar Hernández and Francisco Torres, and unrivaled performers like Justo Almario, Poncho Sánchez, Danilo Lozano, Joey de León, Oscar Hernández and René Camacho among others.


        This dream album is a committed tribute to Mongo Santamaría as nobody has done before. Jazz con charanga, or charanga-jazz if you prefer is the concept the band continues to explore in a fresh and modern way. The intro song Skins is a powerful Latin jazz piece composed originally for Mongo by Marty Sheller. As its name says this theme has many “skins” that keep the listener peeling away to find new sonorities where the musical changes of the theme astonish the listener, rediscovering the roots of Afro-Cuban music and feeling the magic of the Caribbean. José Rizo contributes three of his own compositions. Adoro Tus Ojos is a beautiful bolero arranged by Francisco Torres. Chicana Mía, dedicated to his wife Leticia, is also arranged by Torres and Ta’ Bueno is arranged by Oscar Hernández, who also contributes the arousing danzón La Princesa. Say Yes To Love is a groovy, bluesy composition infused with positive vibes penned by Master guitarist Kenny Burrell. A song that closes this wonderful album on a high note.


         Each theme is a great interpretation of the pure sound that Mongo represented for Latin music. To listen to this album is to inject in our veins the African, syncopated, and harmonic rhythms of música latina which goes directly to our heart.



All About Jazz

Jose’ Rizo’s Mongorama: "Baila Que Baila"



        Mongorama. The name just sounds like fun—and this is a fun record, despite being crafted by musicians who take the Afro-Cuban music and legacy of Mongo Santamaria very seriously. Organized by jazz DJ Jose Rizo, the band highlights a mix of Santamaria classics, blended with newer compositions in the same tradition. 

Any album that associates itself so closely with a great conguero like Santamaria is bound to feature lots of hand drumming, and Mongorama does not disappoint. Joey De Leon covers most of the album, with a guest solo from Poncho Sanchez on "Asi Es La Vida." Front and center, the congas are and masterfully played but the disc's pace remains measured—up-tempo but never overwhelming—about solid groove rather than frenetic, hell-bent thundering drive. 

The band features several Santamaria alumni, opening with flutist Hubert Laws, who blows a terrific extended solo over the infectious conga beat of "Bacoso," showing why he so richly deserves his NEA Jazz Master title. Violinist Dayren Santamaria—providing one of the album's signature instrumental sounds —immediately follows with an with an equally exceptional improvisation. Violin is a triple threat on most tracks; in addition to soloing, it's used as a romantic background texture behind Adonis Puentes' fine vocals, as well as melodic comping behind other soloists. 

Pianist Oscar Hernandez and tenor saxophonist Justo Almario provide further highlights. Both are clearly well-versed in this music's tradition, while also blending elements of modern jazz into their solos. Hernandez adds a hint of discord that sounds thoroughly up-to-date on "Que Maravillosa," while Almario is featured on "Bluchanga," blowing his horn in the best post-bop tradition. 

With ten band members and four guest soloists, there is a lot happening on the plush-sounding Mongorama, where that much musical firepower affords the luxury of layering textures and multipart harmonies. Musical Director Danilo Lozano takes full advantage of his resources to command a truly gorgeous sounding band. With great music and impeccable musicianship, Mongorama is an outstanding recording...and just plain fun.



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