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Mongo Santamaria

A Mongo Santamaria concert is a mesmerizing spectacle for both eyes and ears, and even in his seventies, this seemingly ageless Cuban percussionist/bandleader could energize packed behemoth arenas such as the Hollywood Bowl. A master conguero, Santamaria at his best creates an incantatory spell rooted in Cuban religious rituals, quietly seating himself before his congas and soloing with total command over the rhythmic spaces between the beats while his band pumps out an endless vamp (a potent example on records is the hypnotic "Mazacote" available on Afro-Roots [Prestige]). He has been hugely influential as a leader, running durable bands that combine the traditional charanga with jazz-oriented brass, wind, and piano solos, featuring such future notables as Chick Corea and Hubert Laws. He also reached out into R&B, rock, and electric jazz at times in his long career. No Cuban percussionist, with the possible exception of Santana's Armando Peraza (and let's not count Desi Arnaz!), has reached more listeners than Mongo.

Ramon "Mongo" Santamaria originally took up the violin but then switched to drums before dropping out of school to become a professional musician. A performer at the Tropicana Club in Havana, Mongo traveled to Mexico City with a dance team in 1948 and then moved to New York City in 1950, where he made his American debut with Pérez Prado and spent six years trading percussive barrages with Tito Puente and performing and recording with Cal Tjader (1957-1960). Mongo's first significant recordings in America were made in 1958 for Fantasy; his second Fantasy album, Mongo (1959), contained a composition called "Afro-Blue," which quickly became a Latin jazz standard, taken up by John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, and others.

Santamaria's breakthrough into the mass market may have come as a result of a bad night at a Cuban nightclub in the Bronx in 1962. As the story goes, only three people showed up in the audience, so the musicians held a bull session in which the substitute pianist for the gig, Herbie Hancock, demonstrated his new blues tune, "Watermelon Man." Everyone gradually joined in, the number became a part of Mongo's repertoire, and when producer Orrin Keepnews heard it, he rushed the band into a studio and recorded a single that leaped to the number ten slot on the pop charts in 1963.

The success of Santamaria's cross-pollination of jazz, R&B, and Latin music on "Watermelon Man" and a string of Battle and Riverside albums led to a high-profile contract with Columbia that resulted in a wave of hot, danceable albums between 1965 and 1970. With a brighter, brassy sound propelled by trumpeter Marty Sheller's driving charts, often covering hits of the day, the Santamaria band perfectly reflected the mood of the go-go '60s, and Mongo continued to mix genres into the '70s. Santamaria then returned to his Afro-Cuban base, recording for Vaya in the early '70s, teaming with Gillespie and Toots Thielemans for a live gig at Montreux for Pablo in 1980, recording several albums for Concord Picante (1987-1990), a sole effort for Chesky in 1993 and a return to the Fantasy fold via its Milestone subsidiary in 1995. He died on February 1, 2003, at Baptist Hospital in Miami, following a stroke. ~ Richard S. Ginell, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Live At Yankee Stadium

Comments

Scuze me while I BAILA my a** off......... . : - D
Sofrito...lo v e this song by Mongo!
Where are the drums and chants LPS recorded on Fantasy? They are some of Mongo's purest work.
Old School, the best!!
Salsa is my life
Brilliance in human form........ s a w him in Cali many years ago, STILL AWESTRUCK!!!
Mongo Santamaria introduced me to Latin music in 1964-------- - - I am indebted 2 him 4ever!!! And THEN SOME!!!!!!!! RIP, Hermano.
El esta tocando en nuestros corazones junto con toda la antolojia de nuestra musica cubanas, lo bueno es para sempre y los que le gusten su musica saben que hablo la verdad
Hail Mongo!!!
Mongo Santamaria.. . . . a m a z i n g congero!!!
I saw Mongo Santamaria in California many years ago in a small nightclub in Hollywood. Wonderful!
Good song. Today is my birthday. Turn.(56) el timbalero de bklyn. 8*23*57.HAPP Y BIRTHDAY. CHAPO. THANK YOU.:-)
Timeless :-)
tremendisimo tema
increible
Tremenda melodia caballero
papalou30
mongo 's sound on the conga's were fantastist. his smacks on the congas were so loud. he could probabley smack your face off. love you mongo. papalou conguero. fromerly from brooklyn now living in orlando,fla
papalou30
this is louie again. i was trumpet player but after lessenting to mongo i have begun a conga player. that's how much mongo i love mongo. see you in heaven mongo.
papalou30
louis carriion 'louie' when i first heard mongo in a record store on fulton st bklyn i freak out. he has been my mentor ever since
. that was in 1965
cef1953
Love Mongo!!!
He was ones the best. Ibaye. Entonu.
mongo is the bad a** of the congas
Mongo is the inspiration to large quote of percusionist true generation
im groovin 2 jellybelly
The drum in this picture was stolen many years ago in San Francisco. I got it later on from a conga player and then returned it to Mongo when I played with him on a few gigs in the bay area.. He was so happy to get it back.
funk up
listening to dr. casca n it really takes off. this music lives n breathes grooves it gushes n pushes forward
Ageless but still fresh!!!
mongos tune TOGETHER is worth a listen. so cool
never met him.. love his style. and talent.. soy salsera de la mata...
loved the information. w o u l d like to hear caljeter'
mborington
Music that penetrates deep inside the soul, proud to b from the Island of the Caribiean...
The best of the best!
frankholzman
ritmo del fundo, muito bem!
Smooth
One if not thee Best to beat the Skins.
One of my favorite congueros in the world. Seeing him in person was as mesmerizing as his sound on his albums. His solos were fantastic and his fills artistic. We'll miss him and that energetic smile he revealed when he expressed the love his music displayed.
A simple and humble man, Mongo was a true giant in his field. He established licks on his congas that have been emulated for the past fifty years by most legitimate conguero's throughout the world. I had the distinct pleasure of having received some instruction from him, personally, at some of the summer clinics that were held in "El Barrio" back in the mid-sixties. He was the "real deal", folks.
vip104
HAVING HAD THE INCREDIBLE PLEASURE OF SITTING IN FRONT OF THIS MASTER PRECUSSIONIS T , BACK IN THE 70,S
IN NY, ONE NEVER CAN QUESTION HIS PLACE IN THE "SALSERO HALL OF FAME..."
Love Mongo jams....
aavelezjt1
A unique musician, whose talent will live for ever. Never get tired of listening to his music!!
yourstruly14 5 8
tried to play it , heard crap!!!!!!!! ! ! ! ! ! Do not disrespect my man Otis with your copy a** crap, SOB's
Otis was the real deal, live it learn it!
growing up in NYC, living in SF this is musica. roger glenn on flute?
I saw Mongo a lot in New York City in the 70's and 80's. Of all my favorite musicians of the era ie. Palmieri, Barretto, TP, Celia, Lavoe etc., Mongo was the jazziest. He loved Jazz and mixed up a real modern sounding Latin Jazz in the clubs around New York... Great bands and Mongo always had that sweet smiling spirit. Besides the fact that he was an awesome conguero. Sorely missed!
rayraybann
MONGO IS A GIANT = We love you Pana
I Have this Noted Conga Player,on CD with Dizzy Gilliespie,H e playes Conga very fast,and very good
Anyone ??
Music is great
Am looking for title song "Besame Mama"not sure year or album
eustaquiocol o n
Mongo inspiro un sin numeros de true salseros en nuestras vidas. He demostrated the true rythm of "Salsa" Music. A joy if you like " Salsa " with afro-cuban soul beat.
Just makes you feel good, and hard to keep your feet in one place.
Mongo played at the famed Blackhawk jazz club in the tenderloin district,San Francisco,fa m o u s for great Jazz artists--Dav e Brubeck, Cal Tjader,Paul Deasmond.... m a n y others. It was one of the great jazz venues in the world along with the London House in Chicago...bo t h gone but not forgotten.

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