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Title - 'Mariposas Cantan'
Artist - José Rizo's Mongorama

For those not in the know, José Rizo, the popular and influential disc jockey who hosts the long-running Jazz On The Latin Side on KKJZ (KJazz 88.1 FM) in Los Angeles is also notable as a bandleader and songwriter.

Indeed, in 2011 he founded Mongorama, a nonet inspired by conguero Mongo Santamaria’s early 1960s band.

Their third album, Mariposas Cantan (due out September 18th, 2020 via Saungu Records) following Mongorama and Baila Que Baila, features flutist Danilo Lozano (the group’s musical director), 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, the late timbale master Ramon Banda (whose place is taken by George Ortiz on half of the set), singer James Zavaleta, conguero Joey De Leon, and a few guests, including: trombonist Francisco Torres who wrote nine of the arrangements and co-wrote five songs with Rizo.

Ramon Banda was one of the greatest timbale players in Latin jazz and, sadly, Mariposas Cantan is his final recording. Banda, who played with Poncho Sanchez for years, recorded with Cal Tjader, and was also a jazz drummer with organist Joey DeFrancesco, recorded six of the selections of Mariposas Cantan before becoming very ill and passing away.

In fact, his last recorded solo is on the track 'Mongorama,' with the entire album also now dedicated to him. This vivrantly alive album also includes Rizo’s 'Descarga Ramon Banda,' an exuberant piece performed by the full group plus Francisco Torres as a final farewell.

1. 'Mambo Mindoro'
2. 'Mariposas Cantan'
3. 'Helen of Jazz'
4. 'Fiesta De Charangueros'
5. 'A Little Dab'll Do Ya'
6. 'Quiero Menudo'
7. 'Mongorama'
8. 'Quindimbia'
9. 'Watermelon Man'
10. 'Descarga Ramon Randa'
11. 'Como Fue'
12. 'East L.A. Meets Napa'

In truth, there are oh-so many highlights to Mariposas Cantan, especially given that it magnificently opens on Cal Tjader’s upbeat and oh-so vibrant 'Mambo Mindoro' (which also features violinist Santamaria) and backs that up seamlessly with the free flowing melodies of the title track love song sung by James Zavaleta, 'Mariposas Cantan,' the piano-led 'Helen of Jazz' (itself a tribute to the late disc jockey Helen Borgers who requested flutist Lozano on this piece) and then brings forth Alfredo Ortiz singing on 'Fiesta De Charangueros.'

Next up is the methodical, slow dance moves of 'A Little Dab'll Do Ya,' the fun swing of 'Quiero Menudo,' with the heat turned up next for 'Mongorama' and then we get two of the stand out tracks for me personally, the Latin hipsway of the playful 'Quindimbia' (where both Zavaleta and flutist Lozano interact to perfection), and the funky strides and beats of the ever-popular 'Watermelon Man.'

This emotively charged album then rounds out with the gently frenetic Latin vibes of 'Descarga Ramon Randa,' the dancefloor, slow shuffle ballad (featuring Yoshigei Rizo) of 'Como Fue,' closing on the melodiously perky 'East L.A. Meets Napa.'

Amazon Purchase Link

José Rizo's Mongorama @ Facebook