Perez Prado
Mondo Mambo!
The Best of Perez Prado and His Orchestra

Various Artists
Mambo Mania! The Kings & Queens of Mambo

At its best, the mambo, a boisterous style of Latin dance music, is absolutely hysterical. Trumpets don't just sound: They blare in unison--and instead of trailing off, the notes that scream out of their bells frequently rise and rise and rise some more, until they explode in a feverish splat! Of course, the mambo utilizes other instruments, too--saxophones (for those subtle undulations), pianos (to accentuate the rhythms), hand drums (which add passion), chanted vocals and more--but it's the blasts of brass that shoot up your spine and cause your feet to shudder. Mambo Mania! is a fine introduction to the genre, filled with gleeful, uptempo contributions from many of the biggest names to survey the style: Celia Cruz, Perez Prado, Mongo Santamaria, Desi Arnaz, Ray Barretto, Tito Puente, Xavier Cugat and others. Some of the tunes are a bit sedate by mambo standards (e.g., "Ritmo Caliente," by the Cal Tjader Mambo Quintet). Still, the disc as a whole provides an indication of the various directions these beats can take. More homogeneous, and more enjoyable, is Mondo Mambo!, a sampler of the songs popularized by Prado, seen by some as the mambo's proud papa. Prado, who died in 1989, took chances with the form, as the first cut, "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White," indicates: Unlike most mambos, it puts a soloist (trumpeter Billy Regis, whose tone is as hefty as Marlon Brando in Don Juan DeMarco) front and center throughout an orgiastic celebration of sound and spectacle. The result is almost absurdly danceable. Listen to it while seated, and your constant twitching will make you look like you're auditioning for a Depends commercial. So get up already.--Michael Roberts

Joe Henderson
Double Rainbow: The Music of Antonio Carlos Jobim

The first two offerings in tenor saxophonist Henderson's continuing series of salutes to notable composers--Lush Life: The Music of Billy Strayhorn and So Near, So Far (Musings for Miles)--were critically acclaimed and commercially celebrated. For his third, Henderson, a veteran sideman who worked on such legendary recordings as Lee Morgan's Sidewinder and Horace Silver's Song for My Father, planned something different--a collaboration with Jobim, the man whose life's work is at the center of this latest tribute. Unfortunately, it was not to be: Shortly after he participated in a pair of concerts where Double Rainbow was conceived, Jobim died, leaving Henderson to complete the project on his own. In doing so, Henderson chose to work with two separate groups--a South American combo featuring pianist Eliane Elias, bassist Nico Assumpcao, drummer Paolo Braga and co-producer/guitarist Oscar Castro-Neves, and a U.S.-bred lineup starring jazz stalwarts Herbie Hancock, Christian McBride and Jack DeJohnette. These players perform beautifully, but it's Henderson who holds them together. Aside from his obvious skills (his chops, his sensitivity to the music, his willingness to take interpretive risks), he has an uncanny ability to pick material that presents a fully rounded picture of his subjects. As expected, the pieces on Rainbow are a perfect blend of the easily recognizable and the obscure but worthy. The results do justice to both Jobim and Henderson. --Linda Gruno

Sheila Chandra
Roots and Wings: The Indipop Recordings
Nada Brahma: The Indipop Recordings

Chandra is a popularizer: an anglo-Indian living in Britain who merges New Delhi drones and vocal ululations with components associated with Western pop recordings. But she's no sellout, peddling cultural diversity to new-age novices who don't know any better. Rather, she's struggling toward a very personal style of expression that borrows from various sources simply because these are the elements she knows best. In some ways, Roots and Wings, the first of five discs Chandra completed prior to signing with Peter Gabriel's Real World label, is among her least self-conscious works--a gentle, evocative collection of musical soundscapes that approximate the effects of ambient recordings without descending into redundancy. Two of the compositions--"Shanti, Shanti, Shanti" and the title cut--appear in separate mixes that open a window on her approach. On them, she layers her sonic ingredients (exotic percussion devices, saxophones and her own voice among them) with a confidence and deliberation that's undeniably magnetic. Nada Brahma is just as imaginative and even more adventurous. It takes an artist with uncommon courage to kick off a disc with "Nada Brahma (Sound Is God)," a free-flowing, utterly organic exploration of the raga that twists and turns for over 27 minutes. Better yet, the opus and the four numbers that follow are filled with experiments that only seldom blow up in Chandra's face. In short, she sucks you into her world--a place where every note evokes spirits that seem to hail from places far beyond this mortal plane. Far out.--Roberts


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