Funky16Corners Radio v.51 – Spanish Grease
Mongo Santamaria – We Got Latin Soul (Columbia)
Joe Cuba Sextet – El Pito (Hit/Tico)
Armando Peraza – Wild Thing (Skye)
Harvey Averne Band – Runaway Child Running Wild (Uptite)
Fred Ramirez – Hold On I’m Coming (WB)
Latinaires – Camel Walk (Fania)
Rene Bloch & the Afro Blues Quintet – There Is a Mountain (Mira)
Willie Bobo – Spanish Grease (Verve)
Tito Puente – Oye Como Va (Tico)
Ricardo Ray – Stop Look & Listen (Alegre)
Jimmy Castor – Ham Hocks Espanol (Smash)
Ray Barretto – Love Beads (Fania)
Joe Bataan – Shaft (Fania)
Harvey Averne – Stand (Fania)
Latin Blues Band – (I’ll Be a) Happy Man (Speed)
Grupo Guerra 78 – Soul Makossa (Disco Lando)
I didn’t think I was going to get it together (or set aside the time) to finish this mix and get it uploaded to the interwebs, but providence (and some Fathers Day related free time) stepped in and here you go.
I’ve been wanting to do a Latin soul mix for a loooong time. Why I never did has more to do with my haphazard record filing “system” than anything else, with a number of my fave Latin 45s in my DJ box and the rest scattered in various and sundry crates. I did try to put them all in one place, but after doing so promptly forgot which box I had put them in. A couple of these tracks have appeared on the Funky16Corners blog over the years, but this is the first full length Latin mix I’ve done.
Anyway, I have, since almost the beginning of my record obsession been a big fan of Latin jazz, and as the years went on and my knowledge of Latin soul and boogaloo expanded thanks to digging, info from friends and reading (reading after all being fundamental). I won’t front and tell you I’m some kind of expert on the genre, but I know what I like and there are a number of sides in this mix that I could listen to all day long without getting bored (not to mention a bunch that I did not include here which I’ll have to put in a second volume). It’s also the beginning of what promises to be a long, hot summer, and this is definitely summer music.
My love for Latin sounds has a LOT to do with the fact that I was for many years a drummer (I haven’t played regularly for a long ass time) and if you dig rhythm and percussion you can’t go wrong with wave after waves of congas, bongos, timbales, and all manner of shakers, bells and wood blocks, which you will find in surplus herein.
Some of the folks in this mix were the premier congueros (Ray Barretto, Joe Cuba, Mongo Santamaria) and timbaleros (“El Rey” Tito Puente) of their day.
Things get started with one of my fave 45s by Mongo Santamaria, his cover/reworking of Dyke & the Blazers ‘We Got More Soul”, retitled ‘We Got Latin Soul’. Mongo – like many of the players in this edition of Funky16Corners Radio – first came to prominence in Latin Jazz, playing with Cal Tjader among others. He broke on his own with his famed cover of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Watermelon Man in 1963 (one of the first major crossovers of the early boogaloo years) and went on to record a long series of popular albums for Columbia, Atlantic, Vaya and other labels in the 60’s and 70’s.
Joe Cuba’s 1965 ‘El Pito’ (built on a chant borrowed from Dizzy Gillespie) is a personal favorite. Cuba had a number of crossover hits including the oft covered ‘Bang Bang’ and the sublime ‘Que Son Uno’. Check your pulse if you don’t end up singing along with this one.
Armando Peraza is another percussionist who broke through as a sideman on the jazz scene (for George Shearing) and went on to play for Santana (with whom I saw him play on 1979). By the late 60’s he hooked up with Gary McFarland and recorded an LP for the Skye label which included his boogaloo-ization of the Troggs ‘Wild Thing’.
Harvey Averne was – like the great Larry Harlow* and DJ Symphony Sid Torin (a major popularizer of Latin sounds)– unusual in his prominence on the Latin scene, because unlike so many of his contemporaries who were either of Puerto Rican or Cuban descent, Averne was a Jew from the outer boroughs. He started playing Latin music as a teenager (as ‘Arvito’). He recorded some of the finest Latin soul records of the 60’s, going on to be a major player in the world of Salsa. His cover of the Temptations 1969 hit ‘Runaway Child Running Wild’ on the Fania subsidiary Uptite is a groover of the first order (More from Harvey later…).
I picked up Fred Ramirez’ cover of Sam & Dave’s ‘Hold On I’m Coming’ on a hunch some years ago (pre-portable) and as you’ll understand once you hear the record, I was very pleased with myself for doing so. I haven’t been able to discover much about Ramirez, other than he seemed to be a studio musician (playing both piano and vibes). Not only does this record start out with a nice break, but Ramirez’ piano swings.
I wish I could say that I owned an OG of the Latinaires’ ‘Camel Walk’ (this and the Latin Blues Band track are taken from reissue LPs), because it’s a killer. As it is, I’ll have to keep digging, but that shouldn’t stop you from appreciating the tune.
I’ve never been able to get the whole story on the Afro Blues Quintet, other that the occasional suggestion that at one time the group included members of War. I don’t know if their collaboration with saxophonist/flautist Rene Bloch extended beyond this 45. The tune we feature in this mix is a great cover of Donovan’s ‘There Is a Mountain’ (also nicely covered by Herbie Mann) with some cool interplay between the flute, piano and vibes.
Percussionist Willie Correa, started out as a translator for Mongo Santamaria (with who he studied the congas). Pianist Mary Lou Williams gave him the nickname ‘Bobo’ and it stuck. As Willie Bobo he recorded some of the finest Latin soul/jazz of the 60’s (even laying down some tasty funk) for the Verve label (that’s Bobo you hear singing on Cal Tjader’s ‘Soul Sauce (Guachi Guaro)’ ). My fave Bobo track is by far the driving ‘Spanish Grease’ clearly the inspiration for Santana’s ‘No One To Depend On’ (Santana would also cover Bobo’s ‘Fried Neckbones and Some Homefries’).
Back when I was a wet behind the ears high school kid I was lucky enough to see ‘El Rey’, the mighty Tito Puente play on stage alongside jazz legend Max Roach, In addition to my shock when Tito opened his mouth and a New York accent came out (like a first class rube, I assumed he was from the Caribbean) I was simply in awe of his playing. A few years later, when I unsleeved my copy of Santana’s ‘Abraxas’ LP and discovered that my fave Santana song was in fact a cover of a tune by Puente, I developed a whole new level of respect for the man. Though I still dig the cover, there is simply no substitute for Puente’s 1963 original. This is one of those records that just grabs your soul and lifts it, building over and over again. Brilliant.
Ricardo Ray, along with his sidekick Bobby Cruz was another of the greats of Latin soul. If you haven’t heard his BLAZING cover of ‘Nitty Gritty’, do yourself a favor and find yourself a copy of the 45 because it’s a killer. ‘Stop Look and Listen’ is cut from his 1967 ‘Jala Jala y Boogaloo’ LP. Ray is another artist who went on to become a giant of Salsa, eventually becoming a born again Christian and moved into the whole new genre of’ Christian Salsa’.
Singer/saxophonist Jimmy Castor is another non-Latin purveyor of the Latin sounds. He got his start writing and singing doowop, moving on in the mid-60’s to have a big hit (R&B Top 20, Pop Top 40 in 1967) with ‘Hey Leroy Your Mama’s Calling’. The instrumental ‘Ham Hocks Espanol’ is the flipside of that record. Though he went on to have hits in the funk genre, Castor kept Latin flavor in his records.
Another towering figure on the Latin scene, who also had a number of pop hits in his time was the legendary Ray Barretto. A master conguero, Barretto first hit the pop charts with ‘El Watusi’ in 1962. Barretto got his start as a sideman for Tito Puente, eventually moving on to a major career as a session man on countless jazz and Latin albums, and a place as one of the great innovators of Latin soul and funk. His 1968 ‘Acid’ album is a landmark of the genre featuring the brilliant ‘Soul Drummers’ and ‘A Deeper Shade of Soul’. Also coming out in 1968, ‘Love Beads’ was the flipside of the driving ‘Hard Hands’. Barretto went on to be the musical director of the Fania All Stars.
Joe Bataan is one of the kings of Latin soul, having recorded all manner of soul (hard and sweet) funk, salsa, disco and even rap in his 40+ year career. One of the funkier sides in his discography is his cover of Isaac Hayes’ ‘Theme from Shaft’.
We return to the sounds of Harvey Averne with his cover of Sly & the Family Stone’s ‘Stand’. This is one of my favorite Latin soul 45s, featuring a fantastic balance of sounds (I love the vibes on this track).
If the ‘(I’ll Be a) Happy Man’ by the Latin Blues Band featuring Luis Aviles sounds familiar, it’s because a sample from the record was the basis for Christina Aguilera’s hit ‘Ain’t No Other Man’. The tune features a driving beat and a fantastic horn chart.
I’ve never been able to find out anything about Grupo Guerra 78. I grabbed the 45 at a record show years ago because I’ll grab just about any over of ‘Soul Makossa’ that I can get my hands on. The label hails from Venezuela, but there are lots of South American pressings of Latin records from elsewhere. That said ‘Soul Makossa’ was popular with the Latin audience, which can be seen in the film of Manu Dibango playing the tune with the Fania All Stars at Yankee Stadium in 1973.
That all said, I hope you dig the mix (throw it at a party one of these hot summer nights and watch the crowd groove). There will definitely be another volume in the future, and I’ll be back later in the week with some more funk.
*Larry Harlow became known as El Judio Maravilloso (aka the Marvelous Jew).