Collector’s Corner

Machito's Big Big Band


Machito & His Afro-Cuban Salseros' Mucho Macho compiles live sessions recorded in 1948 and '49 by a big dance band led by firebrand Afro-Cuban percussionist Machito. His band's really big: Four percussionists, four saxophones and four trumpets, plus piano and rhythm. This collection's really big too: 24 tunes on a single Pablo CD construct a rare period piece, down to the genre classic "Babalu," that still retains its vibrant, instrumental life.

Four percussionists aren't too many, so long as they pour out congas, bongos and timbales like the raging percussion currents that engulf "Tumba El Quinto," "Rose Room" and "At Sundown." "Barbarabatiri" churns along this same frothy percussion but adds cool, sharp horns. Soprano saxophone leads "Cleopatra Rhumba (Desert Dance)" through exotic, serpentine Middle Eastern tones and rhythms -- very Egyptian meets African, but in Cuba.

Machito's dancing Salseros twist and shout to "Gone City" on a molten rhythm that leaves saxophone, trombone and piano solos fluttering behind like ribbons. The band closes the dance floor with the swivel-hipped "The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise," and then lights up and burns down the "St. Louis Blues" just for themselves with the sound of classic blues, dressed up as jazz, out for a hot night of dancing on the Latin side of town.

Machito is honored elsewhere in the Concord catalog with the "Machito Forver" remix on the Explorations: Classic Picante Regrooved remix project (Concord Picante, 2006).