World & Latin

Twice As Loco

25 FEB 10 JOHN C. BRUENING

In the span of three decades, New York-born pianist Joe Loco (aka José Estevez) book-ended the North American jazz circuit. After working the club scene along the east Coast as a leader and a sideman throughout the '40s and '50s, he headed west and eventually became a pivotal jazz artist in an environment where the mambo and other Afro-Cuban dance musics were making their way into the California jazz scene. Loco Motion showcases his ability to graft Afro-Cuban rhythms to American jazz standards, and at the same time make Latin jazz standards palatable to American audiences.

The remastered release is comprised of two previous Fantasy releases, Going Loco in 1960 and Pachanga With Joe Loco in 1961. The first dozen tracks -- the Pachanga half -- finds Loco amid a 10-man crew that includes Mongo Santamaria on congo, Willie Bobo on timbales and no less than three violinists. The majority of the material in this first half is penned by Loco (including  "Bon Bon" and "Algo Caliente") and Santamaria ("Mi China" and "Tu Crees Que"), and showcases a vast spectrum of Afro-Latin influences.

The second half positions Loco in the more familiar small-group territory, with vibist Pete Terrace, bassist Juan Andino Garcia, and the dual congas of Bobby Flash and Freddie Aguilera. Here's where the American jazz standards emerge, including the slow and easygoing "April in Paris" the cha-cha-styled "I've Got You Under My Skin" and others.

Loco Motion is engineered by a pianist at the height of his powers as a leader, riding on tracks with exotic and nuanced rhythms that celebrate the junction between American jazz and Latin dance music that endures to this day.