Friday, September 12, 2014

Mongo Santamaria - Soul Bag

It's been a long time since a record has really kicked my ass. And it's been a long time since I've written anything for Ripple. Both problems were solved while record shopping on my birthday last month. I stumbled across a copy of Mongo Santamaria's instrumental LP Soul Bag at Academy Records on 18th Street. I only knew one song off it but figured it had to be pretty good. When I got it home and put it on the turntable I could tell immediately it was a complete stone gett-off.

Side one opens with a flat out scorching version of "In The Midnight Hour". Mongo and the band really lay it down and Sonny Fortune delivers a killer solo on alto sax. The jam is short and to the point and gets you ready for the best version of Jimmy Reed's "Baby What You Want Me To Do" that you will ever hear. Baritone sax gooses the beat along while Hubert Laws wails on tenor. "Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay" slows things down a bit before it gets funkier on "Hot Dog." The final song on side one is one of the greatest jams I have ever heard. Mongo's version of "Cold Sweat" has long been a favorite of mine. It's a tradition that on the first warm day of spring I blast this tune while cruising around City Island in the Bronx. James Brown is #1 in my book and "Cold Sweat" is one of his very best, but Mongo's version is hard to beat. 8 minutes of serious thumping groove with Mongo pounding the holy hell out of his congas. The other percussionists are also great and Bernard Purdie's drumming is simply incredible.

Flip it over and you get smokin' workouts on "My Girl" and "Respect." The energy dips for a corny flute fueled version of "Up, Up and Away" but gets back on track with a funky, funky "Green Onions" and more great baritone sax from Sonny Fortune. "Groovin'" and "Chili Beans" wrap up the rest of this great album.

Right after I bought this album I played it for a friend of mine who knew nothing about Mongo. He said something like "how's a conga player get a record deal?" After about 30 seconds of being pummeled by his polyrhythmic assault he said "now I know!" About a week later I found another copy of Soul Bag and gave it to him. We're both hooked on it. Track it down and you will be too. MONGO!!!

- Woody

Green Onions

Cold Sweat

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