Sabu - Palo Congo - Review
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critics' view

Recorded in 1957, the Afro-Cuban music of Sabu Martinez carries both a spiritual and improvised modern jazz connotation. Derived from African tradition, the music relies on a constant riff over which singers relate colorful stories in Spanish. From their call and response vocals to the hypnotizing hand drum riffs, the primitive music sends an historic message. The original liner notes, with thorough explanations for each tune, are provided with this reissue.

Sabu’s band uses an interesting mix of sounds. Five vocalists and five pairs of conguero hands ensure that tradition is served. By adding only an acoustic tres-like guitar and background acoustic bass to that sound, the session is bound to rely on its basic element – rhythm – while allowing melodic and harmonic colors to shine through occasionally. "Asabache" represents one long conga tirade, while "Simba" utilizes hypnotic conga drumming alongside authentic chant. The remainder of the session employs all of the ensemble’s members in an appropriate balance that achieves Sabu’s aim of laying bare the roots of Afro-Cuban jazz.

Jim Santella
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Reporting on jazz from around the globe since 1995.
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