Led by conguero Rodrigo Munoz, Papa Mambo is an exciting Latin jazz ensemble based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The all original set on Crooked Cha delivers an eclectic mix of authentic Latin rhythms, intricate compositions and fiery improvisations.
The disc opener, "Blue Barron," written by trombonist/pianist Jeff Presslaff, combines a melancholic vibe over a lively shande groove. Bassist Gilles Fournier plays a stand-out solo before the return of the dark-shaded melody. The mood quickly shifts gears on the funky "Bug A Lou," followed by the sensuous "Gone," a cha cha cha featuring guest vocalist Mira Black and vibraphonist Stefan Bauer. Other highlights include the melodic twists and turns of the title track, and the lyrical "Amor Incondicional," a bolero featuring Presslaff and saxophonist Ken Gold.
The added presence of guitar, both American and Cuban styles, brings a unique presence to parts of the session. "New Dirt," features the soaring electric guitar of Larry Roy, and "Convidame," features the wonderful tres playing of Victor Lopez who also handles the bongo throughout the session.
Papa Mambo succeeds at bringing a forward-thinking approach to Latin jazz while retaining the accessible qualities inherent in the dance-oriented rhythms. Crooked Cha is a fascinating release by an ensemble deserving of wider recognition.