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V/A - Boogaloo Pow Wow: Dancefloor Rendez-Vous In Young Nuyorica

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Artist: V/A

Album: Boogaloo Pow Wow: Dancefloor Rendez-Vous In Young Nuyorica

Label: Honest Jon's

Review date: Mar. 20, 2009

Avoid the historical bone-picking over the use of the word "boogaloo," which traditionally has been defined as a mid-tempo American R&B update of guajira and son, and take Boogaloo Pow Wow: Dancefloor Rendez-Vous In Young Nuyorica for what it is: rare and classic selections in different latin styles from the ’50s and ’60s. Packaged with relatively brief liner notes but nice artwork and a cover photo by Bruce Davidson (Jakob Riis reimagined for New York during the Civil Rights era), this collection creates its own context, and nearly reappropriates the word "boogaloo" to go so far as to represent a culture as opposed to a fad. As a culture, Boogaloo Pow Wow… offers a glimpse into a world in which Cuban and Puerto Ricans rule, with the occasional Yankee contribution. This is best represented by the closing track "Feelin’ the Pain" by Dianne & Carole (along with their uncredited band, The Latin Whatchamacallits), an imaginary theme song for a world inhabited by Upper East Side debutantes and Puerto Rican musicians. The ladies, sounding almost fragile in their struggle to be heard and stay on key at the same time, sing lilting, neo-Bacharachian harmonies over what may be the album’s most classically boogaloo rhythm track, equal parts La Habana and Detroit. The song offers a prescient nod to what’s kept ladies like Adele and Amy Winehouse busy, only with less Latin tinge and more Limey sass.

Another rare inclusion is Willie Rosario’s "Calypso Blues," a raucous workout of a Nat King Cole song that explodes with soul halfway through, artfully marrying big wall-of-sound brass with a timbale crescendo that sounds suspiciously like Willie Bobo. Bobo’s own contribution, "Trinidad", has a broader, deeper horn section than those that graced his best-known albums as a bandleader, but the ominous tick tock guajira and bluesy flourishes that made tracks like "Fried Neckbones and Some Homefries" and "Guajira" famous are all over "Trinidad" like tattoos.

Of the authentically boogaloo songs on the album, none is better known than "Cool Jerk," performed here by Kako, a good bit more loosely than the way the Go Go’s brung it in 1982. Also holding up the brand is Ray Barretto, who, along with Machito (here, too) manages to find his way on to every notable Latin comp, and checks in here with awesome handclaps (downshifting the session from guaguanco for just a moment) on "Fuego & Pa’Lante." Willie Rosario’s other track, "Shining Knight," demonstrates nicely how adding a pre-recorded horse sound to the beginning of a track moves it from the "funky joint" category to the "novelty" category. It’s still tight, though.

Other notable inclusions are the aforementioned Machito’s "Tanga," which neatly shows the full reach of his mambo big band, and then a few descargas ("jams"), rollicking duels between congueros, timbaleros, and melody instruments in different combinations. Tito Rodriguez’ "Descarga Cachao" showcases who else but Cuban bass legend Israel "Cachao" Lopez, pounding out vamp after slap after thump, taking on and summarily dispatching any number of horn players and percussionists, and even bowing the bass in a gymnastic homage to his days as a danzon orchestra member. His presence offers a curious contextual jab at the younger cats like Willies Bobo and Rosario, for example, as for all their blues boogaloo badassness, many of this important historical document’s flashier tracks still wilt in the heat of the Cuban master who never attained flash-in-the-pan hipness, but never shed a fig of legendary cred.

By Andy Freivogel

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