Sabu Martinez - Palo Congo (album)


Palo Congo is the first album by conguero Sabu Martinez. It was listed in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die

Recorded: Apr 27, 1957

Sabu, the leader of this date, is one of the many musicians of both traditions who have tried to find common ground. He has played with such jazz musicians os Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, J.J. Johnson, Gigi Gryce, and Art Blakey. For this purely Afro-Cuban record Sabu has drawn more on the other half of his experience, the many latin groups he has worked with since he mode his professional debut at the age of 11 in 1941. Before he formed his own quintet this year Sabu worked with the bands of Marcelina Guerro, Esy Morales, Nora Morales, and Miguelito Valdez. He was a member of the original Joe Loco Trio, accompanist to dancer Josephine Premice and singer Harry Belafonte, and played in the Broadway show, “House of Flowers.”

Arsenio Rodriquez is featured as guitarist, drummer, and chanteur. Arsenio and his two brothers, Raul “Caesar” Travieso and Israel Moises “Quique” Travieso, grew up in Cuba with Miguelito Valdez and Chano Pozo, often worked together, and composed many Cuban pop songs together. Before coming to New York nine years ago, Arsenio led one of the finest bands in Cuba. He now leads his own band in New York, in which Caesar and Quique both play, as does bassist Evaristo Baro. Ray “Mosquito” Romero has played with Miguelito Valdez and accompanied Eartha Kitt. The singers are Sarah Baro, Mrs. Evaristo Baro, and Willie Capo, both of Arsenio Rodriguez’ group.


1. El Cumbanchero: begins with a vocal introduction by Sabu, asking everyone to listen to the drum which expresses his soul, followed by two Sabu solos on the woody-sounding quinto, sandwiching a rhythmic guitar solo by Arsenio.

2. Billumba  -Palo Congo: is a fragment of religious ritual, with Arsenio preaching in an Afro-Cuban cult dialect to antiphonal responses by the group. The rhythmic pattern which accompanies the chanting is a multi-voiced 8/8 with a series of accents on conga by Mosquito varying from single quarter notes on the downbeat, to off-beat triplets, to the syncopated 1/8 — 1/16 — 1/8 — 1/16 — 1/8 pattern of the cinquillo.

3. Choferito -Plena: is in a lighter groove, with Willie Capo singing lead in a little Puerto Rican plaint: “Little chauffeur, Little chauffeur, I’ll give you money for gas Little chauffeur, Little chauffeur, to take me to my beloved.”

4. Asabache: is a four-drum seminar with Quique on golpe, Arsenio on tumbadore, Caesar on quinto, and Sabu on llamador. The two middle voices combine to play a pattern of two 8/8 bars, against higher-pitched free accents and a bottom of a ¾ pattern, often played with only the first quarter sounded.

5. Simba: is a fantasy describing a lion hunt with Sabu chanting out the story against a shifting rhythmic background, beginning in 8/8 moving to 2/2, and then alternating while Sabu plays cowbell with off-phase shifts between 2/2 and 6/8.

6. Rhapsodia del Maravilloso: is a guitar solo by Arsenio Rodriguez, whose lines ore far from the world of modern jazz, but who shows an emotional authority and rhythmic sureness comparable to such a traditional jazz artist as Pete Johnson.

7. Aggo Elegua: is another fragment of ritual, a choral salutation of the Yoruba (Nigerian) deity, called Saint Elegua in the Cuban cult, who guards the crossroads and human fertility, sung in an Afro-Cuban cult dialect led by Caesar while Sabu plays a 2/8 pattern on quinto against the 6/8 of the voices.

8. Tribilin Cantore: is the most latin of the pieces here, a gentle pastoral tribute to the scenery, climate, and products of beautiful Cuba, with more guitar by Arsenio and an extremely manic bass solo by Evaristo Baro.

Sabu - Choferito-Plena

Sabu - El Cumbachero

Louis “Sabu” Martinez (July 14, 1930 – January 13, 1979) was an American conguero and percussionist. A prominent player in the Cubop movement in the 1950s, Martinez appeared on many important recordings and live performances during that period. Martinez also recorded several Latin jazz albums, now recognized as classics of the genre.

Born in New York City, Martinez made his professional debut in 1941 at age 11. He replaced Chano Pozo in Dizzy Gillespie’s orchestra in 1948, and began performing with Benny Goodman’s Bebop Orchestra in 1949. Over the next 15 years, Martinez worked with Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, J.J. Johnson, Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Mary Lou Williams, Lionel Hampton, Noro Morales, Marcelino Guerra, Esy Morales, the Lecuona Cuban Boys, Miguelito Valdés, Tito Rodriguez, and the Joe Loco Trio. He also worked with vocalists Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., and Harry Belafonte.

Martinez first recorded with Art Blakey in 1953, and contributed to his Orgy in Rhythm and Holiday for Skins projects from 1957–58. Martinez became a bandleader in 1957, recording his debut album, Palo Congo, for Blue Note Records. He followed it up with releases on Vik and Alegre Records. Martinez moved to Sweden in 1967 and recorded with the Francy Boland-Kenny Clarke big band, releasing two albums. Subsequently he led the group Burnt Sugar, which was active into the mid ’70s. On January 13, 1979, he died in Sweden at the age of 48.


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