José Rizo’s Mongorama: Mariposas Cantan
Featured Album *****
Inside the highly evocative cover of this CD package – Mariposas Cantan – is also contained some of the most evocative music ever made by José Rizo’s Mongorama. The metaphor of the “butterflies” in the album’s title is most appropriate as the music has a breathtakingly evanescent quality to it. Perhaps, also appropriate to the “musical” point, these arrangements appear to depict the fleet-footed bailarines and bailarinas in an impromptu exposition of the effervescent Afro-Cuban music and dance.
Song and dance is something that José Rizo’s Mongorama’s is wholly accustomed to and there are now three CDs [Mongorama, Baila Que Baila, Mariposas Cantan] – in addition to numerous performances across the land – which prove that. Further proof that José Rizo’s Mongorama is one of the finest purveyors of Latin-Jazz is not really needed; still there are twelve exquisite works on this album to show us that the ensemble is on top of its game. The tracks feature some of the most compelling soli from a slew of instrumental virtuosos – including tenor saxophonist Justo Almario, violinist Dayren Santamaria, flutist Danilo Lozano, bongosero Alfredo Ortiz, pianist Joe Rotondi, conguero Joey De León, timbalero George Ortiz and, of course, the late timbalero Ramón Banda who passed away tragically before the album could be released and to whom it is justifiably dedicated.
What is most striking throughout is the manner in which this music is interpreted as an ensemble. This speaks to the members of the ensemble who parley like old friends seeming to know the intricacies of this music because they share its intimacies like familiar lovers. This is why every piece here is played – by everyone in the ensemble – with a kind of often languid – and often vivacious – ease, each melodic variation following the other, quite inexorably, the sumptuous sound of the ensemble beautifully caught in this recording.
There is an unhurried quality to these arrangements by Francisco Torres, Oscar Hernández and Danilo Lozano. Each is played with a lived-in character to the phrase-making that is engaging and seems to stem from a buy-in by every musician individually and collectively. Saxophonist Justo Almario sings on “Mambo Mindoro” and “A Little Dab’ll Do Ya”, while Joe Rotondi makes the long inventions come alive in the latter song. It’s also a joy to hear how Dayren Santamaria sculpts the phrases in “Mambo Mindoro” and how the whole group – individually and collectively – digs deep in “Descarga Ramón Banda” an exquisite tribute the fallen musical hero.
Tradition and modernity have rarely come together so gloriously than on Mariposas Cantan by José Rizo’s Mongorama.
Track list – 1: Mambo Mindoro; 2: Mariposas Cantan; 3: Helen of Jazz; 4: Fiesta de Charangueros; 5: A Little Dab’ll Do Ya; 6: Quiero Menudo; 7: Mongorama; 8: Quindimbia; 9: Watermelon Man; 10: Descarga Ramon Banda; 11: Como Fue; 12: East L. A. Meets Napa
Personnel – Justo Almario: tenor saxophone [soli on 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10] and flute ; Danilo Lozano: flute [soli on 3, 4, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12] and musical director; Dayren Santamaria: violin [soli on 1, 10]; Joey De León: congas [soli on 1, 4, 9, 10]; Joe Rotondi: piano [soli on 4, 5, 9, 10, 11]; Ramón Banda: timbales [1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 11; solo on 7]; James Zavaleta: lead vocals [6, 8, 10, 12]; Alfredo Ortiz: lead vocals , güiro, bell and bongo [solo on 5]; George Ortiz: timbales [3, 4, 6, 9, 10, 12; soli on 4, 10]; Ross Schondek: bass; Special Guests – Francisco Torres: trombone ; Yoshigei Rizo: lead vocals ; Darynn Dean: vocals [3, 9]; Alexis De La Rocha: background vocals 
Released – 2020
Label – Saungú Records
Runtime – 1:06:36
Presenting José Rizo’s Mongorama
This is an album recorded live-in-studio over a two-days fantastic musical journey.