Zemog el Gallo Bueno,
Cama de le Conga
(Aagoo, 2006)

As with a lot of good music, Zemog el Gallo Bueno's new CD Cama de le Conga is hard to classify. This is Latin big band jazz, but there is a psychedelic tinge to it. At times it sounds like Frank Zappa meets Latin.

Most of the songs feature the horns and Latin percussion and drums, with electric and acoustic guitars, flutes and reeds weaving in and out of the mix. A bit of electronica also peeks out at points. "Al Piso," a quieter song, features an accordion. The arrangements are superb, jazz-based without using any of the standard forms of pop Latin music.

An example is "La Costilla." It begins the CD with a honking baritone sax before the singer comes in. The arrangement is loose, as if the horns might veer off at any time. Only the bass sustains the pattern to hold things together.

Many of the lyrics (all in Spanish) have a Puerto Rican-based political or social outlook. "Assimilate" talks about the problems of fitting in a world with the Bush administration agenda. "Atawalpa" is about the last Inca emperor who was burned at the stake by Francisco Pizarro. "El Gordo Rojo (Fat Red Man)" is based on a Puerto Rican folktale about introducing the American custom of Christmas to the island.

Each of the 10 songs has a different sound, using different chords and combinations of instruments. Cama de le Conga is a brilliant exploration of new areas and forms for Latin jazz.

by Dave Howell
18 November 2006

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