Mongo Santamaria Performing Afro Blue In 1984

by chipboaz on April 5, 2017

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Some songs just move beyond their original composition to become a cross genre phenomenon. This doesn’t happen all the time; a lot of songs – especially in jazz – are written around stylistic parameters. It takes a song with enough integrity and freedom to make the leap between styles while holding onto some purpose. It also takes artists with a lot of insight into the inner workings of music – artists that see beyond the basics of songwriting, looking into the roots and soul of the music.

There’s no doubt that one of the few songs to move between styles with class and style has been Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro Blue.” Originally written by the conguero and recorded on Cal Tjader’s Concert By The Sea, Part 1, this song found a home in the repertoire of many musicians. Santamaria recorded the song again on Tjader’s classic Soul Sauce, and then multiple times throughout his career. It was really the version by John Coltrane that cemented the song into the pages of jazz history; the fierce attack of Coltrane’s sax combined with the passionate accompaniment of his group captured the ears of jazz musicians around the world. Since then, it has been recorded by countless musicians, including McCoy Tyler, Dianne Reeves, Conrad Herwig, and many more. There’s nothing like hearing Santamaria play his tune though – this video finds the conguero playing the song with his group in 1984.

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