Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Jango Song Of The Day-Mongo Santamaria
Album:Skin On Skin: The Mongo Santamaria Anthology 1958-1995
The 1963 hit Watermelon Man was the only top ten pop hit for legendary Cuban percussionist and bandleader Ramon "Mongo" Santamaria. Of course there's much more to his career than that one song. He was born Apr. 7, 1922 in Havana, Cuba. He learned the violin as a child but switched to drums. He quit school to become a professional musician and after performing in Havana and then Mexico City, he moved to New York City in 1950 and joined Perez Prado's band. He made his solo recording debut for Fantasy Records in 1958 and his composition Afro Blue became a jazz standard after John Coltrane recorded it. Of course Watermelon Man was written by Herbie Hancock. The story goes that Hancock sat in with Santamaria at a club in The Bronx and demonstrated the song. Santamaria and producer Orrin Keepnews liked the song so much, they went into the studio and cut a single. It reached #10 on the Billboard Hot 100. That led to a big contract with Columbia in 1965. He continued to record his Afro Cuban music for various labels and this 2CD comp from Rhino covers multiple labels. It's a must for jazz fans. Mongo Santamaria died on Feb. 1, 2003 at age 80. Here's Mongo Santamaria performing Watermelon Man probably in the 70s.