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Tito Puente­—Dance Mania(RCA/Discos 605/Legacy Recordings)

Juan Calle and His Latin Lantzmen—Mazel Tov, Mis Amigos(Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation)

Various Artists—¡Gózalo! Volume 3(Vampisoul Records)

In the mid-1950s the Manhattan-born Ernest Anthony “Tito” Puente and his blazing band blasted the roof off the Palladium and other mythical nightspots, driving dancers crazy and influencing the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and the other beboppers who came to check out the action. The orchestras of Puente, Tito Rodriguez, and Machito were the scene’s “Big Three,” all of them heatedly vying for the top slots on ballroom marquees. But, it was Puente’s talent-packed outfit—which also included his fellow percussion legends, Ray Barretto, Carlos “Patato” Valdez, Mongo Santamaria, and Willie Bobo—that hit the biggest, crossing over to land squarely on the living room hi-fis of suburban America and earn him his title: El Rey (“The King”). And while the timbalero’s earlier, more rocking sides for the Tico label are presumably more reflective of what he and his band were putting down live at the time, 1958’s Dance Mania, the largest-selling LP of his career, remains a knockout. Vibrantly brimming with sexy mambos, cha-chas, rumbas, and boleros, this deluxe two-CD edition also includes ’61’s Dance Mania, Volume 2 and a whopping 21 bonus tracks.

Also from 1961, Juan Calle and His Latin Lantzmen’s Mazel Tov, Mis Amigos is one of those records that on paper just sounds so wrong: Latin versions of Jewish songs? But work it does, and fantastically so. Actually, it wasn’t the first time such a synthesis had been attempted—see Irving Fields’s winning Bagels and Bongos LPs—but Mazel Tov, Mis Amigos, originally on jazz label Riverside Records, easily stands as one of Latin-Jewish fusion’s most successful examples. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the fictional band here is neither all Latin nor all Jewish; led by Italian-American banjoist John Cali—aka Juan Calle—the studio-only group also features top trumpeters Clark Terry and Doc Cheatham and bassist Wendell Marshall, plus Ray Barretto on congos and bongos, Willie Rodriguez on timbales, and the magnificent Charlie Palmieri on piano. In fact, the only Jews present are reedsman Shelly Russell and stiff vocalist Ed Powell, who, thankfully, doesn’t appear on every cut. But the upshot is great, fun stuff: “Hava Nagilah,” “Yossel, Yossel,” and other standards retooled as pachangas, merengues, cha-chas, and sambas. Kosher meets caliente!

Heading far south, to Peru, we find the source of the third volume of Vampisoul’s excellent ¡Gózalo! series, which documents that country’s torrid 1960s musical landscape, a scene heavily influenced by the Latin sounds coming out of New York, as well as rock, soul, and indigenous styles. Available on CD and vinyl, this 28-track tropical dance-fest encompasses mambo, salsa, son, guaracha, Latin soul, cumbia, and boogaloo, and is soaked in loud brass, sparkling piano, cowbell, clapping, unison shouting, and other spicy ingredients sure to make those hips and feet go positively loco. Fave jams? They’re all great, but jumping out this spin are Los Girasoles’ electric guitar-led “El Cerrojo” and Mario Allison y su Combo’s lively reclaiming of one tune with distinct, but perhaps forgotten, Latin roots: “Louie, Louie.”—Peter Aaron

Tito Puente:
Juan Calle and His Latin Lantzmen
¡Gózalo! Volume 3:

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