Album Review: La Mambanegra – El Callegüeso Y Su Mala Maña [Movimientos Records, 3rd March 2017]

With his characteristic hat and sunglasses comes El Callegüeso (Jacobo Vélez) and his ‘Colombian Break Salsa’. This new release further advances La Mambanegras style, featuring a diverse range of artists, along with Colombian orchestral support. A mixture of elements (Latin jazz, rap, bomba style, choruses, solos, tumbaos and ballad) combine to make their brand of salsa full of unique and colourful style. The album cover itself represents the challenging attitude of salsa and especially of El Callegüeso’s character.

The style of La Mambanegra splices the salsa traditions of New York, Jamaica and Colombian music. Funk and hip-hop add to the group’s unique flavour and vibe. An audience used to Colombian nightclubs will form a special attachment to this album, it is highly recommended for those who love Latin grooves.

La Mambanegra’s orchestra is elevated by its leader and alto sax Jacobo Vélez, Julia Díaz Santa (vocals and dancing), Sergio Ramírez Orobio “Checho” (vocals and guiro), Víctor González (piano), Diego Giraldo “Cachorro” (trumpet), Mifa Lucumí (trombone), Frank Rentería “El Turki” (baritone), Jeffery Obando Carabali (bass), Harold Orozco (drums), and Juan Epifanio Bazán (congas).

The album opens with the candela expression of salsa. Flavours of Strength and dance characterise ‘Puro Potenkem’. This song features Maite Hontele (trumpet) and Denilson Ibargüen (congas). The track is presented by El Callegüeso who appears throughout the album. Part of his life and his loves are told in ‘El Sabor de la Guayaba’, which features Santiago Jiménez. The ‘Barrio Obrero’ along with ‘San Nicolás’ are the Callegüeso’s preference. As a contrast, in a ballad style and with an introductory mute trumpet, ‘Cantaré Para Vos’ promises that Callegüeso will sing for his beloved girl in the morning, at her window. This song features Eddy Martínez who gives it a special touch at the end of the song with his solo for keyboard.

The rap style combined with salsa made of ‘La Compostura’ evokes an invitation to dance fiercely. This one features Edgardo Manuel. ‘La Fokin Bomba’ introduces a new and more dynamic style with fast rhythms and exciting cadences. Its solo for piano in a jazzy style makes the song even more attractive. The slow tempo of ‘El Blues de Yemaya’, featuring Yasek Manzano (trumpet), describes the streets of La Havana and refers to a walking mulata. The excitement of salsa rises once again with ‘Kool and the Mamba’, followed by a series of improvisations (piano, sax and other wind instruments) in ‘Me Parece Perfecto’. This song features Chinito Escobar (timbales and conga).

The tumbaos and percussion of ‘El Malembe’ creates a very attractive song. Featuring Wilson Viviros (percussion), it forms a good example of salsa vibes in an extraordinarily ambient and very rhythmic flavour. Last but not least, ‘Barro Caliente’ features the tres Cubano of Jorge Huertas, a song which offers advice when entering into the unknown.

Without any doubt, Movimientos Records have released a remarkable album and a true paradigm of salsa’s evolution into the 21st century. Beyond the amazing reports and occasional criticisms one can find on the web, the listening experience is one of a kind and deserves several plays.