Longtime disc jockey, Jose Rizo, is also a songwriter and bandleader. He started Mongorama in 2011. Probably known best for his show “Jazz on the Latin Side,” on KKJZ (KJazz 88.1 FM) in Los Angeles. Here, Rizo and a few guests, have put together songs for the nonet known as Mongorama. Released in mid-September 2020, the songs are lively, full of heavily nuanced rhythms that offer something special for those prone to just listen or for those who just want to dance.
“Mambo Mindoro” by Jose Rizo’s Mongorama
The first song on the album begins with a rich tattoo of percussion. The sound is nearly palpable. Violins come as a pleasant surprise, and they are joined by horns. Soon, though, it is obvious that the violin motif is the thing that listeners and perhaps dancers can count on to keep the song moving toward its different parts. A bass interlude introduces another section, one in which the violins are high-energy and sound as if they are swirling around the soundscape. When the woodwinds come in, they had more texture to an already frenzied pace and sound. The up and down feel of some the tones in the song remind listeners of what it must be like to dance to the piece.
“Mariposas Cantan” by Jose Rizo’s Mongorama
“Mariposas Cantan” (the butterflies they sing) is best described as a joyful love song. Like “Mambo Mindoro,” it makes good use of timbales, drums, horns, but adds the soulful singing of James Zaveleta and Alfredo Ortiz. A horn line practically shouts with joy as the singer goes through his verses. The beat is made for dancing, each note held seems to correspond with an imagined elongated steps. There is joy here, and much to recommend the album.
Rizo’s jazz show is celebrating 30 years on the air. “Mariposas Cantan” is Mongorama’s third album. That Rizo can manage both tasks deftly, producing noteworthy music and keeping up with the demands of a popular radio show, is newsworthy. That the music is interesting and likely to keep dancers on their feet is another accomplishment altogether.