Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Dreaming of Spanish Harlem: Pucho and the Latin Soul Brothers

Henry “Pucho” Brown isn’t Hispanic, but he grew up in the vibrant cultural stew of what used to be called Spanish Harlem. His resultant immersion in said stew resulted in the formation of Pucho and the Latin Soul Brothers, which recorded repeatedly for Prestige Records in the late 1960s. This band was only a name to me until I listened to this compilation from BGP, one of the Ace family of reissue labels. There are lots of funky Latino beats, of course, but what really resonates with me is the subtle background influence of John Coltrane and other contemporary jazz artists. It’s not just the versions of Herbie Hancock’s Cantaloupe Island and Maiden Voyage, but also the slightly melancholy tones of Vietnam Mambo, the bristling Psychedelic Pucho, and the pulsating Cloud 9

Maybe it’s the current dismal political environment, but I hear undertones of spiritual jazz and Vietnam-era political unrest behind the party beats and soul vocals. OK, maybe it’s just me and my reaction to the climate of lies and impending rule by corrupt plutocrats, so it's fine just to listen and move your body to some vintage butt-shaking sounds. Special kudos to Claude Bartee on sax, Eddie and Al Pazant on reeds and trumpet, respectively, Neal Creque on keyboards, and Pucho on timbales. I’ve got to check out more of the Soul Brothers! Here's Maiden Voyage.

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