Friday, February 17, 2006

Odd Spin 2/17: Juan Calle’s Mazel Tov, Mis Amigos

Juan Calle’s Mazel Tov, Mis Amigos
Leader, lute: Juan Calle (John Cali)
Piano: Eddie Palmieri
Timbales: Willie Rodriguez
Conga, bongos: Ray Barretto
Trumpets: Clark Terry, Lou Oles, Doc Cheatham
Bass: Wendell Marshall
Clarinet, bass clarinet, flute: Shelly Russell
Label: Riverside (RLP 7510) 1961

The skinny: Under the Latinized name Calle, banjo player John Cali switches to the lute and leads a Latin big band through a set of traditional Yiddish songs. This LP was released by Riverside, under their “Popular Records” series, intended for more mainstream audiences than the jazz recordings they specialized in. Oddly, they assumed Middle American was waiting to embrace tunes like "Beltz, Mein Shtetle Beltz Pachanga" and "Vus De Vilst, Dus Vill Ich Oich Cha-Cha." Riverside’s important recordings by Bill Evans and Wes Montgomery were easily more popular with mainstream audiences, than most of their releases on the “Popular” imprint. Still, this session has some good moments, with great Latin musicians like Eddie Palmieri and Ray Baretto keeping it real, and jazz legends Clark Terry and Doc Cheatham occasionally getting a chance to stretch out.

Bottom line: There are enough straight-up Latin legends to make this a sought after platter. Presumably, not many were pressed. Expect to see it in the $20-25 range.