Monday, September 18, 2006

Willie Bobo Lost and Found

Lost and Found
By Willie Bobo
Concord Picante

If jazz has any advantage it’s the relative simplicity of producing sessions, at least when eschewing fusion-era effects and background vocals. While pop acts need extensive studio help, jazz artists do what they do best—play, which is why so much previously unreleased music has been issued from the vaults, to the general satisfaction of listeners. Thanks to Willie Bob’s son, tapes his father recorded in the 1970’s discovered in the family closet are now being released as Lost and Found, and while the tunes are a somewhat mixed bag, overall it is a very welcome addition to the Bobo discography.

Bobo was one of the most celebrated Latin percussionists, who had a tremendous influence on pop and rock. Think Santana was the first to record “Evil Ways?” Try Bobo. He would later play with Santana in Ghana during a historic concert of American music loosely categorized as Soul, which would be captured in the documentary Soul to Soul. The recordings collected on Lost come from the period following his tenure on Verve Records, which produced his biggest hits, like “Evil Ways.” Indeed several of the tracks were evidently recorded as demos for his next label.

Presumably the demo was successful, as several of these tunes were re-recorded for Bobo’s next album Do What You Want to Do. Indeed most of the tracks are quite convincing, showing Bobo at the top of his game, most notably on the up-tempo selections like “Round Trip,” with an impressive trumpet solo from someone unafraid of the upper register, and “Broasted or Fried,” with the driving drum and guitar sound that made his Verve work so successful. There’s also a kind groove going on with tracks like “Hymn to the People” (with particularly nice, relaxed alto and trumpet solos) and the darker “Soul Foo Young” that make Lost and Found a great party disc.

Some of the vocal cuts are less consistent. “Pretty Lady” works as a soulful, but forceful workout. “Dindi” and “A Little Tear” are less successful; being more in accord with what was considered “commercial” by labels at this time.

Bobo is in top form throughout, and the ensembles he used are tight and soulful too. It is a shame they are uncredited on the CD, their identities presumably lost in the sands of time. Anytime good music is discovered, it is a happy occasion. That is certainly the case with Willie Bobo’s Lost and Found.