Mariposas Cantan
Review by Willard Manus

Jose Rizo, who hosts the long-running “Jazz on the Latin Side” show on KKJZ, Los Angeles, is also a distinguished band-leader, composer and record-company executive. For the past ten years he has been honoring his idol, the conguero Mongo Santamaria, by releasing tribute albums to him. Following “Mongorama” and “Baila Que Baila,” is MARIPOSAS CANTAN, a CD featuring an all-star band which plays its heart out on twelve tunes, two of which were written by Santamaria himself.

Five of the other ten tunes were co-written by Rizo and trombonist Francisco Torres (who also did most of the arrangements). Joining Torres in the ensemble were such superb Latin jazz musicians as Justo Almaro (tenor sax, flute), Danilo Lozano (flute, musical director), Dayren Santamaria (violin), Joey DeLeon (congas), Joe Rotondi (piano), Alfredo Ortiz (bongo, vocals)and Ross Schodek (bass). On six of the selections, the master Ramon Banda played the timbales. Banda died halfway through the two-year recording session and was replaced by George Ortiz.

With musicians like that, it’s no wonder that MARIPOSAS CANTAN has been called the Latin jazz album of the year. Everyone in the band has the license to play freely and creatively, whether on ballads like “Mariposas Cantan” (‘butterflies sing inside my heart every time I see you’) and “Little Dab’ll Do Ya,” or on hard-driving, booty-shaking dance tunes like “Watermelon Man” and “Fiesta de Charangueros.”

The singers Darynn Dean, Yoshigei Rizo (Jose’s daughter-in-law) and James Navaleta contribute significantly to this pulsating, life-affirming album.