WILLIE BOBO: Hell Of An Act To Follow and Bobo (Label: Soul Brother)

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WILLIE BOBO: Hell Of An Act To Follow and Bobo

One of the greatest Latin percussionists ever, conga and timbales maestro Willie Bobo (‘Bobo’ is actually a nickname – he was born William Correa) rose to fame playing in the band of vibraphone maestro, Cal Tjader, in the 1950s and ’60s (he played a pivotal role on Tjader’s seminal ‘Soul Sauce’ album in 1966). Bobo’s association with Tjader led to recording deals under his own name, including a long stint with Verve in the late-’60s, and shorter tenures with Sussex, Blue Note and Columbia. Issued on CD for the first time are two of Bobo’s late-’70s Columbia albums – ‘Hell Of An Act To Follow,’ from ’78, and ‘Bobo’ from ’79. ‘Hell Of An Act To Follow’ is a classy jazz and Latin-infused set that will undoubtedly appeal to soul music fans – part of its appeal is the fact that it was masterminded by Crusaders’ trombonist-turned-producer, Wayne Henderson, who enlists the help of top-notch session musicians like Bobby Lyle, Ernie Watts, Oscar Brashear and Roland Bautista as well as the vocal talents of Side Effect’s Augie Johnson, Sylvia St. James and Miki Howard. Kicking off with an energised rendering of Ronnie Laws’ ‘Almost There,’ the set is a well-balanced blend of vocal cuts and instrumentals and includes a retread of the Crusaders’ ‘Keep That Same Old Feeling.’ Also ear-catching is a Bobby Lyle-penned mid-tempo instrumental groove, ‘Pisces,’ and the smooth, soulful vocal track, ‘Fairy Tale For Two.’ There’s also a tasteful and beguilingly sensuous rendering of Tom Jobim’s Brazilian classic, ‘Dindi,’ where producer/arranger Henderson expertly frames Bobo’s well-modulated baritone voice with some deftly-penned orchestral charts. There are even more vocal tracks on ‘Bobo,’ a set helmed by producer Stan Silverberg and which features the well-known two-step groove, ‘Comin’ Over Me,’ as well as the exciting, propulsive, dance floor burner, ‘Reason For Livin’.’ As a bonus, you’ll find an extended remix of ‘Always There.’ It rounds off what is an entertaining, value-for-money twofer that should find favour with jazz-funk fans who like their favourite tipple laced with a zesty slice of soul.
(CW) 4/5