Johnny Pacheco y su Charanga ‘Vol II’ (Malanga) 5/5

Johnny-PachecoBest known as one of the founding members of the Fania All Stars and the longest artist on the label, Johnny Pacheco first made his name as a musician as a flautist and this terrific double header of albums showcases his instrumental virtuosity. While the cover indicates just the second volume, the CD contains both volumes of the now legendary charanga sessions that Pacheco and band cut back in 1960 and 1961. They are definitive examples of a musical style that was pioneered in Cuba and then taken to the United States by migrants who fused it with Afro-Cuban jazz. In its essence charanga is string driven with five violins and no brass and instead the flute taking over, but still incorporating a full Latin percussive rhythm section. Of not here is the inclusion of timbalero Manny Oquendo who would go on to become an integral part of Eddie Palmieri’s La Perfecta band before forming Conjunto Libre in the 1970s. Interestingly, the vocals on both albums were not delivered by Pacheco himself, but by a combination of Elliot Romero and Rudy Calzado. In general the pieces are relatively concise in nature, with the final descarga, or extended jam session numbers being that bit longer and both ‘Soy guapo de verdad’ (Vol. I) and ‘Tema de Pacheco’ (Vol. II) are impeccable examples of how traditional sounds and jazz improvisations can effectively be married. Among a host of dancefloor winners, the classic ‘Pare cochero’ stands out and has been covered by just about everyone including a wonderful Tito Puente Latin Jazz Ensemble version in the 1980s. The iconic album cover of the first volume designed by Izzy Sanabria is contained within the ever excellent inner sleeve notes. Malanga once again have come up with a winning combination of 24 bit remastering, excellent quality original album cover graphics, photos of the era, updated notes on Pacheco’s career that provide an historical overview and faithfully reproduced original album sleeve notes that are easy to read. Tim Stenhouse