Willie Bobo: Lost and Found

He was smooth and he was funky and he needs to be rediscovered, like, pronto.

Willie Bobo

Lost and Found

Label: Concord Records
US Release Date: 2006-08-15
UK Release Date: Available as import

To hear Willie Bobo's groovy Latin jams is to love them forever. This talented percussionist and bandleader played in a lot of famous bands (Tito Puente's among them), and made a bunch of solo records in the 1960s and 1970s -- sadly, he died in 1983 without ever really getting his due. But he was smooth and he was funky and he needs to be rediscovered, like, pronto.

Maybe the rediscovery can start here. This album is a collection of songs and alternate tapes discovered by his son; Eric Bobo, also a percussionist who is most famous for playing with Cypress Hill, hooked up with ace producer Mario Caldato Jr. to remaster these old tapes. Lost and Found sounds great, and the music doesn't sound like it should ever have been left off any of the original albums.

The songs on this release show that Bobo had a lot more range than "talented percussionist and bandleader" might imply. Some of them are, in fact, uptempo dancey jams. "Round Trip" is the archetype of 1970s Latin jazz: hot salsa percussion work, sax and trumpet solos, fusion-y keyboards, the whole thing. Some stuff, like the foxy new take on his hit "Broasted or Fried", is more explicitly funk and / or jazz than it is Latin. And he manages to hit it right down the middle on other songs, including the exquisitely titled "Soul Foo Young".

This music exists for no other reason than to rock. "Midnight Lover" is straight-ahead slow-burning jazzy funk until it bursts out halfway through into a new joyful sexy groove. "Hymn to the People" is simple, but that is just so it can allow lots of space for cool sax and trumpet and guitar solos.

"A Koko", the opener, is the best track on the disc. The sneaky organ lines support the sunny horn-driven melody, the Spanish-language vocals are chanted rather than really sung, the shifty vibe resembles early Chicago in its jam-band ambition -- but the entire song really exists only in its rhythm section, anchored by Bobo's timbale work, especially when he busts out into mini-solos and killer fills.

But there was a softer side to the Willie Bobo experience. His version of the A.C. Jobim classic "Dindi" (his favorite song) is laid-back and pretty, even if his singing turns out to have been the least interesting weapon in his arsenal. The glacial pace of "A Little Tear" is somewhat offputting at first, but it sneaks up on the listener through a) Bobo's disarming Isaac Hayes-style speak-singing and b) being awesome.

One is well-served to have a bunch of original Willie Bobo albums kicking around their collection -- some of them have recently been reissued on CD. But one could also do a lot worse than to have this one in the rotation too.

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