Johnny Sandoval's @conga Hits the Scene and Fulfills the Soul
Johnny Sandoval, a native of Miami, Arizona was introduced to music by his family who immigrated to the USA from Almeria, Spain. Born into a musical family; with a cousin who danced Flamenco with Charro and the Jose Greko family, along with uncles who lead a Swing/Mambo big band, Sandoval began his career at a very young age. He started playing Bongos and continued to hone his skills as a multi-talented musician, song writer, and recording artist. This new album, @conga, is a unique blend of Salsa, Flamenco, Funk, Rock, Middle Eastern, Brazilian, Calypso, Classical, and Jazz. Sandoval cherishes everyone he plays with and his opportunities to travel the world sharing talents with many wonderful artists and audiences.
@conga is a reflection of the direction Johnny Sandoval's concert performances take around the world. His personal musical journey leading to this seminal recording reaches out to almost every culture and invites music lovers to enjoy the ride through exciting and unpredictable passages. Johnny's music is motivated by the need to give back all of the soul he has acquired through years of playing different music styles and instruments.
The musicians comprising the group called @conga, are a well-known artists with whom Sandoval regularly works, most often in the Los Angeles area. Horn heavy with the sounds of Tower of Power founder and arranger Greg Adams joined by Lee Thornburg and Chris Tedesco on trumpets, George Shelby, Glen Berger, and Ed Wynne on saxes, and co-producer Jim McMillen on trombones. @conga is expanded by Fury, Funky, and Flamenco, the three different styles of guitar played by Mike Romo, Fino Roverato, Bobby Solakov and Alfredo Caceres. Large portions of bass from Rene Camacho and Kieth Jones fill up the bottom end, while Johnny writes and plays on every instrument he owns. And to take it completely over the top, Johnny invites one of his favorite drummers Bernie Dresel to join him on a the last two tunes.
Skin and Bones kicks off the album with an odd meter number anchored by five congas and fifteen trombones, hence the name.
African Sea starts with a classic Afro/Cuban feel featuring bass and conga interaction that flows into a traditional Salsa groove joined by rhythmic horn riffs and jazz harmony. Check out the exemplary keyboard work of the great Joey Navarro.
Los Inmigrantes keeps the Salsa going with bass and bongo conversation while continuing with singing horn melodies through percussion and horn hits that build and travel along.
Solea De Helena is based on an ancient Flamenco rhythm called "Solea". A slower haunting piece that features Johnny on Cajon and Bobby Solakov on flamenco guitar. Lee Thornburg adds the icing on the solo trumpet.
Buleria Americana updates the ancient Flamenco rhythm of "Buleria" and brings it to America as Johnny and guest singer Alexandria Kaye join together in the song and dance party.
Mad Tango very much lives up to its name as it's basic beat is a furious double-kick pattern under smashing drums, cymbals, and toms. Layer that foundation with metal guitar riffs and angry horns, and then somehow weave an intellectual trombone melody into the mix, leading the piece to its restful conclusion.
Via Almeria is a short voyage through the most southern part of Spain where Sandoval's ancestors lived. This song features simple arpeggios on the Flamenco guitar and is driven by the Peruvian Cajon which morphs into a dramatic song of symphonic mystery, adding strings and electronica, and featuring Glen Berger on the alto flute.
Istanblu reflects Johnny's experiences of touring in Istanbul, Turkey for three months combined with playing in Turkish Flamenco band Istwest while being the percussionist for Greg Adam's East Bay Soul. "I know you can count this one in 9, and groove like a Sultan."
Rio McBoogie swings in a whole new way, leading into a trancy Brazilian guitar piece followed by an all out Brazilian Batucada "street Samba" containing much cuica, hepinique, and padeiro interaction leading the @conga lineup straight into the last song.
Trinidad Cruiser is the grand finale written from happy experiences playing with the Trinidad Calypso Band and the Caribbean Cruzers. Now you'll understand why the steal pan is featured in the intro of Rio McBoogie! Its a giant Calypso jam ending with blazing drum solo by the masterfully energetic "One-Take" Bernie Dresel.