Afro-Cuban Jazz • United States
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Led by Chico Mendoza, Ocho were a seminal group in the NuYorica scene of the early 70s, producing a heavy mix of funk, jazz, salsa, and soul, featuring flute, tenor, electric piano, and vibes in a truly innovative range of grooves still influential to this day. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License and may also be available under the GNU FDL.
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OCHO albums / top albums

OCHO Número 1: Ay! Que Frío album cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
Número 1: Ay! Que Frío
Afro-Cuban Jazz 1972
OCHO Ocho 2: Last Tango in Paris album cover 4.43 | 2 ratings
Ocho 2: Last Tango in Paris
Afro-Cuban Jazz 1973
OCHO Numero Tres album cover 2.00 | 1 ratings
Numero Tres
Afro-Cuban Jazz 1974
OCHO Tornado album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Afro-Cuban Jazz 1976

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OCHO The Best of Ocho album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Best of Ocho
Afro-Cuban Jazz 1996

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OCHO Numero Tres

Album · 1974 · Afro-Cuban Jazz
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Sean Trane
Third album from this Nu Yorican group from the mid-70’s, with a largely unchanged line-up (with Mendoza as their leader), still aiming for a Latino music market, but here there is a definite black African music slant coming from across the ocean as well. So, by the release in early 75 of Numero Tres, all rather unfortunate comparisons with Santana should have disappeared although you’ll guess there will be always elements that will bring you back towards Carlos’ fusion group, where here Ocho is playing a more traditional card, even if jazz or African music do This third album is a completely even collection of tracks where the Salsa dominates, sometimes overtaken by overly-loud vibes that are representing the jazz influence sparsely sprinkled here and there throughout the album.

Unless you’re a fan of Latino music (and mainly Salsa), you’re better not even laying your eyes onto this album, because there is nothing in it for you , unless you want impeccably played music whose only flaw might the recording level of the vibraphone.

OCHO Número 1: Ay! Que Frío

Album · 1972 · Afro-Cuban Jazz
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Sean Trane
Ocho is one of those NY Puerto Rican band (would you believe an septet only, in this case) of the early 70’s that played the fusion card in the traces of Santana and eventually with crosstown-rivals Mandrill. Like Santana, Ocho is taking their Latino roots from Tito Puente, but unfortunately fail to do much more of it than Santana did, since they can’t rock it up as hard, neither can they really out-virtuose the San Fran formation, nor can they be faithful to the original spirit.

Not being a fan or an expert of this type of music, it’s relatively difficult to make a judgment of value of such albums, but grosso modo, the music is frankly Latino, Puerto-rican style, but Cuban or Mexican as well, which a bit of a wonder because all 8 are purely black African descent through slavery (look at the terribly WASP names) except for Chico Mendoza. Sooo amazingly enough this should’ve been a mix of soul/funk with some jazz and Latino, but clearly the Salsa/Merengue side wins out very easily in the final balance, in which Ocho is not really aiming at electrified music, as the majority is acoustic instruments.

By the fourth track Montuna, the repetitive nature of the music had me lose all interest, but the excitement is also down from Oriza and Flautira, both highly communicative in their liveliness. Another fine track is Undress My Mind where some thunderstorm sounds interact with much effect on the vibes that rule the trac, as is the closing Coco May May where the jazz side seeps out through some pores through the horn instruments, here a baritone sax. I found the rest particularly boring, but WTF, I’m only some white guy.

While it might be a bit easy to classify Ocho as second-rate Santana, Ocho was also more than that through their jazz sensibilities (when able to pierce through the armour), but little more than an ethnic Latino group like I suspect existed hundreds of them at the time.

OCHO Ocho 2: Last Tango in Paris

Album · 1973 · Afro-Cuban Jazz
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Take me back to the seventies and please make it quick, where has this music gone? Perhaps off to Paris as the title "Last Tango In Paris" suggests but wherever this style is we still have plenty of great reminders with this album being one. Latin Jazz, Cha Cha, Descarga, Guaracha, etc and Ocho covers them all with a style that was only from the sixties and seventies with voices, vibes, piano, guitar, saxes, flute, percussion and bass. No trumpets or trombone are used which is unusual for a Latin album of this nature but that is precisely why it is so different with its own great sound. Compositions are a real mix with Gato Barbieri, Alan Bergman with Michael Legrand, Bebo Valdez and Chico Mendoza having some of their tunes covered by Ocho. Who is Chico Mendoza listed as a songwriter? Chico is the leader of this the band Ocho and vibes and piano as well as arranging are his department. Bobby Marin was the producer and he had a few albums of his own in the past and with his experience added to the mix the seventies groove keeps coming throughout. The lead vocalists are Manny Roman who handles the Spanish and Pam Kootz the English with all those voices added as well from her which gives the album its own distinct flavour throughout the Latin Jazz numbers. The coros are nothing to be scoffed at either with Adalberto Santiago, Ismael Quintana and Jimmy Sabater with all working at Fania and all big. The musicians are not listed and although there is details on the first album not a thing on this one with only the vocalists being covered. The current edition being used for this review is the 1995 release on West Side which was the the original company that released the record back in 1973 and was recorded in January of the same year. Jazz and Afro Cuban are the major components with the Latin Jazz compositions being that and not Afro Cuban which gives a great versatile mix with the tunes and keeps you listening to this trumpet free but vibe and saxophone full beauty.

"Last Tango In Paris" by Gato Barbieri is first up and coming from Argentina he has that prequisite latin touch which Ocho uses to great effect with its booming bass intro and the voice of Pam Kootz with not lyrics but tones and the saxophone mix bringing a laid back class. The vibes are such an important part of the albums sound and Chico Mendoza played them with just the right touch and time with his quick solo from this one and his next in the following cha cha cha', "Oye Mi Son Cha Cha Cha" with Manny Roman and the those awesome coros giving the tune plenty of Cha Cha bounce with flute and great percussion bringing a wonderful drive to the number. Back to the latin Jazz for "What Are You Doing For The Rest Of My Life" and baritone saxophone is what you get with a great up tempo solo with Pam back when the tempo slows with her voice before she starts the lyrics. If you have ever listened to Lani Hall from Sergio Mendes Pam's approach is similar but still her own and although no Bossa Nova is used the smooth, airy vocals are present in the jazz tracks. " El Guyabero is a great jazzed up Guaracha with more great sax but tenor is the sound this time and the solo is perfect. Whoever the saxophonist was he sure knew how to play on this up tempo swinger. Bebo Valdez is the writer for "La Batanga" and those delicous vibes are back with flute giving it a little charanga in the mix but that quickly disappears when the jazz enters with an almost Avante approach used by the the saxophone and flute over the rythmn which returns to a bit of that charanga feel on this wonderful descarga. A great guaguanco' is next with Manny on vocals with Chico's vibes and the album closer is a straight Jazz tune "Fool 'Ja with at last a whipper of a timbal and conga solo.

Different and with their own sound and the bands albums have been re released by Soul Jazz who specialise in that Nyorican material as well as reggae from this period. Good chance the saxophonists in the band were Charlie Mitchell on tenor, Herbie Morgan,tenor and flute and Billy Phipps doing baritone and flute, being the band members from the first album. Good Stuff.

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