Weekly Wire
NewCityNet Jazz Tip

By John MacCalkies

JULY 17, 2000: 

Pucho and His Latin Soul Brothers How'm I Doin? (Cannonball)

This gig was booked before the death of Tito Puente, but Joe Segal figured it fit well as a tribute, since Henry Lee "Pucho" Brown has acted as unofficial understudy to Puente, leading kicking Latin-jazz combos of his own since the sixties.

Pucho's hot-off-the-press Cannonball disc, "How'm I Doin'?," features Puente covers "Willie and Ray Mambo" and the infectiously boppish "ESY," and Tito tipped his hat to the recording before he passed with a gushy quote on the CD sleeve.

The puertoriqueño Puente grew up in Spanish Harlem and studied at Julliard, whereas the Afro-American Pucho's "post-graduate seminars took place in Harlem and Bronx dancehalls as timbalero with Alfred du Mire and Joe Panama," as notes to his Cannonball debut "Groovin' High" have it. Pucho was a born leader, and his lock-stock-and-smoking-barrels mock gangster stance on the new CD's cover shows he still enjoys the patriarchal role.

In their late sixties/early seventies heyday, when they pumped out nine albums for Prestige, the LSBs proved more versatile than straight Latin-jazzers, incorporating R&B and JB funk stylings alongside chachas and descargas, ultimately coining "Latin boogaloo." The style waned in the mid-seventies and Pucho disbanded the group.

Miraculously, he crested the U.K. acid jazz wave twenty years later, when Galliano sampled "Superfreak" and DJs Russ Dewbury and Baz fe Jazz hauled him over to headline at their legendary JazzBops in Brighton. I can live without his remake of Gamble and Huff's "MoneyMoneyMoney," but there are supercool grooves on "How'm I Doin'?" including the afrobeat Fred Wesley opener and a flashback to "Vietnam Mambo."

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