Mongo Santamaria

An important catalyst in the creation and development of Latin jazz, percussionist Mongo Santamaria came to the USA in 1950, and, having played in the orchestras of Perez Prado, Tito Puente, George Shearing, Rene Bloch and Cal Tjader, became leader of his own band in 1959/60. After recording seven albums for the West Coast Fantasy label, he scored a nationwide hit with ‘Watermelon Man’ on Riverside. Santamaria spent the latter half of the 1960s with Columbia Records. There, with his friend, trumpeter and key arranger Marty Sheller, he experimented with new musical styles, like boogaloo and Latin soul, before signing to Atlantic for a few landmark LPs.