...[plays] with gusto and the technical brilliance the solo drum demands.
Chris Moss 2004
Since his days as an omo ana (or consecrated drummer) in Havana's carnival scene, Pancho Quinto has taken percussion from anything even faintly like an accompaniment role and thrust it firmly into the lead - always with gusto and the technical brilliance the solo drum demands.
Fifty years on, his fusions of Afro Cuban and African American rhythms just get more audacious and unrepentantly purist. Listen to track one on this album, laid down in a single, frantic day in 1998 while on a tour of the US: "La Gorra"'s 'vocals' are the clap and clatter of empty boxes and the refrain 'Se la llevo' a mere pulse to tap your foot to.
Given his collaborators - maverick Omar Sosa on piano, Enrique Fernandez on an assortment of scintillating saxes - Quinto can't keep other sounds down for long. But this disc is where to turn for complex constructions built around the cajón as well as the bata (two-headed drum played with hands), the quinto (conga for solos) and the tres golpes (larger conga) - played by Quinto and four other percussionists - and the conversations these hold are as tight and twisting as the improvs of a jazz band or scored deliberations of a string quartet.
Track 4, with the volume up on Sosa's piano, is loungier than the other numbers, but isa sweet, suggestive interlude; this is rumba as religion and more old-style, spiritual trance than dance. What impresses most is the crispness of it all, the lack of blur and audible disdain for lazy, lulling melodies.
He might be worshipped as the premier fusioneer of Angolan, Congolese and Yoruba music, and as a tireless, instinctive genre-hopper, but Pancho Quinto holds back from over mingling his traditions - you can hear every instrument, and every beat, on this record for itself - clear, clamorous and never quite chaotic.