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Juan Calle & His Latin Lantzmen’s Mozeltov Mis Amigos

Reviewed by Elizabeth Murphy

If you think your ears are playing tricks on you while listening to Juan Calle & His Latin Lantzmen’s album, Mozeltov Mis Amigos, then you’ve got another thing coming. You’ve definitely put yourself into an amazing position. Listening to Mozeltov Mis Amigos places you in an entirely different category of music spectators; one where listeners become witnesses of one of the biggest and most important music collaborations in history.

Firstly, I’d like to examine the title because it’s quite the introduction to something intriguing approaching. “Mozeltov”. We’ve all heard this before, haven’t we? The Jewish expression usually said to congratulate (or wish luck) to people during special occasions like Jewish weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, and birthdays. Then, there’s the well known combination of words “mis amigos” which translates to “my friends” from Spanish. Combined, we get something to the likes of, Congratulations my friends, mixed in two different languages. How inviting. And this invitation leads us into an exotic sounding blend of Hebrew lyrics with Jazzy, Latin beats. I know, hard to imagine isn’t it?

One can’t help but notice the light crackling sounds throughout the album that, perhaps, suggest its authenticity, how old, and how long ago this album was recorded. The songs are distinctive and different. They stand out and quickly become something you realize you’ve never heard before. And because of this, the listener is curious as to how the rest of the album was pulled off. The only thing I can think of to compare this album to is the music from the cartoon movie, The Jungle Book (minus the lyrics of course). And although the lyrics aren’t exactly catchy (in the sense that you can’t probably sing along to it unless you speak Yiddish or Hebrew) they’re something you can at least try to emulate.

The eleven tracks will leave your mind stuck in trance in the exotic sounds you hear from beginning to end of the album. My favorite tracks were the ones where you get to hear each individual instrument get its moment in the spot light. For example, on the third track, “O, Momme”, and the albums ninth track, “Baigelach-Bublitchki (Pachanga)”, the piano gets about forty seconds to pour its heart out on record. All the listener can do is imagine Charlie Palmieri’s fingertips rapidly pounding the piano keys, his head swaying, body jerking from the force of the music he’s creating, or, more appropriately, the history they’re created. Or what about Ray Barretto beating those percussions likes the bottoms of stubborn children? Boy, musicians don’t come in that raw quality anymore.

The amount of talent hovering in the air like a thick cloud of precipitation in that recording studio fifty something years ago, must have weighed a ton. However, the albums only downfall is that some of the tracks sound similar. Perhaps, it could have been improved by changing the tempo a little bit more, or increasing or decreasing the tempo of a song to give it a bit of a different feel while staying true to the Latin rhythm.

Nonetheless, since this was the first time the Jewish and Latin community merged in this way to make a record, the listener doesn’t hold this fault to Mozeltov Mis Amigos throughout the duration of the album. We are quickly snapped back in a trance, listening intently to how this amazing album was created.

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