Willie Bobo: Bobo Motion (1967) 2008

Bobo Motion

Track list:

01. Up, Up & Way
02. Ain’t That Right
03. Midnight Sun
04. Cute
05. I Don’t Know
06. Tuxedo Junction
07. Evil Ways
08. Show Me
09. Black Coffee
10. Night Walk
11. La Bamba


Willie Bobo – timbales, percussion;

Released: 1967/2008
Label: Verve

Produced: Pete Spargo, Teddy Reig

Bert Keyes (#1,3,4,6,8,9,11);
Sonny Henry (#2,5,7,10)

Liner notes: Stan Levine


Timbale titan Willie Bobo, who had worked with Mongo Santamaria and Cal Tjader before going solo, is best known for mid-1960s classics such as “Spanish Grease,” where he served up Latin jazz and funky grooves that would be hailed as “acid jazz” inspirations decades later.

BOBO MOTION, originally released on Verve in 1967 when Bobo was at his peak, is very much in the vein of his best-known material.

Laying into jazz versions of everything from Santana’s “Evil Ways” to the Ritchie Valens hit “La Bamba” with sly syncopation and appropriately greasy grooves, Bobo stirs up a percolating pot of percussion-led tracks, and even does a little singing along the way.


Real Name: William Correa
Born William Correa, 28 February 1934, New York City, New York.
Died 15 September 1983, Los Angeles, California.

Perhaps the best-known — certainly now the best-remembered–Latin jazz percussionist of the 1960s, Bobo was one of the key players who fused influences from latin Soul, rock, and jazz in the late 1960s and 1970s, in other words: boogaloo!


Recorded and released in 1967, Bobo Motion is one of percussionist Willie Bobo’s best-known recordings of the 1960s.

The album is best-known for its version of the Sonny Henry nugget “Evil Ways” that Carlos Santana and his band made their own a couple of years later, but there’s more to it than that.

Since Bobo signed with Verve in 1965, he’d been releasing wily blends of hot Latin tunes, and soul-jazz interpretations of pop tunes of the day.

His five previous albums for the label had all been variations on this theme.

On the earlier ones, safer pop and easy tunes played with Bobo’s trademark hand drum grooves won out over original material.

Indeed, 1965’s Spanish Grease and 1966’s Uno, Dos,Tres 1-2-3 had featured one tune apiece that featured the cooking Afro-Cuban flavored jams he’d become known for, and the rest were either soul-jazz arrangements of Latin standards or “with it” pop tunes of the day (Afro-Cuban versions of the organ trio records that Blue Note was shoveling out by the truckload at the time).

Bobo Motion, however, is a different animal.

While there are no originals on the Bert Keyes/Sonny Henry-arranged set, the grooves are tighter and more sophisticated, and the drumming is mixed way up above an uncredited smaller combo playing horns, electric bass, and Henry’ electric guitar.

The tune selection is also weirder and reflects the range of Bobo’ eclectic tastes, and turns more firmly toward jazz (unlike Juicy, the 1967 precursor to this set, which was pregnant with workouts of soul hits of the day).

There are trad standards like “Tuxedo Junction,” Neal Hefti’s swinging “Cute,” — which was almost a Count Basie evergreen of the early ’60s — and a smoking blues-out read of Sonny Burke’ “Black Coffee.”

That’s not to say there are no pop tunes here, Henry’s “Evil Ways” features Bobo’s less than hip vocals but the tune itself is so steamy and strange in its minor-key articulations, and the groove is such a monster, it doesn’t matter.

The same goes for Arthur Sterling’s “Ain’t That Right,” that becomes a whomping boogaloo with the triple-time congas, gourd shaker, and timbales atop a fluid electric guitar groove.

The transformation of Joe Tex’s “Show Me,” into a Latin jazz tune is remarkable to say the least — even if it keeps its funky soul feel (the horns are the melody line here, and Bobo plays all around them setting up a monster conguero groove).

Bobo Motion ends with a brief but burning version of “La Bamba.”

Its traditional roots are all on display here as Bobo’s congas drive the rhythms into overdrive.

Forget the quaint version by Trini Lopez, this one gets it.

~Thom Jurek[]