By Hector Aviles, Latino Music Cafe

The Pacific Mambo Orchestra (PMO) started nearly 10 years ago, did a crowdfunding project for their first recording in 2012, and with it won a Grammy in 2014. Now, they’re back with their second studio recording; “The III Side“.

This band is based in the Bay Area, and continues to bring the sound of the glorious big bands of the 1940’s-60’s, particularly those of Machito, Puente, and Rodriguez.

Now, I’ve looked all over the internet to find why the called it The III Side, and came out empty. My best guess is that this is actually PMO’s 3rd recording, as their second was “Live from Stern Grove Festival“.

The III Side Musicians

Naturally, the musicians in the PMO have changed, but the lineup has remained the same. The Pacific Mambo Orchestra is still led by Mexican pianist Christian Tumalan, and German trumpeter Steffen Kuehn. Their lineup still consists of four trumpets (Jeff Lewis, Louis Fasman, and Henry Hung), four trombones (Jeff Cressman, Mike Rinta, Jamie Dubberly, and Derek James), five saxophones (Pete Cornell, Tony Peebles, Aaron Lington, and two others), piano, bass (Julio de la Cruz), timables (Omar Ledezma Jr.), congas (Javier Cabanillas), bongos (Braulio Barrera) and two lead singers (Armando Cordoba and Christelle Durandy).

Guests artists include Jon Faddis, Dafnis Prieto, Herman Olivera, and Alex Britti.

The III Side Music

The music in The III Side is fantastic. The sound of the mambo is alive and well with the Pacific Mambo Orchestra, and it starts from the very first song “Mr. B’s Mambo“. This song is performed by Armando Cordoba, who showcases his great talent as a singer. The song’s first “mambo/moña” is reminiscent of those of Willie Rosario.

The album contains four Mambo/Salsa songs, one Bolero and 4 instrumentals. BTW, the Bolero is sung in French, and to me (who don’t speak French) it sounds incredibly well. The sound and melody are great, and I have to give PMO points for the guts to put out a Bolero in French.

Christelle demonstrates her great voice in “Mi Carnaval“, and in the Bolero (“Le Temps D’un Horizon“). There’s also a Salsa in English (“Through the Fire“), performed by Armando.

I have to mention the great job of Herman Olivera in singing the Yoruba-inspired “Omi Ye Ye“. Not easy to make this sound authentic, but Herman performs superbly, as he always does.

The big band still performs at the Grammy level they did in their first studio recording. Most of the songs are originals, although they still included their version of the standard “A Night in Tunisia“.

A Strong III Side Mambo

The III Side” is a solid recording , with a good mix of Salsa-mambos, instrumentals, and a Bolero. The singers perform incredibly well both individually as well as together. I enjoyed listening to this second studio recording of the Pacific Mambo Orchestra.

The III Side” as all the elements for another Grammy nomination, if we had a fair Grammy voting system.

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