Wall-to-wall Afro-Caribbean rythms filled the Howard Theater Saturday night in the persons of Mongo Santamaria and Hugh Masekela.
Okyerema Asante of Ghana, Masekela's percussionist, opened with a declaimed "Do Me So La So So" punctuated by furiously hammered congas. "Marketplace" featured a gruff, shouted vocal by the leader, and his heraldic trumpet tore through "Mamaa Akufo" with rapid runs of split notes. Hotep Cecil Barnard, from Capetown, infused his solos with the haunting quality and percussive nature characteristic of African piano. Rene McLean's sprited free alto playing on "Bilad A Sudan" was nicely climaxed by his duo with Masekela's horn. Nandi, a female vocal trio from Azania, joined the sextet for a rousing "Stimela" and "Johannesburg."
Monog presented a rhythmically thicker textured set, some highlights of which were "Sofrito," a trumultuous piano feature of blizzard density by Milton Hamilton and "Manteca," for parts of which the full septet converted to a rhythm section. Brass and reed players rattled gourds and tapped blocks and bells, setting up a crossfire of rhythmic contrasts that brought several in the audience to their feet to supplement that audial with visual syncoption.
In its continuing effort to infuse new life into the historic hall, the Howard Theater Foundation will present a double bill of B.B. King and Bobby Bland on Friday, Feb. 8.