Machito - Kenya (1958), 4/10

While it can be monotonous and repetitive at times, Machito’s Kenya can also be entertaining, uplifting and joyful. The opener “Wild Jungle” paints a wonderous picture, while infusing optimistic energy right away, continued with a fluid, placid tone on “Congo Mulence”. Then a simple, innocuous iteration of African influenced big band in the title track takes things into a rhythm of what can best be described as background music, a temperament that continues essentially through the end of the record. Nothing great beyond the Afro-Cuban jazz aesthetic, nothing offensive, and the only aspect that begins to stick out is Cannonball Adderley’s alto performances and a few upbeat sections sprinkled throughout. The spirit of the band is more consistent, affecting and passionate than something like Palo Congo, but still fails to make a significant impression beyond the genre’s confinements. There is just an inherent lack of intensity and excitement for much of the record; the brief moments of affection such as the duo “Cannonology” and “Frenzy” break up this monotony, but ultimately don’t make it a memorable listening experience after a slow 35 minutes, particularly after a slogging second half. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the concept of the album feeling contrived, but it certainly toes the line at times. There are countless more exciting and fun iterations of big band and especially tribal influenced jazz.