Mr. Bongo, Jack Costanzo

Jack Costanzo played bongos and other Latin percussion on hundreds of jazz, big band, and Latin recordings. At first, like the world's most famous Latin percussionist, Costanzo was a dancer. He and his wife Marda Saxon were an accomplished team, and the bongos helped them develop routines. Later, Marda and vocalist Kaskara (Manuel Ochoa) sang on some of Costanzo's albums. Costanzo also investigated the Caribbean origins of his instrument and learned about cult music firsthand.

First coming to recognition with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, he went on to make a number of solo records on Liberty and various small labels. He turns up as sideman on any number of "bongo bop" and pop albums recorded in California. He worked with such top names as Xavier Cugat, Frances Faye, Yma Sumac, Billy May, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, and Peggy Lee. Also he worked with extensively with the Hollywood film industry, even teaching percussion to actors and musicians (Marlon Brando, Gary Cooper, Carolyn Jones, Hugh O'Brian, June Allyson, Ricardo Montalban, Harry James, etc.). His career is marked by great stylistic variety (flexibility), an always-evident sense of humor, and enough talent both to play with the best and to make a cheeky bongo-instruction record.

Buying: A reliable asset on any LP, Mr. Bongo's own LPs mainly are singular. Viva Tirado, his second with former "Playboy" Playmate Gerrie Woo, is his fantastic, funky, "rare-groove" holy grail. The Googie Rene and Tubby Hayes jazz LPs rate even higher.

Mr. Bongo LPs

7Afro Cuban Jazz North-of-the-Border 10"; Norgran MG-N-32 (also on 12" w/Andre's Cuban All Stars as Afro-Cubano; Verve MGV-8157)
7Mr. Bongo Has Brass; Zephyr ZP-12003G (also a compact-33 promo)
7Mr. Bongo Jack Costanzo & his Afro-Cuban Band; GNP-19 (w/Eddie Cano, Ray Rivera; as Palladium PLP-126; 1989 & as Jack Costanzo & Eddie Cano: Costanzo, Cano, & Bongos; GNP-90; partly on Afro-Drum Carnival)
8Jack Costanzo & his Latin Orchestra: Mr. Bongo Plays Hi-Fi Cha Cha; Tops L-1564 ("Mr. Bongo Plays in Hi-Fi"; authentic Afro-Cuban set w/Kaskara & Marda Saxon; abridged (8-10 of the 12 cuts) as Bongo Cha Cha Cha (Evon 348 or Golden Tone C-4061) or Mr. Bongo (Atlantic/Clarion SD-621) or Dance Time Featuring Jack Costanza (sic) or "Mr. Bongo" (Tiara TMT-7529))
6King of the Bongos; Clarity 804
7Latin Fever; Liberty LST-7020; 1957
8Bongo Fever--Jack Costanzo at the Garden of Allah; Liberty LST-7109
6Afro Can Can--Jack Costanzo's Version of Cole Porter's Can-Can; Liberty LST-7137
7Learn--Play Bongos; Liberty LRP-3177 (mono-only; instruction/bongo-rock/Latin)
7Naked City & Other Themes; Liberty LST-7195
7Bongo Fever; Liberty/Sunset SUS-5134 (compilation: 7 cuts from LST-7020, 3 from LST-7109)
5Latin Percussion with Soul; Tico SLP-1177; 1968 (w/Gerrie Woo)
9Viva Tirado; GNP-2057 (w/Gerrie Woo; the good one!)
Back from Havana; Ubiquity/CuBop; 2001

Mr. Bongo Sideman LPs

Eddie Cano & Jack Costanzo with Tony Martinez: Dancing on the Sunset Strip; GNP-44
7Buddy Cole: Swing Fever; Warner Bros. WS-1373; 1960
Nat King Cole: Bop Kick; Capitol
8Frances Faye (w/Russ Garcia): Frances Faye in Frenzy; Verve V6-2147
6Frances Fay: Caught in the Act; GNP-41 (Vol. 1 only)
9[The Tubby Hayes Orchestra with Jack Costanzo:] Costanzo Plus Tubbs: Equation in Rhythm; Fontana TFL-5190; 1962 (UK; Afro-Cuban/modern jazz; notes by Benny Green)
8Mickey Katz: The Most Mishige; Capitol T-1102
Stan Kenton: One Night Stand with Stan Kenton; Capitol
Marty Paich Octet: [?]; GNP
6Art Pepper, etc.: Mucho Calor--A Presentation in Latin Jazz; Andex (w/Conte Candoli, Russ Freeman, Chuck Flores, Jack Costanzo, Mike Pacheco, Bill Perkins, Ben Tucker, Benny Carter, Bill Holman, Johnny Mandel; VSOP 47; 1987)
8Rafael "Googie" René: Romesville; Class CSLP-5003
Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse All-Stars, Vol.3; Contemporary C3508
6The Surfmen/South Sea Serenaders: Exotic Island; Somerset SF-10500
6Rene Touzet: The Cha Cha & the Mambo; GNP-14; 1955 (The Charm of the Cha Cha Cha)
Rene Touzet: From Broadway to Havana; GNP-22
7Various: Afro-Drum Carnival; GNP-25 (4 of 8 cuts)
3Various: Spring into Action--The Sound of the Sixties; Liberty MM-404

Mr. Bongo 45s & EPs

Afro Cuban Jazz North-of-the-Border EP #1; Norgran EP
7Afro Cuban Jazz North-of-the-Border EP #2; Norgran EP-N-100 (Mambo Costanzo, Satin Doll, Yukon Mambo, Maggie)
9I Got a Bongo/Barracuda; Liberty F-55194 (bongo twist)
7Learn--Play Bongos EP; Liberty BO-77 (picture-sleeve excerpts from LP LRP-3177; instruction/bongo-rock/Latin)
7Various: Hit Calypsos!; Capitol EAP 1-852 (Lord Flea: "Shake Shake Senora"; Stan Kenton; Nat "King" Cole w/Jack Costanzo: "Calypso Blues"; Andrews Sisters)

Mr. Bongo on TV

Betty Grable-Harry James Show
Colgate Comedy Hour
7Johnny Staccato
NBC Spectaculars
Perry Como Show
Person to Person
Shower of Stars
Red Skelton Show
Ed Sullivan Show

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