Pacific Mambo Orchestra, The III Side Review

Great Sound!

Pacific Mambo Orchestra's "The III Side" is their 3rd album and 2nd excellent studio recording.

"The III Side" captures the big band sound of the 50's with a great mix of Salsa and Latin Jazz songs with contemporary arrangements.

  • Music & Performance
  • Sound
  • Length

A fantastic recording, perhaps a modern version of the sound of Machito, Puente, and Rodriguez.

This post is also available in: Español

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

Pacific Mambo Orchestra The III Side cover art.
The 2nd studio recording of the PMO, “The III Side”, is as strong as the 1st one.

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 Niel Levonius), four trombones (Jeff Cressman, Mike Rinta, Jamie Dubberly, and Derek James), five saxophones (Pete Cornell, Tony Peebles, Aaron Lington, Doug Rowan, and Benny Torres), 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 Braulio Barrera, who showcases his great talent as a singer. The song’s first “mambo/moña” is reminiscent of those of Willie Rosario.

Musicians of Pacific Mambo Orchestra
The musicians of the PMO perform greatly in the album’s Salsa, Bolero, and Latin Jazz songs.

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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  1. Aaron Lington says

    Hello Hector! Thanks for the great review. I was just going to mention that the female vocalist on this recording is actually Christelle Durandy. Alexa Morales was on our first two albums.

    1. Hector Aviles says

      Hi Aaron,
      Thanks for the clarification. I tried to find the liner noted or recording credits to no avail.
      I’ll go a quick edit thg o make the correction.

  2. Anonymous says

    All good man! Not sure why the credits are not found online, but they are definitely in the CD liner notes. Thanks for the awesome and kind review!

    1. Hector Aviles says

      You’re welcome. I updated the blog. Best,

  3. Steffen Kuehn says

    Hi Hector
    This is Steffen Kuehn, co- leader of PMO!
    Thanks for the kind review!
    Just a few clarifications:
    1. Braulio Barrera is singing Lead on Mr. B’s Mambo
    2. Instead of Henry Hung on Trumpet, we have Niel Levonius
    3. The additional 2 saxes are Doug Rowan and Benny Torres

    Finally, ‘The III Side’ name does come from it. Wing the 3rd album and also the 3 side of the clave…:-)
    Thanks again!

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