And so we come to the first album I own but have never listened to. La Gigantona, an obscure album from Nicaraguan guitarist Alfonso Lovo was a blind buy, part of a binge of records from the Numero Group when they had a killer $5 sale on compact discs. And I’m happy to report that the compilation is fantastic, offering a wide range of tracks from solo classical tracks to straight up funk explorations and extended latin jazz jams that cross the universe and back again. All that plus a fat booklet of liner notes that flesh out the extraordinary life of Lovo and the music contained on the disc.
This is one case where reading about the artist’s life definitely informs his music. In 1971, Lovo, the song of Nicaragua’s Minister of Agriculture, was involved in a plane hijacking and shot multiple times, once through his left hand. So to hear the incredible playing five years later on opening track “Nueva Segovia” is an emotional punch. It’s a simple blending of classical chops mixed with a Spanish flavor, but it sets the tone that everything coming after is going to be enhanced or embellished in some way with Lovo’s very specific viewpoint. So when the eight minute funk jam of “La Bomba de Neutron” comes on with its psychedelic swirls and latin percussion it’s a damn delight.
The rest of La Gigantona is the same. “Tropical Jazz” has semiserious funk guitar moving through its verses, and the soloing on “Los Conquistadores” is reminiscent of Zappa in the late 60s. Every song benefits from some serious percussion thanks to Lovo’s backing band (sadly not listed in the liner notes) and when the end comes with “Rio San Juan Drums” it’s a feast of drumming and percussion, no guitar at all.
Listening to La Gigantona now, I’m reminded of what it was like to buy things blind as a kid. You would hear about something, or see a cover that intrigued you, and that would be enough to shell out your cash. It’s always a thrill to take a plunge like that, and in today’s age of being able to try everything online that old thrill gets lost a bit. Having run through this album three times so far today I got a bit of that thrill back, and meanwhile also have another label I can put my trust in to deliver things I’ve never heard before, but probably need to…