Angel Melendez's debut album garnered a great deal of attention, including a 2005 Grammy nod. Performing a mix of original compositions and classic salsa tunes, Melendez and his group really burn on each track. And even though this is the first full-length release by the 911 Mambo Orchestra, these musicians sound as though they have been playing together for a lifetime.
Most of the songs here feature the singing talents of Mike Maldonado, Lina Marie Perez, and a backing chorus, which often includes Melendez himself. Using call and response, the singers not only work off of each other, but the sophisticated rhythms and harmonies inherent in Afro-Cuban music as well. The most famous Latin selection on this release is "Cereza Rosa (Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White)," which is marked by the lead trumpet using a whinnying effect on the opening phrase. Other highlights include Melendez's merengue interpretation of the Jewish dance "Havah Nagilah," which spotlights the soloing acumen of tenor saxophonist Nick Bisesi. Melendez's own "Mambo a la Sandoval" rounds out the album. This festive tribute to Arturo Sandoval contains fiery jazzy improvisations and virtuosic, high-note blowing from trumpeter Kirk Garrison.