Various Artists

Fiesta Picante: The Latin Jazz Party Collection

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Reaching all the way back to the beginnings of Concord Picante in 1979, which was originally created for the pleasure of the late Cal Tjader, Fiesta Picante traces nearly the entire history of the label in what amounts to a greatest-hits collection with a non-stop groove. While the music constantly looks backwards, with few progressive strains, the album succeeds as a summary of Picante and as an irresistible danceathon. Disc one is mostly devoted to tracks with a cha-cha or guajira beat, while disc two is dominated by the more rambunctious mambo style. One is struck by how many of Latin jazz's surviving stars have recorded for the label, often in thorough detail. Poncho Sanchez, the neo-classicist among them, gets five entries, including his faithful-to-the-letter re-creation of "Watermelon Man" with Mongo Santamaria guesting on congas. The indefatigable Tito Puente, his signature guajira "Oye Como Va" as catchy as ever in this live version, also gets five tracks, and Santamaria's own band is not far behind with four tracks. Ray Barretto's New World Spirit is the most enterprising of the Picante bands, trying to create fresher textures in his three entries. Tjader is represented by "Serengeti" and a remake of his biggest hit, "Soul Sauce," Pete Escovedo gets two tracks, and Jorge Dalto and Ray Vega get one each. If you ever wanted to sample the output of the Concord Picante label -- or for that matter, traditional Latin jazz as performed in the present day -- or simply keep a party jumping, this two-hour, double-CD set is for you.

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