Various Artists

Latin Jazz: The Essential Album

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Although the title is a bit overambitious, Manteca's Latin Jazz: The Essential Album is still a decent collection of music. Yes, important artists like Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Palmieri, and Machito are missing, but there are cuts from Flora Purim, Mongo Santamaria, and Tito Puente (in fact, two from the latter) that make up for that absence. Perhaps the biggest problem with the two-disc, 25-track album is that the scope it tries to cover is too large (it reaches into Brazilian jazz with Tânia Maria and Trio da Paz as well as electronica with Da Lata, Azymuth, Suba, Sidestepper, and Snowboy), and so ideas and themes are just touched upon instead of truly explored (not to mention the fact that many Latin jazz purists might have trouble with the DJ-based acts). Still, Ray Barretto's "Summertime" and Cal Tjader's "Mambo Mindero" are hot enough to keep Latin Jazz: The Essential Album moving easily along.

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