Conexion Latina

Mambo Nights

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What distinguishes this recording is the strong jazz element, provided in large part by the addition of guest improvisers. The orchestra Conexion Latina is a tight unit -- more than a tad commercial, to be sure, but well rehearsed, upbeat, and brash. The vocals sometimes sound stereotypically Latino, especially when chanted in tight harmony by the males. The grab bag of Caribbean originals, with a jazz standard thrown in ("Lotus Blossom"), features trumpeters Dusko Goykovich and Bobby Shew and trombonist Andrian Mears throughout, lending an authentic jazz sound to an otherwise south-of-the-border aesthetic. It is all lots of fun, with a big band swagger, up-front percussion, sassy brass, all regularly tempered by thoughtful improvisations. Mears continues to grow as a trombonist, a fluid yet gutsy tone announcing his presence, while Bobby Shew blows hot and mature over the changes. Kentonian in scope, yet of the moment, this band must be a kick in person, with danceable melodies, layered percussion, and forceful punches punctuated by ragged blasts of hard-hitting trumpets. It is mostly loud, of course, but that is the nature of the beast. You cannot resist tapping your feet and swaying to the rhythms as you lose yourself in the contagious rhythms.

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