In many cases, the term Latin jazz is used to describe a marriage of bop and Afro-Cuban rhythms. Heavyweights like Cal Tjader, Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, and Machito mastered bop changes, and they were experts when it came to son, cha-cha, mambo, and other rhythms that came out of Cuba. But here's the thing: Latin jazz doesn't have to mean bop any more than it has to mean Afro-Cuban. On Noble Savage, saxman/percussionist Hilary Noble provides acoustic jazz that has one foot in post-bop (as opposed to hard bop or bebop) and the other in Latin rhythms. Noble likes to call his approach "Latin free jazz," but a better description of this CD would be "Latin post-bop" -- truth be told, Noble's sax playing is closer to Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Eric Dolphy, and early-'60s John Coltrane than Albert Ayler, Charles Gayle, or post-1965 Coltrane. There are some artists who have united Latin rhythms with free jazz -- the innovative Ivo Perelman, for example, is a fearless explorer whose influences range from Brazilian rhythms to Albert Ayler. But Noble Savage isn't free jazz, and it isn't very outside. It is, however, an enjoyably melodic demonstration of Noble's skills as both a soloist and a composer. Noble, who wrote or co-wrote most of the material, tends to favor Afro-Cuban rhythms -- and yet, not all of the Latin jazz that he provides on this CD is Afro-Cuban jazz. "Dream Dance" (which was written by the album's associate producer Andy McWain) is influenced by Venezuelan joropo, while "Sandunga Mofongo" incorporates both Afro-Cuban elements and Dominican merengue. Latin free jazz? Not really. A solid, pleasing album of Latin post-bop? Most definitely.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson