It goes without saying that the entire history and stylistic diversity of Latin jazz cannot be encapsulated on one ten-track CD. But like all of Putumayo's compilations, that was the task the label was faced with: representing the chosen genre adequately and accurately while understanding that much more would necessarily be omitted than included. So will Putumayo Presents: Latin Jazz -- the label's first jazz compilation -- give the uninitiated listener a sufficient crash course? Further exploration would, of course, be wise, but for all that it isn't, the set does provide a satisfactory, superb quality introduction. Name-checking major artists, it won't take long to determine that many are missing: Cal Tjader, Paquito d'Rivera, Arturo Sandoval, Airto Moreira and Flora Purim, Chico O'Farrill, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, and many others. But for such a compact package, it does get to a good number of the pioneering trendsetters: Machito (who opens the set with "Congo Mulence," in tandem with Cannonball Adderley), Ray Barretto (with a smooth, breezy "Sumemrtime"), Eddie Palmieri, Poncho Sanchez, and, of course, the all-time Latin jazz legend, Tito Puente, whose "Cha Cha Cha" sums it all up about as succinctly as anything can. The late pianist Hilton Ruiz, on his "Steppin' with T.P.," bridges standard tropical Latin rhythms with increasingly complex instrumental work, while Icelandic bassist/composer Tómas Einarsson, the only artist here not from Cuba, Puerto Rico, or the U.S., ably demonstrates on his "Rumdrum" that the genre's reach is continually expanding beyond its usual geographic borders.
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AllMusic Review by Jeff Tamarkin