More authentic and progressive than the pop-oriented orchestras of Xavier Cugat, Desi Arnaz, and Edmundo Ros, Machito's Afro-Cubans combined the excitement of undiluted Caribbean dance music with the bracing edginess of early modern jazz. Living Era's Relax & Mambo draws upon the years 1942-1953, extending the time line slightly further than Proper's box set Ritmo Caliente (14 of these tracks appear on the Proper compilation). Living Era's centerpiece is Chico O'Farrill's five-part "Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite," which features alto sax virtuoso Charlie Parker and conga master Chano Pozo. This scintillating sampler would be an excellent choice for a single-disc dose of Machito. As it shares only three titles with Pablo's outstanding Mucho Macho collection, the two may co-exist nicely in your collection. Taken in combination with Proper Box 48, they would add up to a stimulating stash of vintage Cuban bop.
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AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf