Ritmo Afro-Cubano is an eclectic collection designed to show the depth and breadth of American jazz under Cuban influence. From Joe Holiday's "Mambo Holiday" in 1951 to Steve Berrios' "Bemsha Swing" in 1995, Fantasy collects 18 "lost treasures" for Latin jazz fans. Ritmo Afro-Cubano opens with fairly recent version of Juan Tizol's "Perdido" performed by Chico O'Farrill. It's a lively start, and O'Farrill's band offers a nice turn on this classic. Most of the tracks, however, are pulled from an earlier era, including the striking "Canto Guajiro" by the Benny Velarde Orchestra from 1962 and Andres Hernandez y Su Sexteto Caribe's spunky take on "Oye Mima." Of course, no Cuban-American jazz collection would be complete without something by Dizzy Gillespie, the composer who helped establish the genre in the '40s. He's joined by Machito for a high-flying version of "Exuberante." There are also pieces by other familiar names, including George Shearing's recording of "Mambo in Chimes" and Cal Tjader's version of "Descarga Cubana." While one could probably turn to Ritmo Afro-Cubano to trace the various lines that make up the development of the genre over the last 45 years, both new and old fans will probably be more interested in listening to all the great music.
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AllMusic Review by Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr.