All of the material on this Curtis Fuller compilation was recorded in 1961 for Epic, though it was made during two separate pairs of sessions by two different lineups for two individual albums. The group on the first date includes Zoot Sims, Tommy Flanagan, Jymie Merritt, and Dave Bailey. The title South American Cookin' doesn't give an accurate description of the first half of the disc, though there is a loping treatment of the sad ballad "Besame Mucho" and a very percussive take of "One Note Samba"; more typical for Fuller are the delightful up-tempo bop numbers like J.J. Johnson's "Wee Dot," in which Sims and the leader lock horns and both play their most stimulating solos, even with a few reed squeaks by the tenor saxophonist. The second portion of the disc originally appeared under the title The Magnificent Trombone of Curtis Fuller, and the leader doesn't disappoint. This time the trombonist is accompanied by Walter Bishop, Jr., Jimmy Garrison or Buddy Catlett on bass, guitarist Les Spann, and drummer Stu Martin. The buoyant treatment of Alec Wilder's "I'll Be Around" and the lush "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" are both gems, but the less-familiar works, such as "Mixed Emotions" and "Two Different Worlds," also deserve a listen. Fuller's high-energy compositions "Playpen" and "Teabags" would easily fit into the regular repertoire of any hard bop group. While this CD may fall just short of essential for hard bop fans, it is recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden