Latin Giants of Jazz

Ven Baila Conmigo

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The third recording for the self-proclaimed Latin Giants of Jazz is an all-out dance party disc, designed specifically for partying on a Saturday night. Everything is midtempo to upbeat, with no ballads in the bunch, although romantic sentimentality cannot be more than a stone's throw away. Many members of the Tito Puente Orchestra are included here; jazz stalwarts such as Bobby Porcelli, Peter Brainen, Sam Burtis, Mitch Froman, and Lewis Kahn, while Latin stalwarts Jimmy Bosch, Sonny Bravo, lead vocalist Frankie Vazquez, Cita Rodriguez (daughter of the late Pete "El Conde" Rodriguez), and music director Jose Madera anchor the big band. Source material comes from a wide variety of composers and arrangers, making for an exciting listening experience that has translated to the concert stage when presented all over the U.S. Vazquez has a commanding voice, direct and to the point, as best heard on his own during "Si El Mar Se Volviera Ron" in an almost scolding refrain. For the majority of the material, other members of the group join Vazquez in either lusty horn/piano/vocal counterpoint as on Bravo's arrangement of the triple-threat tune "Gua Cha Rumba," the steamy midtempo dance tunes "Lo Que Triago Es Salsa" and the trombone-laden title track, or Raul Marrerro's "Increible." This band knows its basics inside and out, as demonstrated on the instrumental "Cookin' the Mambo" composed by Ray Santos, with Froman and Brainen's punctual tenor sax solos, and it can really burn in high speed, as on Ahmad Katab Salim's "Cannology" with Porcelli's world-class alto sax feature as the ultimate show-stopper. Rodriguez is featured on the classy, suave "Ahora Mismo," alongside Bosch's piquant trombone; Willie Martinez sings the only song in English, a pop/croon styled "I Still Love You." Luis "Perico" Ortiz's chart of Ignacio PiƱero's "La Batidora Meneadora," is done in joyous, rich, la-la-la fashion, while the finale, "Cuando Suenan los Cueros" has the band more fervent than before, never letting up until the final notes are played, the players feeding off each other in typical but non-stop call and response. The excitement quotient of this band is way off the charts, there are no even moderately slow songs, therefore dancers should expect to be on their feet the entire time, with no rest breaks. Ven Baila Conmigo is perfect for either listening with friends, or your next celebratory gathering.

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