Caribbean Jazz Project

Afro Bop Alliance

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Where once they were three -- Dave Samuels on vibes, Paquito D'Rivera on saxophone, and Andy Narell on steel drums -- Caribbean Jazz Project has morphed over the past decade-plus into a big band of close to 20 members, 13 of them horn players. Samuels, who contributes marimba as well as vibes, remains at the helm, and it's clearly his vehicle -- he also wrote five of the nine tracks on this set. The band cooks, no question about it, and Samuels' Latin-leaning arrangements are smart and steamy. But new material is in short supply, and the album ultimately has a sense of déjà vu about it. Nearly all of the material, including covers of Thelonious Monk's "Bemsha Swing," Oliver Nelson's "Stolen Moments," and John Coltrane's "Naima," has appeared on previous CJP recordings, and even if Samuels felt a burning need to return to these songs to recast them as big-band numbers, he might have tried reworking them while he was at it -- outside of the sheer volume of players involved, there's simply not much going on here that adds a new dimension to the Caribbean Jazz Project story. That said, the quality of musicianship throughout the album is superb, and those unfamiliar with the previous releases will undoubtedly find it exhilarating. But those who've experienced the previous recordings and seek newness won't find it here.

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