Pairing Dizzy Gillespie with Cuban arranger/composer Chico O'Farrill produced a stunning session which originally made up the first half of a Norgran LP. O'Farrill conducts an expanded orchestra which combines a jazz band with a Latin rhythm section; among the participants in the four-part "Manteca Suite" are trumpeters Quincy Jones and Ernie Royal, trombonist J.J. Johnson, tenor saxophonists Hank Mobley and Lucky Thompson, and conga player Mongo Santamaria. "Manteca," written during the previous decade, serves as an exciting opening movement, while the next two segments build upon this famous theme, though they are jointly credited to O'Farrill as well. "Rhumba-Finale" is straight-ahead jazz with some delicious solo work by Gillespie. A later small-group session features the trumpeter with an all-Latin rhythm section and flutist Gilberto Valdes, who is heard on "A Night in Tunisia" and "Caravan." Both of the Latin versions of these pieces are far more interesting than "Con Alma," as the excessive percussion and dull piano accompaniment add little to this normally captivating theme. Long out of print, this 2002 CD reissue will only be available until May 2005; it is well worth acquiring.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden