Victor Mendoza

Black Bean Blues

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Composer/vibraphonist Victor Mendoza, born in Mexico and now a teacher at Boston's Berklee School of Music, presides on the vibes over his ten-piece Afro-Cuban jazz band on this polished collection of Latin jazz charts -- his fourth. A fine vibraphonist, nimble and tasteful, Mendoza stays mostly within a conventional array of mambos, cha-chas, boleros, etc., with a bit of funky drumming mixed into "Cafe Quemado" and some Argentinian cross-rhythmic ideas in "Chacalonga." Not much really leaps out at you from this collection -- Mendoza's material is pleasing if not particularly absorbing; the musicians are quite adept at what they do, with pianist Alain Mallet, alto and soprano saxophonist Jim Odgren, and Mendoza seeing most of the solo action, and Fernando Huergo laying down a mobile electric bass foundation. The one really outstanding element of this recording is the engineering; they've captured this Latin jazz band as well as anyone has from the majors on down, crisply recorded from the electric bass to the cymbals.

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