In some cases, there is a disparity between the way an artist perceives his/her recording and how the listener perceives it. That isn't to say that the recording is necessarily a disappointment -- it could simply be a case of the recording having one appealing flavor instead of another. And Cafe Santa Fe is a good example. In the liner notes, this instrumental collaboration between Soulfood's DJ Free and Ra Music's Ron Cohen is described as a combination of chillout/downtempo electronica and the flavor of the Southwestern desert. Well, the chillout/downtempo part is accurate, but the Latin flavor that prevails is generally often more Spain than New Mexico or Arizona. When one thinks of Latin music in the American Southwest, one thinks of regional Mexican music -- the Mexican culture is as strong in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and California as the Cuban culture is in Miami -- and Cafe Santa Fe, for the most part, really feels more like a journey from Madrid to Valencia (by way of North Africa) than a journey from El Paso to Santa Fe to Tucson. Cafe Santa Fe is really a place where electronica's chillout/downtempo aesthetic meets nuevo flamenco more than a place where electronica's chillout/downtempo aesthetic meets norteño, tejano, ranchera, duranguense, or mariachi (which isn't to say that regional Mexican music doesn't have Spanish influences -- it has plenty of them, certainly). "Kiva," with its Native American vibe, is arguably the disc's most Southwest-sounding track. But regardless of whether one thinks of Cafe Santa Fe as more Spain or more Southwestern U.S., this laid-back CD is a thoughtful example of electronica and world music coming together. The performances have both charm and character, making Cafe Santa Fe one of the more noteworthy chillout/downtempo releases of early 2006.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson