The third CD for this band has a change in personnel, with Paquito D'Rivera and Andy Narell gone but Dave Valentin (flute) and Steve Khan (guitars) joining. It has changed the entire dynamic structure of the band, for the better. Valentin's otherworldly sound and Khan's acoustic and electric abilities open fresh vistas for Samuels' pan-Caribbean notions on vibes and marimba. They have worked together before; see Valentin's Sunshower (GRP) or Samuels' excellent Tjaderized (Verve) for further examples. The threesome are complemented by Eddie Palmieri band members John Benitez (bass) and Richie Flores (congas/bongos), with timbalist/percussionist Robert Vilera and background singer Caridad Canelon. The combination has great potential, fully realized on several of the ten selections. Samuels wrote four of these, the most impressive being "Ivory Coast," which features introductory jungle sounds, a moody, darkly hued melody, churning beats of six and four juxtaposed, and a true sense of sound sculpting. "Arthur's Dance" is a sensual, Cal Tjader-like danzon; a 6/8 beat on "Over the Horizon" leads to a neat descarga bridge to the coda; and "Rain Forest" is more concerned with imagery rather than substantive, compelling music. Valentin gets off on the Khan-penned jam "Descarga Canelon," while a 7/8 beat -- with the marimba strutting, guitar and rhythm following -- leads to the familiar strains of "A Night in Tunisia," a different, most intriguing treatment of this chestnut. There's the darker mambo/cha cha of Khan's "Safe and Sound," or the bright vocal and instrumental melody of Khan's "Charanga." The slowest number is the "I Didn't Know What Time It Was"-flavored version of the Alec Wilder standard "Moon and Sand," while the overdubbed vibes and marimba of Samuels work out with the percussionists only on the finale "Rompiendo El Hielo En 2000/Breaking the Ice in Y2K." For the most part, this is music that will make you happy, bringing much melodic warmth from the tropics, and gives you more evidence as to the advanced talents of the participants. Recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos