Ray Mantilla may be best known as a Latin jazz percussionist, but that oversimplifies his credentials. He is equally at home interpreting gems from the fields of bop and swing and recasting them into his element, while retaining the chemistry of the originals. He's joined by baritone saxophonist Enrigue Fernández (a powerful player who is sort of a Latin version of the late Pepper Adams), pianist Edy Martinez, vibraphonist Mike Freeman, bassist Cucho Martínez, and drummer Bill Elder, with guest percussionist Steve Berrios added on some tracks. The first two songs come from the vast repertoire of the late vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, who would have likely approved of Mantilla's reworkings of "Flying Home" and "The Midnight Sun." From bop the leader draws his sights on Terry Gibbs' "For Keeps" and a pair of Milt Jackson compositions, the gospel-flavored "Blues for Queen D" and a percolating interpretation of "Namesake" that showcases Freeman and the percussionists to good effect, scoring a bull's-eye with each performance. Mantilla is also a gifted composer, offering the easygoing, upbeat "Camino al Cielo Too," with Fernández switching to flute, along with the explosive finale, "Bari con Bata." All around, this is a very rewarding session.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden