If anyone has successfully bridged the gap between Latin jazz and soul-jazz, it's Pucho, whose very accessible blend of hard bop, R&B and Afro-Cuban music took its share of knocks from jazz critics but was consistently swinging and could always liven up a party. The New York percussionist was 59 when Groovin' High came out on the small Cannonball label in 1997, but except for some experiments with rap, the CD isn't much different from his Prestige dates of the 1960s and early 1970s. From the funky, dancable grooves of "On the Strip," "Jiggy" and the James Brown-influenced "Sons of Abraham" to a caressing, Cal Tjader-ish version of Henry Mancini's "Slow Hot Wind" (which is played as a bolero or Latin-style ballad), much of Groovin' High sounds like it could have been recorded 25 or 30 years earlier. But you know this isn't a 1960s recording when Pucho and a late 1990s edition of his band, the Latin Soul Brothers, are joined by Latino rapper BaBee Power on the insanely catchy "I Like It Like That." Both hip-hop's hardcore and jazz purists tended to be wary of jazz-rap experiments, but the tune demonstrates that jazz, rap and salsa can be a very natural and organic combination. Groovin' High is a disc that longtime Pucho supporters shouldn't overlook.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson