Pablo Menendez is not your average everyday Afro-Caribbean or Latin jazz musician. His vision of this music stretches back to traditional jazz and show tunes and up to electric urban blues, modern post-bop, Cuban or Puerto Rican music, and contemporary neo-bop spawned in the 1970s. As a guitarist he is strong individually in these varied styles or disciplines, but as a bandleader he stretches out even further, taking his Mezcla ensemble into these disciplines of jazz and music both beyond and including Latin sensibilities. While not a person who composed any of this material, Menendez is more a facilitator for his able bandmates, especially saxophonist and pianist Orlando Sanchez, who wrote four of the ten selections. The wonderful flute player and pianist Magela Herrera, trumpeter Máyquel González, and percussionist Octavio Rodriguez comprise the core of this group, with several guests on selected tracks. In the Latin vein, Benjamin Lapidus' "¿Quién Tiene Ritmo?" is a cool tune with the juicy flute of Herrera, "Homenaje a Afro Cuba" is the most vibrant at over 11 minutes in vital descarga jam trim, and "El Médico de los Pianos" integrates all the players in that they each get a turn to state a melodic phrase in handoff fashion, then move on. Sanchez puffs out his chest on the tenor sax feature "Big Brecker" in a furious neo-bop pace, and accounts well for himself, while the urban Chicago-based "Chicoy's Blues" has Menendez cutting loose loud and proud à la Luther Allison. Where "Chucho's Blues" reverts back to the funky Brecker Brothers-type groove of the '70s, "Oslo" is different altogether in its evocative tomes, soft and languid with electric piano and sighing guitar under a clockwork beat. Interestingly enough, the zingers are the jazz tunes, with Irving Berlin's novelty tune "I'll See You in C.U.B.A." putting on the ritz in fun swing and funny jive fashion, while a fresh and sweet arrangement of "'Round Midnight" is done in mambo or cha cha style with the full horn section, urged on by the guitar of the leader. In the liner notes by Arturo O'Farrill, he warns those inclined to pigeonhole so-called salsa music to not be so hasty in their uninformed judgment. From start to finish, this is a delightful recording, full of good feelings and great musicianship, and far from cliché.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos