Jazz Latino, Vol. 4

Tito Puente

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Jazz Latino, Vol. 4 Review

by Evan C. Gutierrez

The popular Jazz Latino series from the RMM label, which has in the past featured such giants as Eddie Palmieri and Hilton Ruiz (Vol. 1), Humberto Ramírez and Charlie Sepulveda (Vol. 2), and Juan Pablo Torres and Dave Valentin (Vol. 3), now presents two of Latin jazz's most recognizable percussionists. Perhaps the most famous timbalero of all time, Tito Puente at one time employed conguero Giovanni Hidalgo. They now go head to head, trading track for track on this 1997 release. Though Hidalgo never became as successful a bandleader as Puente, it was not for lack of quality compositions or playing ability. Hidalgo is by most accounts the modern master of his instrument, and in addition to being the most in-demand conguero living, has recorded some very good albums as a leader. The tracks that appear on Jazz Latino, Vol. 4 all originated from his 1996 Time Shifter album. Hidalgo's taste for musical alchemy and rule breaking shine through, as does his instrumental prowess. Puente, the inventor of the Latino big-band sound and greatest proponent of the timbales as a focal point, rocks and swings his way through the record with a band sound so tight and so big that it could barely squeeze in between Hidalgo's tracks. Puente's compositional ideas are among the most sophisticated in jazz, and his orquestra one of the most widely revered. Jazz Latino, Vol. 4 is a fine opportunity to hear a pair of musicians whose careers are so close and voices so different.

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