Jazz concerts that pay tribute to the overall repertoire of a particular artist are not uncommon, but jazz concerts that pay tribute to one album specifically aren't very plentiful. This 72-minute CD documents an April 1, 2008 concert that found percussionist Bobby Sanabria joining forces with the Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra to pay tribute to Machito's Kenya session of 1957. Kenya Revisited doesn't focus on other albums in Machito's sizable catalog, just Kenya, which is performed in its entirety. The results tend to be somewhat predictable, but in an enjoyable way, and even though the new versions generally aren't radical departures from the original 1957 arrangements, they aren't exact replicas either. On "Oyeme," for example, the chord progressions of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" are incorporated -- which is taking a slight liberty with "Oyeme," because even though Coltrane was well known in 1957, he didn't record "Giant Steps" until 1959. And on "Tururato," Sanabria is influenced by a style that didn't really exist in 1957: funk (James Brown was a major name in R&B in 1957, but it wasn't until the '60s that The Godfather of Soul unveiled the style that came to be known as funk -- there was plenty of funky jazz, funky R&B, and funky blues in 1957, but funk came later). Sanabria re-creates "Tururato" as Afro-Cuban jazz meets soul-jazz, and it works. So even though Kenya Revisited is generally faithful to the spirit of Latin hard bop as it existed in the '50s and '60s, no one can accuse this concert of being a note-for-note re-creation of Machito's Kenya album. Bottom line: although Kenya Revisited doesn't reinvent the wheel, it documents a solid New York City concert that fans of classic big-band Afro-Cuban jazz will appreciate.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson