The younger generation of 2000 may think Ricky Martin invented Latin music, but anyone who has paid attention to musical history knows that the fusion of Latin rhythms and jazz stretches back to early in the 1900s and the compositions of W.C. Handy and Jelly Roll Morton. Later, Duke Ellington and Artie Shaw were among those who employed Latin rhythms in the '40s. This brilliant all-star collection celebrates the merging of the two genres, and as such the predominant sounds are bongos, congas, lively piano, and the explosion of steamy brass. Because it's jazz and improvisation is encouraged, there are frequent breaks for strict percussion solos, as on pianist Hilton Ruiz's jumpy original "Something Grand"; unfortunately, there aren't detailed credits that mention each soloist. Trombonist Luis Bonilla offers a simmering reworking of "Caravan," a composition that Ellington's trombonist Juan Tizol once helped shape for Duke's band. Tunes like that one emphasize artsy improvisations over catchy melodies, but the toe-tapping groove is the guide. Other featured performers here are legends Paquito D'Rivera, Mongo Santamaria, Shorty Rogers, and Kenny Barron, as well as solid veterans like Justo Almario, Claudio Roditi, and Hector Martignon. Roditi's "Rua Dona Magarida" is a nice romantic change of pace that elicits images of cheek to cheek ballroom dancing. An outstanding sampler.
AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran