Lalo Schifrin

Latin Jazz Suite

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Sprawling Latin jazz concert suites are nothing new; ask Chico O'Farrill, who pioneered that feat nearly a half-century before the chameleonic, prolific Lalo Schifrin got to it. But it isn't done very often and, when it is, the results usually are quite good. Each movement in Schifrin's project bears a title referring to some influential region -- "Montuno" (Cuba), "Martinique" (Caribbean), "Pampas" (Argentina), "Fiesta" (Spain), "Ritual" (Africa), and "Manaos" (Brazil) -- though they do not necessarily use the styles associated with those places. Clocking in at a staggering 65 minutes, the suite makes prudent use of all that space by turning over a lot of room to two star soloists, trumpeter Jon Faddis and saxophonist David Sanchez, not to mention the composer himself on piano. Faddis, a perennial guest on earlier Schifrin projects, is especially fiery and eloquent (perhaps Schifrin sees him as a reasonable facsimile of his late beloved sponsor, Dizzy Gillespie), and Sanchez can also be heard at his best on soprano and tenor. Much of this suite has a great deal of vitality -- especially the last three movements, "Fiesta," "Ritual," and "Manaos" -- no doubt boosted by recording Cologne's participating WDR Big Band, the soloists, and a fine imported Latin percussion section (including Alex Acuna) in a live performance. Still, there are stretches where you wonder whether Schifrin, despite his enormous capacity for outside projects, has spent too much time scoring films; most of "Pampas," from the tune to the percussion effects, sounds just like something he would write for the latest celluloid thriller -- and it seems a bit stale. Yet this has to be counted as a success overall, for the best passages ride quite high.

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