Various Artists

Latin Lounge: Spanish Harlem

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A compilation series with the title Latin Lounge does not bode well for fans of Latin music (although it might for fans of lounges). Still, discriminating fans who see the Fania logo emblazoned on the cover can be assured of excellent music inside, and this series is no different. Latin Lounge consists of three volumes based on location, and Spanish Harlem is one of the best in the series, illustrating the variety of influences that came together to deliver powerhouse Latin music uptown from the '50s to the '70s. Most of the tracks find virtuoso musicians fusing jazz with Latin, as opposed to the hard-hitting, groove-laden music found on other Spanish Harlem-themed compilations. Machito and Tito Puente appear early and often (co-billed as well as separately), and those two titans could hardly be featured too much. Bands led by Ray Barretto are also here plus, for a change of pace, two tracks by firebrand La Lupe (who was no jazz vocalist but knew how to interpret Peggy Lee's "Fever" with even more spice than Lee could offer).

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