Three months after recording the excellent Bossa Nova Carnival, Dave Pike returned to the studio in December 1962 and recorded another fine LP that underscored his interest in world music. But instead of providing another Brazilian-oriented album, the vibist/marimba player opted to explore Caribbean rhythms and melodies. The term Caribbean music, of course, can describe many different things. It can refer to Latin forms like Cuban salsa, Dominican merengue, or Puerto Rican plena, but it can also describe the music that non-Spanish-speaking blacks have created in the Caribbean, such as calypso, soca, and mento (which was Jamaica's music of choice before ska and reggae came along). While Limbo Carnival does contain some Afro-Cuban influence -- one of the participants is salsa/Latin jazz legend Ray Barretto -- calypso is a stronger influence. An admirer of Sonny Rollins' jazz/calypso experiments, Pike shows his appreciation of the form on material that ranges from two songs Harry Belafonte had recorded ("Jamaica Farewell" and "Matilda, Matilda") to Rollins' "St. Thomas" and Charlie Parker's "My Little Suede Shoes." Meanwhile, both Afro-Cuban and calypso influences can be heard on an interesting version of "La Bamba," which is hardly a Caribbean song; "La Bamba" is a Mexican folk standard that became a rock & roll hit when Ritchie Valens (a Mexican-American from Los Angeles) recorded it in 1959. Pike, whose sidemen include guitarist Jimmy Raney, pianist Tommy Flanagan, and bassist George Duvivier, takes his share of chances on this vinyl LP, and they pay off handsomely. In 2000, Fantasy reissued Limbo Carnival and Bossa Nova Carnival back to back on a CD titled Carnavals.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson