Various Artists

Los Mejores Musicos de Cuba [Palladium]

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Thanks to the Spanish labels Palladium and Tumbao, fans of Afro-Cuban jazz have had plenty of classic material to listen to, ranging from the early sons of Sexteto Habanero to mambo variations by Tito Puente and Celia Cruz. Palladium, in particular, has focused on the great music released in the '50s and early '60s, and this sampler keeps up the trend with cuts by the under-appreciated bandleaders Chico O'Farrill and Belbo Valdes, among others. Havana native O'Farrill is especially important, considering his long list of writing and playing credits on records by Machito, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Kenton, and many others. Some of the tracks he recorded with his own '50s band are heard here, including two fine renditions of "Descarga Numero Dos." Bebo Valdés and his band further ply a mambo groove on the Arsenio Rodriguez cut "Dile A Catalina," while offering up some alternative dance settings on string-laden boleros like "Me Recordaras." Adding to the mix are the Spanish-tinged "El Labrador" by Orquestra de Pepé Delgado and the surprising guitar vehicle "Batakun" by Senén Suaréz (strains of African high-life, zouk, and juju music can be heard). A quality collection for fans of classic Latin-jazz.