Christos Rafalides's debut as a leader boasts a fat studio sound, showcasing the powerful chops of his versatile rhythm team, bassist John Benitez and drummer Steve Hass. A talented vibraphonist, Rafalides builds upon this sturdy foundation with imaginative solos and clever orchestrational detail (on vibes, marimba, and occasionally synth pads). Guest appearances by trumpeter Randy Brecker, guitarist Vinny Valentino, percussionist Luisito Quintero, and vocalist Mary Wormworth widen the palette even further. Rafalides and crew tangle with Latin grooves on a fairly straightforward acoustic reading of "Estate," a brisk 7/8 take of "All the Things You Are" (cf. Brad Mehldau's version on Art of the Trio 4: Back at the Vanguard), C. Curet Alonso's "La Esencia Del Guanguanco" and Vincent Bourgeyx's "Tango Fantasy in C." But the group has an electric, rock-oriented side as well, and it emerges most strongly on the unabashedly fusiony "Pocket" and the upbeat, complex "C.R.@S.H.," co-written by Rafalides and Hass. Joe Locke's arrangement of "Fool on the Hill" sneaks in an undercurrent of hip-hop aesthetics at one point, and Ellington's "Caravan" begins with a bit of polyrhythmic drum-n-bass before reverting to flat-out funk, then swing, during the soloing. The whole affair begins with the African-tinged 12/8 original "Flamingo Strut" and winds down with "Sweet," an unaccompanied vibes piece. A promising debut by a vibist/arranger/composer capable of moving in any of a number of directions in the future.
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AllMusic Review by David R. Adler