Latin jazz purists who cynically looked at Herb Alpert's classic Tijuana Brass hits as synthetic fluff may find themselves blown away by the raw, live ensemble energy of Passion Dance, a hearty fiesta disc which proves once and for all that the legendary hornman is a clever jazz improviser who can blow authentic Latin sounds in frameworks beyond lightweight pop. Last year's Jeff Lorber-produced comeback project, Second Wind, was a solid R&B-flavored effort, but featured too much of the keyboardist's trademark riffs and not enough Alpert. Lorber co-wrote "TKO," one of the snappiest jams here, but primarily, Alpert finds a more kinetic collaborator in bassist/keyboardist Oskar Cartaya. While most of the cuts here are all out throw downs, the two strip down to muted trumpet and bass on the simmering "Baila Conmigo" for a sly game of cat and mouse. A few tunes even find Alpert trading off between that muted Miles effect and a bright, flashy flugelhorn flavor. He also has fun conjuring up the past with Stevie Wonder's "Creepin'," a new arrangement of Alpert's 1982 hit "Route 101," and a few Tijuana Brass riffs here and there.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran