Various Artists

Rough Guide to Latin Jazz

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Forged from the collision of musics and cultures both black and white, Latin music and jazz have enjoyed a long period of cross-fertilization, ranging from Latinized boppers like Dizzy Gillespie (with the aid of Mario Bauza and Chano Pozo) to the advent of serious Latin jazz fusion courtesy of the Concord Picante label's modern recordings of Latin maestros Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri. The Rough Guide to Latin Jazz focuses overwhelmingly on the latter, skipping over 50 years of Latin and jazz history to deliver songs from a host of latter-day players including Poncho Sanchez, Manny Oquendo, and Snowboy as well as seminal names like Puente, Palmieri, and Mongo Santamaria. At that, the compilers are very successful. Choosing performances with a heavy jazz emphasis by Latin bands, the disc illustrates which jazz players have exerted an influence on the '80s and '90s players: Wayne Shorter for one, a constant experimenter in Latin idioms with two compositions here, and Chick Corea, another fusion-era innovator. On a version of Shorter's hard bop standard "Speak No Evil," Jimmy Bosch's trombone wails engagingly, indulging in some furious playing with David Sanchez on tenor, while Corea's "China" was reinvented by Puente in 1986 for one of the best performances of his career. "Maraca's Tumbao" from Havana Flute Summit boasts a trio of excellent flutists: Jane Bunnett and Orlando "Maraca" Valle, plus Cuban legend Richard Egues, in an improvisation worthy of the finest Cuban jam sessions. Entries by Roland Vazquez and William Cepeda pack a postmodern punch, while the newest track (Eddie Palmieri's "Our Routine") is a frenetic nine-minute jam from the man who made Latin history with his la Perfecta group nearly 40 years earlier. Surprisingly, the oldest performance is a little flat -- Mongo Santamaria's "Princess," a nugget from 1976, has a few great solos from Santamaria but also some terribly dated synthesizer work. As Rough Guide compilers often state, their volumes are meant to inspire a listener's passion instead of rank as definitive collections; that's certainly true for The Rough Guide to Latin Jazz, which sounds excellent but would've benefited from a wider historical range.

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