Perhaps the greatest album that percussionist Sabu Martinez ever issued is also one of the greatest Latin jazz albums in history. The wild thing is, it isn't really a Sabu date, despite his name listed as the bandleader on the LP. Jazz Espagnole was really Frankie Malangre's band. He was generous enough toward his bandmates to allow producer Al Santiago to allow them to record with Sabu (who had just come to New York from California and did not have his own band yet), who recorded the band's repertoire pretty much as a sideman on this 1960 date! In any case, what sets Jazz Espagnole apart from virtually every other Latin jazz date is that this music is neither a Latin jazz album in that Latin rhythms are superimposed over standard jazz arrangements or a jazz-Latin album whose arrangements are subservient to Latin rhythms. All 11 cuts are stomping, moving, steaming, and grooving sambas, descargas, Afros, boleros, cha chas, mambos, sons, etc. The jazz improvising that does take place is authentic, grooving harmonic interplay based on -- not against -- the rhythmic considerations and fugue figures. Led by the percussion section of Martinez, Louie Ramirez, and Ernie Newsum, trumpeter Martry Sheller, saxophonist Bobby Porcelli, pianist Arty Jenkins, and bassist Billy Salter tear through a selection that can deemed erroneously to be salsa, but is actually a magnificent Latin and jazz fusion of the highest order. Most notable tracks are "Delilah," "Otra Vez" with its 12/16 meter, "I Remember Carmen" with its burning alto solos, and "Nica's Dream" with its nocturnal, steamy rhythm built on a small bop figure from the Sonny Stitt book. This is the one.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek