This is the mainstream recording debut of Luis Salinas, the young Argentinian guitarist/composer whose admirers include Chick Corea and the late, great Brazilian guitarist/composer Baden Powell. Salinas plays both electric and acoustic guitar on this set of his own compositions, fronting a quartet that includes the popular Sammy Figueroa on percussion. At first blush, given the continuous layer of synth violins, the sound seems to fit the familiar formula of "smooth" jazz. Yet while the music is largely relaxed, it's more varied and interesting than the usual "lite" fare -- it has real drums and a clear sense of direction. Salinas offers a personalized mix of bossa nova, salsa, Argentinian folk music, bolero, and jazz; the percussive accents and expressive range of the guitar and piano keep the mix from blending too smooth. Most of the tunes are taken at mid-tempo; the distinctive high points are the ballads. Salinas captures the dreamy sound of Jobim's melodic successor on "For Ivan Lins," and sings in Spanish with considerable soul and class on his beautiful "Count on Me" and "Back to the Place I Love"; on the latter, he also salutes one of his mentors, George Benson, when he vocalizes the guitar lines. The closer is "Blue Zamba," a lovely solo track that belongs squarely in the tradition of the great Latin acoustic players, but with a whiff of Joe Pass as well. All told, a very promising debut.
by Judith Schlesinger