Though headlined by Tommy Flanagan, Samba for Felix is truly Tommy Cecil's recording session. Cecil serves as the bandleader, principle songwriter (writing five of the album's eight tracks), and outstanding bassist on this valuable set. For his part, Flanagan is masterful on piano and is expertly joined by Billy Hart (drums), Gary Bartz (alto sax), Paul Bollenback (guitar), and Cyro Baptista (percussion). This all-star cast would be expected to put forth a great effort and they do not disappoint. The title track is a wailing samba, highlighted by Bollenback's intense guitar attack. "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" stays true to Ellington's simple and evocative melody. "Ce" takes on a distinctive Latin flavor and is notable for Baptista's sensitive accompaniment. "The Heather on the Hill" is a lovely ballad on which Bartz makes the alto sing. "Pastorale," a Cecil original, closes the set with understated brilliance. Throughout Samba for Felix, Billy Hart and Cecil lay down a deep, pronounced groove and Flanagan displays the confidence of a genuine master with nothing more to prove. This album is highly recommended.
AllMusic Review by Brian Bartolini