Piano, strings, and percussion converge on Sonido Isleño's third offering, Tres Is the Place. Led by guitarist/tresero Benjamin Lapidus, the album is aptly named, as it's most interesting contribution to Latin jazz discussions is the jazz-fueled, inventive handling of the typically folkloric "Tres Cubano" and Puerto Rican cuatro. Appearing alongside Buena Vista Social Club, Humberto Ramirez, and Paquito D'Rivera, Lapidus is already an accomplished sideman, and thanks to hip arrangement ideas and some notable guests, he is on his way to being a recognizable bandleader. Tres Is the Place covers a lot of ground, musically speaking, from edgy jazz, (featuring Cuban drummer Dafnis Prieto) to rhumba (with Latin jazz bassist Harvie S.) to smooth jazz-bolero, and plenty in between. Though jazz musicians have always had a love affair with tropical music, their ability to handle the material doesn't always match their enthusiasm. Guitarists are particularly guilty of this. Lapidus is a refreshing, inspiring exception, not only for his hand-in-glove use of traditional instruments, but also for his very tasteful guitar playing. Tres Is the Place finds a deliciously tasty balance, at times absolutely Latino, at others listening-room-jazz, and always listenable.
AllMusic Review by Evan C. Gutierrez