Tito Puente, timbales
Ignacio Berroa, drums
Andy Gonzales, bass
Giovanni Hidalgo, congas
Mario Rivera, saxophone
Hilton Ruiz, piano
Charlie Sepulveda, trumpet
Dave Valentin, flute, percussion
Special Guest: Mongo Santamaria, congas.
Recorded live at the 1994 Playboy Jazz Festival.
1. New Arrival
2. Little Sunflower
3. Flight To Jordan
5. Afro Blue
This session is a live recording which according to the announcer
features an all-star Latin ensemble who are really all band leaders
in their own right under the direction of the master timbalero player
Tito Puente who was known as "El Rey" or The King of Latin
Music. It is a most enjoyable set as the personnel assembled ensure
that there is a high Jazz content throughout, albeit of the variety
which has its roots South of the border. The overall feeling is of
bright tempos and highly danceable rhythms.
The soloists are all of the highest calibre and there is a genuine
feeling of excitement in the atmosphere of the occasion. Mario Rivera,
who first came to my attention with Dizzy Gillespie's United Nations
Orchestra, is equally at ease on tenor and soprano saxophones though
his tone on the latter is a little thin and oboe-ish ( although this
could be caused by the amplification ). The opening track features
him on the larger horn whilst " Little Sunflower " has some
particularly effective soprano.
Charlie Sepulveda is an interesting trumpet player with a driving
style replete with squealing high notes who performs well throughout.
Hilton Ruiz is quite simply one of the best pianists around, whether
it be in a Latin setting such as this or in a more straight ahead
format accompanying musicians such as Roland Kirk or George Coleman.
He has a very powerful two-handed manner of delivery and is always
melodically and rhythmically fascinating.
Dave Valentin is an exceptional flute player with an extremely facile
technique and highly inventive imagination. He is another player who
seems incapable of giving a poor performance and, is here most effective
both as a member of the ensemble and as a soloist - "Little Sunflower"
serves as a fine example of this.
As one would expect, the percussion on this disc is outstanding particularly
on the later tracks when Mongo Santamaria makes his special guest
appearance. "Ti-Mon-Gi" is a percussion jam and, unlike
many pieces in this idiom, manages to sustain the listener's interest.
The material is an interesting mix of Latin tunes and Jazz standards
and it is good to hear tunes of the calibre of "Little Sunflower"
and "Flight To Jordan" given sympathetic treatment. Overall
I enjoyed this release much more than I expected to and will certainly
be listening to it a great deal more in the future. Highly recommended