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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke





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
4. Introduction
5. Afro Blue
6. Ti-Mon-Gi
7. Obsession

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 !

Dick Stafford



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