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Various Artists Putumayo Presents: Latin jazz Review

Compilation. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

Putumayo's handy guide to the easy end of Latino jazz.

David Labi 2007

You can’t really go wrong with a compilation of Latin Jazz, especially when it features some of the most important musicians in the genre’s history. Putumayo has produced many such compilations – ‘'Nuevo Latino'’, ‘'Baila'’, and they bill this as a continuation of their exploration into the sounds of the Latin diaspora.

In the 1940s and 50s many big bands in the USA incorporated Afro-Cuban sounds into their music, and many Latin musicians enjoyed popularity and influence.

Machito was a central figure, founding the Afro Cubans in 1940, and going some way to forming that diaspora. His track ‘'Congo Mulence'’ opens the album with a cinematic feel and the unmistakeable sound of Cannonball Adderley on alto.

And speaking of congos, Poncho Sanchez gives a masterclass in track 2, ‘'El Sabroson'’ which brings you into a more familiar Cuban arrangement, with the simple repeated vocal parts that make it so recognisable. Sanchez is regarded as one of the best congueros of all time, and this track gives you some idea.

Also featured is Eddie Palmieri who was famous for incorporating jazz influences into the Latin music crazes of the sixties. We get some idea of this with Guajira Dubois, actually from a project Palmieri founded with trumpeter Brian Lynch, which picked up a grammy in 2007 for the album Simpatico.

Naturally Tito Puente gets a track in there – ‘'Cha Cha Cha'’. Puente plays the timbales, and was instrumental in bringing Mambo and Cha Cha Cha to mainstream audiences in the 50s.

My favourite track is ‘'La Clave, Maraca y Güiro'’ with its creeping big band welly, and slightly mournful tones in the vocal chorus.

But there’s not a bad track on this album – if you want an introduction to the unchallenging, feelgood vibe of Latin big band rhythms, you have an easy way in right here.

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