various artists,
Latin Jazz
(Putumayo, 2007)

If there was ever a perfect complement to a sweltering summer afternoon and an iced latte, Putumayo's chilled, swanky Latin Jazz is it. Actually, go ahead and forego the latte and the summer: this CD does a fine job of conjuring their ambience without the calories, caffeine and mosquitoes.

Big-band instrumentation meets infectious Afro-Cuban rhythms on 10 ear-friendly tracks that have a distinctly vintage flair -- not too surprising, given the inclusion of Latin jazz legends Tito Puente and Machito, among others. At just under an hour, this is an impressive showcase of talent and an excellent introduction to the genre.

Unlike most Putumayo collections, there are just two vocals on the CD: Chico Alvarez's "La Clave, Maraca y Guiro" and Manny Oquendo's "Cuando Se Acabara," whose catchy male vocals have a vaguely Buena Vista Social Club vibe. However, the eight other tracks lose nothing by omitting the human voice. The opening number, Machito's classic "Congo Mulence," pairs piquant percussion with smooth saxophone and bright, brassy trumpets. Chocolate Armenteros contributes an adroit trumpet solo to "Trompeta en Montuno," and Tito Puente's "Cha Cha Cha" is a sophisticated melange of piano, timbales, sax and trumpet.

And if you thought it couldn't get much swankier than that, there's Ray Barretto's cover of Gershwin's "Summertime," with its elegant saxophone melody and loungey rhythm. Unlike a number of other classical covers, this one probably wouldn't make Gershwin turn in his grave.

There's not a bad track on the entire CD, which like most Putumayo compilations is breezily accessible and thoroughly enjoyable. Music snobs and jazz savants may criticise Latin Jazz -- with some justification -- as being too accessible, nostalgic and commercially viable to be real music. For the rest of us, it's a smooth and heady soundtrack to the summer we wish we were having.

review by
Jennifer Mo

31 May 2008

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new