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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

FRANCISCO AGUABELLA

By Tom Orr
Published February 17, 2006

Cubacan
Cubop/Ubiquity

After more than half a century of mastery on the conga drums, Francisco Aguabella remains one of the greats, ranking with Mongo Santamaria, Patato and Candido as an elder statesman of Afro-Cuban percussion. He is joined by a few of Poncho Sanchez's sidemen on Cubacan for a typically smoking/simmering set of Latin jazz. Beginning with a sweet 6/8 take on "My Favorite Things" (yes, the Rodgers and Hammerstein tune), Aguabella and co. twist and turn their way through punchy mambos, straight-ahead jazz with Latin sprinkling, bolero-type mood pieces and breezy jams with intricate (but never overindulgent) solos trading off. The cover tunes here include a high Dizzy Gillespie quotient, especially if you count the frequently versioned "Tin Tin Deo," though the reconfiguring of "Autumn Leaves" is arguably the standout of the non-originals. Interestingly, Aguabella's conga drumming has mostly a supporting feel throughout, but the percussion foundation he is indispensable in holding together is nonetheless a clearly guiding force through this quite satisfying album.