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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America


Published May 2, 2006

The Essential Latin & Afro-Cuban Jazz Collection

Devoted to the Afro-Cuban sound long before Ry Cooder took it mainstream with the Buena Vista Social Club, San Francisco’s CuBop label (a subsidiary of Ubiquity) is home to multi-generational Latin jazz musicians. On this compilation, young congueros like Snowboy and Johnny Blas appear side-by-side with legends like the great Francisco Aguabella, who gives the standard “My Favorite Things” full Afro-Cuban treatment. The production is almost always superb: on Dave Pike’s “Back To The Roots,” Pike’s marimba, Robertito Melendez’ congas and Bobby Matos’ timbales jump, and Ray Armando’s busy “Mallet Hands” is a headphonic delight. The styles vary from the irrepressibly funky groove of “My Dream Boogaloo” (by Pucho and Latin Soul Bros.) to trombonist Papo Vazquez’s gently rocking “Juan Jose,” the soloists floating over a pacific percussive sea. Viva Cubop 3 ends with “Bemba Colora,” an inspired frenzy conjured up by the ageless veteran Jack Constanzo, a man credited with first introducing the bongos to American jazz.