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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

Luis Mario Ochoa & Friends

By Ernest Barteldes
Published December 15, 2006

Cuban Music Prod.

On this new CD, the Canada-based Cuban vocalist/guitarist mixes his popular music roots with the jazz and samba influences brought to him by the likes of Laurindo Almeida, Irakere, Ella Fitzgerald and, of course, the late Celia Cruz. It’s an impressive group of friends he’s gathered for the session, too, including Paquito d’Rivera, Guido Basso and his own father, Luis Ochoa Sr. The first track to stand out is “To Brenda With Love,” an instrumental samba written by d’Rivera, on which the composer himself is featured on clarinet, trading impressive solos with Ochoa while Brazilian percussionist Joelson Costa makes the band sound as if they’re playing in a gafiera in Leme. Ochoa gives a Cuban groove to Henry Mancini’s “Days Of Wine And Roses,” rendering it barely recognizable, and does a playful take on his vocal treatment of “Old Devil Moon,” effectively granting a different flavor to a tune that has been performed by countless jazz vocalists. Listen attentively to “Como Penelope,” an original fast-paced tune based on the story of Penelope and Ulysses in Homer’s Odyssey.