Director Fernando Trueba chose well when he assembled the 12 performances for his cinematic homage to Latin jazz, so the soundtrack holds up just fine on its own ó in fact, Tito Puenteís " New Arrival " is easier to take without the leaderís shameless mugging. This disc covers a wide swath of pan-Hispanic territory, from Brazilian pianist Elaine Elias to Nuyorican trumpeter Jerry González and the Fort Apache Band to Cuban bassist Cachaíto and pianist father/son Bebo and Chucho Valdés and Dominican pianist Michel Camillo. A lackluster showing from Argentinian saxophonist Gato Barbieri excepted, all are at the top of their game, with the Cubans providing most of the high points.
Expatriate alto-saxophonist Paquito DíRivera sets the pan-Latin tone with the leadoff " Panamericana, " which blends an Argentinian tango with religious Cuban santería bata drumming and jazz. A duo between Cachao and Bebo Valdés provides the purest Cuban stylings on an elegant and funky version of " Lágrimas negras. " Chucho Valdés, who combines jaw-dropping technique with rice-and-beans Cuban rhythms, rips through a volatile " Caridad amaro. " The music is fresh and immediate and untouched by the nostalgia of the many Buena Vista Social Club spinoffs. Itís a much-needed reminder that Latin music not only has a noble past but an exciting present and a promising future.
Issue Date: June 7 - 14, 2001