If I’d been programming the latest rhythm–saturated release by master conguero Poncho Sanchez and his band, I would have led with the Jazzy mambo/samba “Sambroso” and followed with Dianne Reeves’ marvelous vocal on the ballad “Darn That Dream.” So much for criticism. Everything else here is beyond reproach, from the standards (“Willow Weep for Me,” “Close Your Eyes,” both refashioned as cha–chas) to gleaming originals by Clare Fischer, pianist David Torres and Sanchez/Torres, a traditional pachanga (“Guapacha,” with male chorus) and Cy Coleman’s “Playboy’s Theme.” Guest vocalist Reeves is heard on both of Fischer’s tunes (“Morning,” “I Remember Spring”) while Sanchez is the vocalist on “Guapacha” and another danceable cha–cha, “Van Pa Bailar,” which he co–authored with Torres. “Close Your Eyes” (which includes a lustrous soprano solo by Scott Martin) is Poncho’s salute to a friend, the late vibraphonist Cal Tjader, and “Subway Harry,” another genial composition by Torrres, pays tribute to Harry Sepulveda, proprietor of the Record Mart in the underground subway at 42nd Street and Times Square in New York City. Reeves, stylistically in the tradition of Sarah Vaughan, is impressive, as are the other soloists (pianist Torres, trumpeter Cracchiolo, trombonist Francisco Torres). Even more impressive is the ensemble as a whole, which slices through each number with boldness and enthusiasm, from the throbbing opener, “Ritmo Remo” (which sounds at times like “Stompin’ at the Savoy” with a Latin accent) on through the lively Jazz/mambo, “Playboy’s Theme.” For Latin Jazz enthusiasts, a winner all the way.
Track listing: Ritmo Remo; Morning; Subway Harry; Guapacha; Darn That Dream; Sambroso; Willow Weep for Me; Afro–Cuban Fantasy; Ven Pa Bailar; Close Your Eyes; I Remember Spring; Payboy’s Theme (66:40).
Poncho Sanchez, congas, vocals, percussion; David Torres, piano; Ramon Banda, timbales, trap drums; Jos