How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Trio CDs recorded for the Japanese market tend to involve straight-ahead treatments of classic material; while their focus on melody makes them highly accessible, they're neither simplistic nor boring. This is a Latin version of that formula, with the piano chair occupied by the excellent Arturo O'Farrill, son of legendary Cuban composer Chico and heir to his Afro-Cuban Jazz Big Band (his impressive 1999 Milestone debut was appropriately called "Bloodlines"). O'Farrill's playing is vibrant and fluid, merging Latin rhythms and jazz in a bouquet of standards whose melodies – if not titles – will be familiar. There's also Paquito's merry "Samba for Carmen" and a sizzling version of Donato's "Sabor."
Other highlights include "Perfidia," updated with a funky modern groove, and "Green Eyes" and "Kiss of Fire," where the arrangements transcend cliché. And speaking of which, the closer is a solo piano version of "Besame Mucho," which is far more thoughtful and interesting than this tune usually sounds. Although Cumana lacks the intricate percussion and blaring horns of many Latin releases, it burns in its own quiet way. Entertaining and very danceable.
Track Listing: Cumana, Perfidia, Angustia, Danzaon Don Vazquez, Kiss of Fire, Cachita, Green Eyes, Samba for Carmen, Estrellita, Sabor, Besame Mucho
Personnel: Arturo O'Farrill (piano), Andy Gonzalez (bass), Dafnis Prieto (drums)
Author of "The Insanity Hoax: Exposing the myth of the mad genius," Dr. J combines her love of jazz and her fascination with psychology, focusing on where they overlap: in celebrating the individual spirit.