There's no messin' around in this hothouse. Pat Longo's star-laden Latin/Jazz Big Band cuts straight to the chase on Buddy Childers' torrid arrangement of Dizzy Gillespie/Chano Pozo's "Manteca" and keeps the fire-god Vulcan smiling throughout the remainder of this impressive scrapbook of rhythmically volatile jazz from south (well, mostly north) of the border.
In fact, Luiz Bonfä's enchanting theme from the movie Black Orpheus (stylishly arranged by Kim Richmond) is the exception to the norteamericano rule, as Longo's ensemble transposes conventional themes by George Gershwin and Stan Kenton into a Latin groove and enlivens three sparkling originals by trumpeter Bill Armstrong, two more by Bob Florence ("In a Samba Mode," "With All the Bells and Whistles") and Florence's luminous arrangement of Herb Alpert's "Rise." Armstrong's "Summer Time Down South" is listed as a new composition but is actually Gershwin's familiar "Summertine," thinly disguised and set to a Latin beat.
While everything on offer is top-drawer, Florence nearly steals the show with the perky "Samba Mode," his superb treatment of "Rise," the irresistibly engaging bossa "Bells and Whistles" and especially his marvelous arrangement of Gershwin's early stab at jazz, the memorable "Rhapsody in Blue." Besides "Summer Time," Armstrong wrote the lively mambo "Calvero," the cleverly named "Samba de Beach" and the playful "Lullaby of Bigfoot." Gary Urwin tweaked Roy Philippe's lavish mambo-style arrangement of Kenton's vibrant theme, "Artistry in Rhythm."
Longo not only commands a red-hot ensemble, he has so many blue-chip soloists that there's simply not enough room to showcase all of them. And so we hear no ad libs from trumpeters Wayne Bergeron or Rick Baptist, trombonists Andy Martin or Scott Whitfield, saxophonists Richmond (who is unfortunately identified twice as "Kim Richard") or Pete Christlieb. Those who do get to spread their wings include trumpeters Armstrong ("Summer Time," "Calvero," "Orpheus," "Samba de Beach," "Bigfoot"), Carl Saunders ("Manteca," "Artistry," "Samba Mode") and Ron King ("Rise"), tenor Bob Efford ("Artistry," "Samba Mode," "Bigfoot"), trombonist Charlie Loper ("Calvero"), alto Rusty Higgins ("Rhapsody") and pianist Christian Jacob ("Samba de Beach," "Bells and Whistles"). The rhythm section, prodded by drummer Ralph Razze and percussionists Richie Gajate-Garcia and Kevin Ricard, adds pungent spice to the recipe.
If there's a weakness, it lies in the recording's slight "echo-chamber" sound, whose extended overtones do take some getting used to. Aside from that, there's not much one can say except muy bien. A flavorful album of Latin-based jazz that storms and sizzles from stem to stern under Extreme Heat.
Track Listing: Manteca; Artistry in Rhythm; In a Samba Mode; Rhapsody in Blue; Summer Time Down South; Calvero; Black Orpheus; Samba de Beach; Rise; With All the Bells and Whistles; Lullaby of Bigfoot (53:27).
Personnel: Pat Longo, leader, alto sax (4); Kim Richmond, alto sax, flute, clarinet; Rusty Higgins, alto sax, flute; Thom Mason (1-3, 6), alto sax; Pete Christlieb, tenor sax, flute; Dan Higgins, tenor sax; Bob Efford, tenor, baritone sax, bass clarinet; Bob Carr (1-3, 6), baritone sax; Wayne Bergeron, Rick Baptist, Bill Armstrong, John Thomas, Carl Saunders (1-3, 6), Ron Barrows (1-3, 6), Mike McGuffey (1-3, 6), trumpet; Charlie Loper, Andy Martin, Dave Woodley, David Stout (1-3, 6), Scott Whitfield (1-3, 6), trombone; Steve Ferguson, Robbie Hioki (1-3, 6), bass trombone; Frank Browne, guitar; Christian Jacob, piano; Trey Henry, bass; Ralph Razze, drums; Richie Gajate-Garcia, Kevin Ricard (4, 5, 7, 9), percussion.