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These are new horizons, indeed, as this is a whole new band, save for Dave Samuels. Former frontliners Paquito D'Rivera and Andy Narell, as well as their rhythmmates, have departed for other projects, and Samuels has replenished the line-up with equally impressive talent in flautist Dave Valentin and guitarist Steve Khan. The change in instrumentation, as well as musical personalities, pushes the band in a whole new direction. In addition, rather than the usual drum set, Samuels has enlisted Richie Flores on congas and bongos and Robert Vilera on timbales. The combination of flute and vibes has been done before (Herbie Mann and Roy Ayers, James Moody and Milt Jackson, Sam Most and Cal Tjader) as has the combination of guitar and vibes (Pat Metheny and Gary Burton, Larry Coryell and Gary Burton, Wes and Buddy Montgomery), but this is the first time the three have shared the front line. In their various pairings, and shifting from lead to supporting roles frequently, the three offer a constantly shifting palatte of sounds.
The compositions, most by Samuels or Khan, span a wide range of south-of-the border influences - not just Afro-Cuban and other Caribbean styles, but also sounds from throughout Central and South America, particularly Brazil. The energetic opener "Descarga Canelon" is a songo, "Ivory Coast" features a 6/8 Afro-Cuban feel, "Rain Forest" is a bomba, "Charanga Si Si" includes a coro, while "Arthur's Dance" in a danzon. Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia" receives one of the most unique and satisfying treatments I've heard yet, including some impressive bass work by Benitez and a nice percussion break. This is heavy stuff. The percussionists move to the fore on the disc's exciting closer, "Rompiendo el Hielo en 2000" (Breaking the Ice in the Year 2000).
So this is quite different from the first two CJP outings, but still immensely satisfying, not to mention original, fresh, and highly musical. (Concord Picante CCD 4878)
Tracks:Descarga Canelon; Ivory Coast; Rain Forest; Charanga Si Si; A Night in Tunisia; Moon and Sand; Over the Horizon; Arthur's Dance; Safe and Sound; Rompiendo el Hielo en 2000. (62:25)
Dave Samuels - vibes and marimba; Dave Valentin - flutes and whistles; Steve Khan - guitar and guiro; John Benitez - bass; Richie Flores - congas, bongos, percussion; Robert Vilera - timbal kit, chekere, percussion.