Latin Jazz Orchestra: Havana Blues
With the current vogue for Latin jazz, one hopes this fine new effort by the Latin Jazz Orchestra receives the attention it deserves. The album brings together some of New York's top players for a relaxed set of dance tunes and standards. Led by trumpeter Armando Rodriguez and percussionist Victor Rendon, who have been playing together since their student days at North Texas State in the early '70s, the orchestra (actually more of a small big-band on most numbers) smoothly blends Afro-Caribbean dance rhythms with jazz and blues harmonies for what it calls "New York Flavor."
In addition to some solid originals, standout cuts include upbeat versions of Chick Corea's "Guajira," Kenny Dorham's "Afrodisia," and Horace Silver's "Where You At?" Latin jazz pioneer Chico O'Farrill, who arranged many of the great Machito / Chano Pozo / Dizzy Gillespie dates of the late '40s, is on hand to add some historical weight to the sessions, plus some swinging charts. O'Farrill's son, Arturo Jr., is the orchestra's excellent young pianist.