Dave Samuels is no stranger to Latin music. During his years with Spyro Gyra, the group always had some Latino members whose influence permeated the group's sound. Samuels' previous solo efforts, especially his last, Del Sol
, also displayed sunny Caribbean textures. As a member of the Caribbean Jazz Project with Andy Narell and Paquito D'Rivera, he dove deeper into the Latin groove; on his latest release, a tribute to vibes great Cal Tjader, he's immersed more deeply into Latin music than ever before.
Latin heavyweights Eddie Palmieri on piano, Dave Valentin on flute, David Sanchez on tenor, and Ray Barretto on congas contribute significantly to the album's authenticity and success. Some tunes, such as the familiar "Soul Sauce," come from Tjader's repertoire; others such as the title cut were written as tributes to Tjader. Samuels' vibes blend nicely with the flute or soprano sax on the lead lines, and the solos consistently and thoughtfully fit the style and changes of each tune. The percussion is clean and precise as clockwork. If this CD has a fault, it's that the performances are so meticulously clean as to sterilize some of the raw rhythmic energy that's characteristic of most Latin music. Nevertheless, it's a very intelligent, intricate, well-executed, and enjoyable program.