The first release for J Curve Sabroso features a tight big band patterned after that of Tito Puente. The lyrics are all in Spanish, but the informative liner notes explain which are boleros, which are merengue, which are salsa and which are Latin jazz. With an effective percussion section that plays crisp and light, role players perform these charts with conspicuously excellent musicianship. The lead singers, all female, provide romantic, sensual, whispered thoughts.
"Smokin’ in Havana" should be all about emotional fire and complex rhythms. Instead, it wanders with smooth instrumental solos and a tied-down, routine arrangement. Several numbers provide entertaining pop-flavored romance with lead singers, light backgrounds and echoes of the traditional. Gary Winters’ hot trumpet solo on "Yo Soy La Voz" follows a mariachi opening and brings in a zestful breath of fresh air. Patrick Kelly’s creative piano solo and Rick VanMatre’s artful flute solo on "La Ofrenda" point to the way mainstream jazz can be successfully interwoven with traditional Latin dance music. The Beatles’ "Ob La Dee, Ob La Da" changes the pace with an unusual pairing of polka with merengue, for a festive affair. "Cubanita" features two inspired trumpet soloists over a tight arrangement. Latin X-posure covers a lot of territory and does it with perfection. The pieces fit together extremely well. But that’s the problem. Every arrangement relies on tight, rehearsed precision and excellent musicianship. Absent is the emotional push that should go along with hot solo work or true romantic spirit. Like Tito Puente’s band, Latin X-posure performs with variety and class. However, to be convincing, they’ll have to plan their next release with more soul.