Recorded earlier this year, Francisco Aguabella's latest Afro-Cuban session features an adventurous and unsung pianist, several exciting trumpeters, two lyrical trombonists, two classic woodwind aces and a solid cast of percussion. The arrangements, particularly that of Mike Turre, set the band off in a different direction. Old standards and fresh new originals are brought out into the daylight with fiesta delights in mind. The band avoids fiery exclamations, preferring mellow horns, occasional coro embellishment, and intricate solo work instead. Donald Vega, 27, continues to amaze all who have a chance to hear him. Aguabella, nearing senior citizen status himself, has had many opportunities to compare one young lion to the next. For his part, the elder conguero always enlists the support of superior artists. Vega imparts enthusiastic interludes through several pieces, surprising the listener with his energetic bursts. Aguabella colors each selection with a seamless volume of hand drum techniques. Every hand-drawn rhythmic figure has its separate meaning. Aguabella makes sure each can be distinguished. His congas occupy front and center. All else remains farther back from the listener. Thus, we share readily in the sense that each soloist is taking cues from the leader. It's an important concept all too often overlooked. It works for Aguabella, who combines great arranging with the work of talented artists and comes up with another winner.
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