Carlos Patato Valdes is arguably the most melodic of all congueros. The inventor of the tuned conga drum, he sings on his instrument like no other percussionist, so it comes as no surprise that this delightful date consists of some particularly lyrical Latin jazz. Leading an ensemble that features flutist Oriente Lopez (star of Charlie Haden's Latin Grammy-winning Land of the Sun), multi-reedist Phil Vieux (an Eddie Palmieri alumnus), pianist Edsel Gomez, bassist Joe Santiago, and percussionist Steve Berrios, plus various invited guests, Valdes plays the role of tasteful accompanist, guiding the group through the album's music.
Guitarist Edgardo Miranda and timbalero Marlon Simon join the band on Gomez's opening "Patato's Night Dance, a swinging straight-ahead salsa outing. Joe Gonzalez's bongos and José Clausell's timbales give a classic flavor to Vieux's pretty "Las Mujeres Favoritas de Patato. Lopez's "Mosquito is another appealing Latin jazz outing featuring Gomez's piano and the composer's flute. Lopez' "Cha-cha-cha Por Aqui begins with one of Patato's patented tuneful conga introductions before the band comes in with the attractive melody.
Paquito D'Rivera's dramatic "Como Un Bolero, the date's most beautiful piece, spotlights Lopez's flute, Vieux's clarinet, and Gomez's piano dancing slowing with the relaxed rhythms of Valdes and bongocero Pablito Rosario. Gregoire Maret's harmonica is featured with Lopez's flute and Vieux's tenor on the saxophonist's "Le Pomme de Terre, a mid-tempo outing driven by Valdes' conga and Gonzales' bongo and bell. Vieux's brooding clarinet introduces Gomez' "Stage Life, an exotic line with some unexpected twists and a surprise ending.
Flutist Dave Valentin makes a guest appearance on "Equinox and adds some excitement to the proceedings with a talking flute solo. Valdes' conga work is exquisite throughout the rendition of the Coltrane classic, which also features Gomez's piano and Vieux's tenor. Vieux's "Ballade Melancholie is another beautiful ballad featuring Lopez on flute, Maret on harmonica, and the composer on bass clarinet. The concluding "Reprise is the date's one mistake; a composite segueing sections from each of the previous tracks, it tarnishes an otherwise perfectly enchanting date.
Patato's Night Dance; Las Mujeres Favoritas de Patato; Mosquito; Cha-Cha-Cha-Por Aqui;
Como un Bolero; Le Pomme de Terre; Stage Life; Equinox; Ballade Melancholie; Reprise
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