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Recording technology advances offer jazz musicians the choice between documenting a live performance and creating a product. The ability to record a solo several times means that musicians can produce exactly what they hear in their heads, albeit at the expense of spontaneity. In some cases, this can result in a finely tuned jazz release that sounds crystal clear. On the other hand, jazz musicians can abuse this technology, resulting in highly produced instrumental pop albums. Arturo Sandoval's Rumba Palace walks that line, and too often strays into the territory of overproduction.
Several technical issues blur the line between musicianship and commercial intention. The music is arranged for Latin big band, yet wind players overdub themselves several times to create the illusion of a large ensemble. Sandoval not only plays first trumpet, he also plays many of the supporting parts; the same process is used to record the trombones and saxophones. The resultantly thick texture becomes muddy through synthesized horn sounds added into the mix. "Peaceful and "Having Fun sound tailor-made for the smooth jazz crowd due to the ever-present synthesized pads and funk backbeats. These elements make for an uneven sound and an unbalanced feel.
Despite the production issues, the ensemble's wealth of musicianship creates several outstanding moments. "El Huracan del Caribe is a top-notch piece of Timba, so blistering hot that you can't help but dance. "A Gozar provides jazz harmonies for the big band sections as well as a repeated montuno for Sandoval's lip-splitting high note solos and vocal improvisations. The brass and saxophones syncopate rhythmic melodies on "Nouveau Cha Cha, finding a strong balance between jazz and Latin tradition. The rhythm changes stucture and bop-ish melodic lines on "Guarachando meld into a solid piece of Latin jazz. Sandoval's beautiful tone drives a softer groove on "Rumba Palace, also featuring a strong Fender Rhodes solo from Tony Perez. These moments save the album, creating several memorable highlights.
The shining musical moments are the most frustrating part of Rumba Palacethey show the musicians' hidden potential. The rhythm section contains some of Miami's strongest Cuban musicians that, left unrestrained, can light a fire under any band. Sandoval has prodigious musical skills as a trumpeter, a composer, and a bandleader. An all-out blowing session would bring out the best in these guysit would balance the musical depth of jazz and the entertainment value of dance music. Rumba Palace contains a hint of this balance, but it would have been a bolder statement if the musicians' skills were not so buried in the production.
Track Listing: A Gozar; Guarachando; El Huracan Del Caribe; 21st Century; Sexy Lady; Peaceful; Having Fun; Arranca De Nuevo; Rumba Palace; Nouveau Cha Cha.
Personnel: Arturo Sandoval: bass trumpet; Felipe Lamoglia: saxophone; Jason Carder: trumpet; Dante Luciani: trombone; Dana Teboe: trombone; Tony Perez: keyboard; Armando Gola: bass instrument; Alexis 'Pututi' Arce: bata; Tomas Cruz: bata; Cheito Quinones, Sr.: background vocals.