Spanish Rice has all the ingredients for a successful Latin music session: clattering percussionists, a couple of guitars, peppy horns—there’s even a recipe for Spanish rice included for the curious. And one can assume that Chico O’Farrill, who almost singlehandedly pioneered the use of Latin music in a big band context, is certainly up to the task of establishing a Latin groove with a depth of expression and artistry not present in similar music from the era. But what really edges this 1966 recording into compelling avenues is the presence of Clark Terry, who applies the right amount of sizzle or sultriness to his soloing as the moment calls for.
Songs like “The Peanut Vendor” and “Macarena” (no, not that one) deliver on the enthusiasm and exuberance promised from the cover, creating an addictive groove that percolates through the entire album. However, although filled with swagger and joyful exuberance, if there’s one major drawback, it’s that the material can seem too insubstantial at times. “Spanish Rice,” for example, features a humorous exchange between O’Farrill and Terry, and a doctored “Happiness Is” pokes fun lyrically at several important jazz figures; both are amusing, but neither all that satisfying in the long run.
Despite the few misfires, Terry and O’Farrill serve up a rather tasty assortment of Latin melodies and exotic rhythms. Sure, they weren’t the most successful commercially at this type of Latin instrumental music, but which is the heartier meal: whipped cream (and other delights) or Spanish rice?
1. Peanut Vendor 2. Angelitos Negros 3. El Cumbanchero 4. Joonji 5. Que Sera 6. Mexican Hat Dance 7. Spanish Rice 8. Say Si Si 9. Macarena (La Virgen de la Macarena) 10. Tin Tin Deo 11. Contigo en la Distancia 12. Happiness Is.
Clark Terry - Trumpet, Flugelhorn; Chico O'Farrill - Arranger, Conductor; Joe Newman - Trumpet, Flugelhorn; Ernie Royal - Trumpet, Flugelhorn; Snooky Young - Trumpet, Flugelhorn; Everett Barksdale
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