Flautist Dave Valentin is fast becoming as ubiquitous a player as his former teacher, Hubert Laws, used to be. Indeed, Valentin has become the flautist of choice on a great quantity of recent Latin jazz recordings by such varied artists as McCoy Tyner, Tito Puente, Elaine Elias and Dave Samuels. Not as distinctive as Laws (nor as notable as many reed players who blow flute part time), he is nevertheless a highly appealing player whose often simple melodies seem to inspire some superb improvisation that positively sings and dances.
Valentin's Concord debut, Sunshower , is the first recording under the flautist's name since 1996's Primitive Passions. Like many of the 18 albums he recorded for GRP between 1979 and 1996, Valentin here weds jazz, pop and r & b with his own particular blend of smooth Latin sounds. In essence, the man knows how to craft a purely pleasurable listening experience. One part of the disc's success is that Valentin sounds very much at ease in this setting. Well he should, too, for he's featured along with his working quintet here, which features the under sung virtues of pianist Bill O'Connell's marvelous playing and catchy songwriting.
This is an exceedingly well programmed disc. Valentin starts with "Reunion," his own appealing fusion redux, segues into the sprite Caribbean dance of Valentin and O'Connell's title track (recalling Columbia-era Laws) and heads gently toward the ultra-smooth "Embers" (featuring Rodriguez's popping bass and Ed Calle's Brecker-istics on tenor).
From here, Valentin explores his varied interests with dedicated abandon. He goes full-on Latin with "Bandit," funky with "Porkchops" (Calle here sounds Sanborn-esque on alto), sweetly sensitive to Duke's "I Got It Bad," straight ahead on O'Connell's "Sierra Madre" (featuring guest guitarist Steve Khan) and genuinely witty on his funkified take on "Feelin' Alright" (also covered by Laws in 1970). The disc's high point is O'Connell's effervescent "Subway Six," a solid Latin groover with one of the simplest heads ever conceived and reminiscent of Vince Guaraldi's Peanuts classic, "Skating." It features outstanding, breezy solos from the leader, the pianist and vibraphonist Dave Samuels (and closes with some fiery interjection from Valentin).
Not as deep as Valentin has proven elsewhere to be, Sunshower is nevertheless hugely enjoyable music that will satisfy a variety of musical cravings and invite repeated listening.
Tracks:Reunion; Sunshower; Embers; Bandit; Porkchops; I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good; Subway Six; Sierra Madre; Feelin' Alright; Space Cadet.
Players: Dave Valentin: C flute, alto flute, piccolo on "Porkchops" and assorted flute sounds; Bill O'Connell: acoustic piano, electric piano, synthesizers; Ruben Rodriguez: electric bass, Ampeg Baby bass; Robbie Ameen: drums; Milton Cardona: congas, shakere and various percussion instruments with Dave Samuels: vibes; Steve Khan: electric and acoustic guitars; Ed Calle: alto sax, tenor sax; Rafael de Jesus: percussion on "Embers," "Porkchops" and "Feelin' Alright."