When I was in high school, my mother bought me a copy of the Afro-Cuban Allstars' A Toda Cuba Le Gusta, with fantastic tracks like "Maria Caracoles" and "Los Sitio Asere." It got me into Cuban jazz in a big way, branching out into Ruben Gonzalez and Ibrahim Ferrer records and even a fantastic LP whose name I still am not 100 percent sure of. I believe it's Ska Cubano.
Anyway, not since I first threw on the A.C. Allstars has a Latin jazz record grabbed my attention like this showcase of ten young musicians, despite the negligible mid-'80s bad-tie-abstract artwork on the cover.
The predominantly Cuban musicians (not everyone... Charly Sarduy is from Spain, Esperanza Spalding from Jersey City, N.Y.) rip into nearly every tune. Sarduy's "Charly en la Habana" starts off as light, uptempo funk before blasting off into chunky polyrhythms; breathy scatting intermingles with twitchy piano and percussion on "Loro," with a coda that sounds almost like a spacey Grateful Dead improv session, Spalding's vocals taking the place of Jerry Garcia. And the simple piano-and-congas combo on Marialys Pacheco's "Intro" sounds like the best song on a great '70s action-movie soundtrack.
Puerto Rico's Yasek Manzano shifts meters and slows things down a little on the abstracted, bouncy "Amnios," in addition to creating a hazy, tropical-jungle atmosphere on "Drume Negrita."
This is an out-of-control-great Latin jazz compilation.