January/February 2000

Paquito D'Rivera
Tropicana Nights
Chesky Records

It may have started out as "the Spanish tinge," Jelly Roll Morton's appropriation of Latin feel for some of his seminal jazz compositions, but it has evolved into a substantial world of its own. These four recordings grant a glimpse of the range of Latin jazz, whose conventions and styles can support so much musical weight. A wonderful example of this musical architecture is reedman Paquito D'Rivera's tribute to the most famous of Old Havana's nightclubs, the Tropicana. The arrangements, by D'Rivera, his mentor Armando Romeu, Chico O'Farrill, and others, give full play to a 22-piece orchestra, which includes both Jimmy Bosch and Oscar Feldman; they are remarkable for their ability to restore real drama to the mambos that acquired TV triteness through the antics of Ricky Ricardo and others. This is no exercise in mere nostalgia, but rather an evocation of an important source of today's Latin jazz.

Originally published in January/February 2000

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