The latest album by the Caribbean Jazz Project finds the ensemble continuing to blend Latin jazz styles with jazz improvisation, albeit with a slightly altered lineup. The group is still fronted by vibraphonist Dave Samuels and flutist Dave Valentin, but Argentine pianist and onetime member Dario Eskenazi has rejoined the band and adds a distinctive rhythmic element to the cohesive rhythm section comprised of drummer and timbalist Dafnis Prieto, bassist Ruben Rodriguez, conguero Richie Flores and conga player-percussionist Roberto Quintero.
The Gathering is a collection of stylistically diverse compositions performed with no shortage of energy and verve by this tight ensemble. Saxophonist and onetime member Paquito D'Rivera helps ignite "Rendezvous" with his high-spirited soloing, and he and Valentin blow with alacrity throughout the Thelonious Monk classic "Bemsha Swing," which Samuels reimagines as a high-octane mambo.
Even though Samuels and Valentin take the lion's share of the solos, the Caribbean Jazz Project isn't the Dave and Dave Show; the rhythm section also gets opportunities to shine on the album, particularly Rodriguez, who turns in an inspired solo on the title track, and Eskenzi, who steps out on the vibrant Valentin composition "See You in a Minute."
The Gathering is a gem, and here's wishing that this lineup will be on board for the next Caribbean Jazz Project recording.