The San Francisco Bay Area has a deep well of talented musicians who play jazz as well as they play Afro-Cuban music. Pianist Rebeca Mauleon has been one of the strongest forces on that scene for years, as both a musician and an educator. After her last CD, Round Trip (Bembe), was released in 1999 she took some time off to stay close to home and her family. But she is experiencing a comeback with Latin Fire, which is a like a musical version of one of her captivating educational lectures on how to create great Afro-Cuban jazz.
In addition to support from the superb rhythm section of bassist Gary Brown and drummer Jimmy Branly, Mauleon has two co-stars on Latin Fire in trumpeter Bill Ortiz and conguero Giovanni Hidalgo. If you've been to a Santana show in the last five years, then you've seen and heard Ortiz, another Bay Area vet. His work here lives up to the album's title as he plays with both the passion of an old Cuban and young bebopper. Hidalgo's presence lifts any session he does to another level. His work on "A la Rumba" is worth the price of the CD. Traditional rumba is played for dancers, and the quinto (solo drum) responds to and inspires movement. Hidalgo gets deep into the street-corner essence of rumba, hitting accents that are both old-school funky and rhythmically sophisticated.