Colorful and percussive, this Latin-jazz quintet session, featuring the seasoned pairing of flutist Dave Valentin and pianist Bill O’Connell, goes Hollywood now and then. The first stop is Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile,” with a multifaceted arrangement that sports a newly composed bridge by O’Connell. Not surprisingly, its charms also derive from Valentin’s bright lyricism and the festive teaming of bassist Ruben Rodriguez, drummer Robby Ameen and percussionist Richie Flores. The next cinematic sojourn is the album’s title track, inspired by Gene Wilder’s performance in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Both tracks are so engaging, alive and alluring, by turns, that you may find yourself wishing that Valentin and company would linger a little longer out West. But as the album unfolds, O’Connell’s composing skills are fully brought to bear and there’s little reason to look back.
The pianist wrote the remaining tunes here, save for a dreamy, multitracked “flute choir” treatment of “When Sunny Gets Blue.” It’s dedicated to flutist Hubert Laws, Valentin’s “mentor, teacher and friend.” Elegantly layered, the performance slowly and soulfully insinuates itself before turning an earthy shade of blue. As for O’Connell’s contributions, besides illustrating his flair for writing attractive melodies, they add elements of funk and fusion to the clave-accented mix, encouraging the kind of spirited interplay evident on the aptly titled “Slip and Slide,” “See-Saw” and “Cat Man.” As always, Valentin delights in the rhythmic undertow, his flute soaring and looping like a kite. Small wonder this nine-track collection seems to fly by.