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November 1998

Carlos "Patato" Valdes
Ritmo Y Candela II / African Crossroads
Round World Music

This is a remarkable recording-from the standpoints of both artistry and folklore. For this Grammy nominated disc producer Greg Landau assembled a bi-coastal and multi-national cast of players under the leadership of the esteemed conguero Carlos "Patato" Valdes. The leader, whose work is the centrifugal force of this recording, is a player of such shrewdness as to draw analogies to folks like Miles Davis as opposed to his fellow hand drummers. Let's say the great hard hands conguero Ray Baretto is Elvin Jones to Patato's Billy Higgins. Patato employs a melodic sensibility on the congas that casts a subtle tone to the proceedings.

What separates this session from other Afro-Cuban jazz projects are the seemlessly incorporated folkloric elements. The players, hailing from the Bay Area, New York, and Cuba are augmented by the Motherland, in the form of Congolese singer Samba Mapangala, and Senegelese kora player-percussionist Abdou M'boup. Through successfully fusing these elements the recording takes the listener on a tour of sounds and traditions ranging from African soukouss to Cuban son, with rudiments of descarga (Cuban jam session) and jazz, which is primarily invoked by such brilliant players as the Cuban saxman Yosvany Terry and pianist Ivan "Melon" Gonzalez, and New York saxophonist Enrique Fernandez, who augments his soprano sax solo on the album closer with some spooky overdubbed bass clarinet. As Cuban music continues to gain momentum in this country, this wonderful recording stands as yet another jewel in the necklace.

Originally published in November 1998
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