The Afro-Rican Ensemble: Latin, Soul-Sa & Jazz

On this straightahead jazz release, with strong Latin, blues, soul, and funk elements, the Afro-Rican Ensemble doesn’t bite off more than they can chew, offering respectful interpretations of standards such as “Song for My Father” and “Afro-Blue,” Freddie Hubbard’s “Homegrown,” the somewhat odd choice of Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme,” and the funky bluesy numbers, “The Chicken” and “Cizzy Strut.” On “Cizzy Strut” pianist Ed Moed switches to organ. His easy piano comping on “Song for My Father” is spare and tasteful. Keith Newton’s competent tenor is heard on four tunes, and he plays flute, a la Herbie Mann, on “Homegrown” and “Song for My Father.” Bassist Greg Loughman and percussionists John Nelson, Rolando Matias and Cecilio Valdes make up the rest of the Afro-Rican Ensemble. All the tunes are well-crafted with solid musicianship, the right dash of sabor, and a refreshing absence of self-indulgence.