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Babatunde Lea: Soul Pools

On Soul Pools drummer Babatunde Lea presents an inspiring fusion of African-derived beats with traditional jazz rhythms. With an East Coast combo of John Benitez (bass), Kevin Jones (percussion), Ku-umba Frank Lacy (trombone), Hilton Ruiz (piano) and Mario Rivera (reeds, flute), the 48-year-old, Vallejo, Calif., resident opens the CD with the stop-time, Afro-bop vehicle “Confrontation.” Off and running, the flurry of tempos and rhythms doesn’t stop: Kenny Garrett’s “Jackie and the Beanstalk” becomes a romping 6/8 swing, “1055” is a great medium-up shuffle and there are plenty of twists and turns on “Ejercito Moreno.”

It’s refreshing to hear Rivera, a mainstay of the New York City Latin-jazz and salsa scene, blow on a mostly straightahead setting. Ruiz, too, brings beautiful comping, montunos and solos, and Benitez and Jones are solid. But it’s Lacy who proves to be a perfect musical match for Lea, with the trombonist’s excellent arrangements, playing and compositions.

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