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Dave Valentin: Come Fly With Me

Come Fly With Me is the sort of warm, happy disc that insinuates itself in the listener’s head, growing more appealing with each spin. Valentin’s ebullient personality and spirited flute technique shine in this breezy Latin-jazz set, which is presented with class and verve.

Much of the credit for this success is due to pianist Bill O’Connell, who arranged all but one of the nine tracks, composed four of the strongest tunes, and helps to anchor the proceedings with a tasteful, skipping touch at the keys. O’Connell’s “Twinkle Toes” and “Mind Games” are snappy numbers that give Valentin plenty of room to show his flexibility, as he bends his lines around the rhythm, mixing up trills, flutters and crystalline tones. And Valentin overblows like mad on “Easy Street,” flirting with Rahsaan Roland Kirk’s half-sung whistles while the pianist strolls underneath.

Valentin’s sole compositional contribution is “Enciendido,” a rootsy Afro-Latin romp that’s among the disc’s most compelling numbers, showcasing the rolling percussion of Robby Ameen, Milton Cardona and Richie Flores. Ameen’s drumming also stands out on “House of the Sun,” constantly percolating under Valentin’s blissful, butterfly-like solo.

“Tu Pañuelo” is a subtle delight, emerging from a stuffily polite melody to reveal a casual conversation between Valentin and trombonist Papo Vazquez. The proceedings get progressively looser through bright piano and speedy percussion solos, only to fall neatly back into place as if nothing had happened.

Which is, in a way, a metaphor for the disc as a whole. It isn’t the sort of wild, party record that some Latin-jazz fans seek out, but there’s a vibrancy to the music that transcends its tempered surface.

Originally Published