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Jazz On the Latin Side All Stars: The Last Bullfighter

Jose Rizo has been the host of a program called Jazz on the Latin Side for more than 10 years on noncommercial radio station KKJZ-FM in Long Beach, Calif. To celebrate his show’s 10th anniversary in 2000, he called a handful of Southern California-based Latin jazz musicians to do a one-night, all-star concert. He recorded the performance and released two acclaimed CDs. Now the Jazz on the Latin Side All Stars have released The Last Bullfighter, its first studio album under Rizo’s direction.

This music is what contemporary Afro-Cuban jazz should sound like: well arranged, with something for both the feet and the head. It is heavy on clave, and the blowing is always creative, drawing from Afro-Cuban style and bebop styles. Listing the 26 names on the CD would be too much, so I’ll just mention that the cover features pictures of Justo Almario, Alex Acuna, Francisco Aguabella, Danilo Lozano and Poncho Sanchez, and that the rest of the All Stars are top-notch Latin and jazz musicians. Special kudos to the JLS arrangers: Francisco Torres, David Torres, Paul Lopez and Robert Incelli. The music sparkles because they have written the kind of arrangements that would impress Machito.

One of the CD’s few cover tunes, Afro Cuban music pioneer Marcelino Guerra’s “Yo Soy La Rumba,” sparkles with multilayered horn arrangements that support inspired tenor work from Justo Almario. This is the kind of arrangement that musicians love to play: noticeable but not distracting and always a challenge to their musicianship. What it means for listeners is a full-bodied music that subtly offers many layers and textures.

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