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Mambo Kings: Live!

This is the Hochstein School of Music faculty’s showcase concert and the players want to highlight their take on Latin and jazz standards, and it’s a fairly decent live recording (although the piano solos need to come up in the mix), but living up to the name “Mambo Kings” is a bit daunting to even the most seasoned Latin players.

Pianist and arranger Richard Delaney’s charming intro on the Cuban standard “Tres Lindas Cubanas” provides a hint of Cuba’s neoclassical solo piano genre, only to be diminished by the group’s uneven performance of the piece. Among the more interesting arrangements are Delaney’s version of Rafael Hernández’s “El Cumbanchero,” which includes a modal reharmonization and a soulful tenor solo by John Viavattine Sr. Rounding out the group is bassist John Viavattine Jr., drummer-percussionist Freddy Colón and conguero David Antonetti, as well as a bonus track featuring the late bassist Bob Stata. The most energetic of the selections is a version of Michel Camilo’s “Caribe,” with a lively drum/timbales solo by Colón; even the cover of the Beatles’ “Day Tripper” comes off with a groovy twist as a cha-cha.

While this album may not play much outside of Rochester, N.Y., it is nevertheless a pleasant offering. My only question is, Did they secure the rights to the band name?

Originally Published