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The Enriquillo Winds: Melodia Para Congas

This release is number nine in the Hamiet Bluiett Explorations series and it constitutes an interesting if not entirely successful experiment. Take one of Cuba’s best congueros, Patato Valdes, showcase him fronting five congas and give him a backup consisting entirely of woodwinds. Dominican saxophonist/flutist Enrique Fernandez provides the compositions and is joined by John Purcell, saxello, alto flute and English horn; Siraj, flute, soprano and alto sax; Pablo Calogero, baritone and bass clarinet; and Bluiett, contrabass clarinet. Bluiett is heard on the piece “Exotica.” “Monko,” even the name is ugly, is a tribute to Mongo Santamaria and Monk. “Son de Patato” is a conga-flute duet. “Dat Guloya Swing” pairs Fernandez’s alto with Patato’s skins and the result is upbeat and carnavalesque. Patato plays solo on the closer, “Afinando los Cueros (Tuning the Skins).” While Patato’s sound is resonant, the rhythms never really take off and the saxophones sound labored and fitful.

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