Latin Lounge Jazz: Havana

by: Various Artists

A compilation series with the title Latin Lounge does not bode well for fans of Latin music (although it might for fans of lounges). Still, discriminating fans who see the Fania logo emblazoned on the cover can be assured of excellent music inside, and this series is no different. Latin Lounge consists of three volumes based on location, and the Havana edition is excellent throughout, illustrating the variety of influences that came together to deliver powerhouse Latin music between the '50s and '70s by Cubans (or those with Cuban heritage). Most of the tracks find virtuoso musicians fusing jazz with Latin, as opposed to the hard-hitting, groove-laden music found on other Fania compilations. Machito, Tito Puente, and both of the brothers Palmieri (Charlie and Eddie) appear early and often, as well as bands led by Johnny Pacheco and Celia Cruz. None of those titans, however, can compete with the wonderful joy and energy on the Alegre All-Stars' "Estoy Buscando a Kako," an infectious singalong and a delightful romp in which the players repeat a variation of the title preceding each soloist, working their way to the end of the line when Kako himself takes a solo on his timbales. [The same compilation was released in 2007 as Latin Lounge Jazz: Havana.] ~ John Bush

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