The Latin Jazz Quintet

The Latin Jazz Quintet had an odd history. The short-lived group, which had quite a bit of turnover during its life, is today best-known for two sessions (one for New Jazz and a more obscure set for United Artists) in which it was joined by Eric Dolphy. Those two dates (particularly the New Jazz outing) found Dolphy largely ignoring the Latin Jazz Quintet and vice-versa; at no time does the adventurous soloist and the more conventional ensemble react to or even acknowledge each other! Conga player Juan Amalbert was the original leader of the LJQ with the lineup on their first recording (the Dolphy New Jazz date) also including vibraphonist Charlie Simmons, pianist Gene Casey, bassist Bill Ellington, and Manny Ramos on drums and timbales. The band expertly mixed together bop with Afro-Cuban rhythms, sometimes sounding like a typical Cal Tjader group and, although not innovative, always pleasing. By the time they made their second recording, a TruSound album without Dolphy in late 1960, Bobby Capers was guesting on alto and flute, and Ellington and Amalbert were joined by vibraphonist Willie Coleman, pianist Jose Ricci, and Phil Newsom on drums and timbales. A New Jazz set in 1961 had Artie Jenkins on piano while the group's remaining dates (including the second Dolphy session which might be from 1963) found the band going through 100-percent turnover. Such players as vibraphonists Bobby Blivens and Felipe Diaz, pianist Willie Gardner, bassist Bobby Rodriguez, and percussionists Victor Allende, Tommy Lopez, and Louis Ramirez appeared on one or more recordings. By the time of the second Dolphy album, even leader Amalbert had departed! A Prestige CD, Hot Sauce, combines the band's second and third recordings. ~ Scott Yanow

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