Ritmo de Vida

Latin Tropical

In a fiery mix of Latin/Caribbean with a soulful rhythm section and some great salsa singers, this 2005 CD begs to be turned-up-and danced to.

Along the lines of Manny Oquendo or Eddie Palmeri, this group features a big horn section and hip vocals by Herman Olivera.

Then the CD changes course with electric guitars as the lead voice-and a surf guitar at that! (Track 4, "Country Cubano"). Mix in a montuno, a trumpet solo by Ray Vega, and top it off with a soulful Hammond B3 solo by Lenny Underwood and you get the idea.

As the CD goes on, one can hear a definite commercial aspect to some of the tunes, as well as a well-employed string section (à la Claus Orgerman) on the final cut, "I'll Get By."

All the songs are written by members of the band. The ten-page insert booklet (in English and Spanish) identifies each song by rhythm type, including bolero, salsa, Latin Jazz, Afro-Western. It's a helpful tool for any non-Latin ears.

This would be a great Christmas gift to folks just getting into Latin Jazz or Caribbean music.

By Michael Handler