Nuyorikan percussion maestro Ray Barretto is best known for his mixture of hard hitting salsa and Latin jazz from the classic Fania era of the 1970s and beyond, but this particular album that dates from 1962 is actually one of his earliest recordings as a leader and is somewhat different in that it is in the ‘tipico’ or traditional Cuban style that was prevalent at the time and features a stellar line-up of exiled Cuban musicans such as José ‘Chombo’ Silva on tenor saxophone, Aleajandro ‘El Negro’ Vivar on trumpet and Alfredito Valdes Jr. on piano. The percussion rhythm section to support Barretto is no less enticing with Ray Mantilla on timbales and Rudy Calzado on assorted percussion. Typical of the charanga style is a take on ‘Exodus’ with violin and percussion making this an album highlight, and with brass entering on the famous theme with a solo from Silva. Another winner of a tune is ‘Sugar’s delight’ with a lovely flute solo from José Canura. For gentler, melodic flavours, look nor further than a relaxed take on Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ and an interpretation of ‘Manhã de Carnaval’ that Herb Alpert would feel at home with. The nearest thing in fact to the now established Barretto sound is to be heard on ‘Descarga la Moderna’ which is a hard driving Latin-jazz number. An early rendition of what would become a Barretto signature tune is to be found on ‘Cocinando Suave’ which is another charanga led piece while ‘El Negro y Ray’ is a storming Afro-Cuban jazz number with El Negro soaring on trumpet.
Tenorist Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis is better known for his straight ahead jazz side on Riverside, often duetting with Johnny Griffin. However, here he is firmly in Latin jazz vein and this must have been something of a shock to his devoted fans, but a very pleasant one at that. Probably the most famous intepretation here is that of ‘Tin Tin Deo’ which must surely rate among the very best takes on the number and the big band plus percussion is something special that warrants repeated listens as does the no holds barred ‘Wild Rice’ on which Davis unleashes a torrent of notes. In a mid-tempo vein is the lazy sounding guaguanco, ‘Guanco Lament’ which is a gorgeous tune and in parts the piece reverts back to big band be-bop. A major reason why this album works so well are the arrangements and compositions of Gil López who worked with Titpo Puente among others and is an expert exponent of the Latin jazz idiom. Here he plays a non-playing musician role, but one that is an essential ingredient of the overall sound nonetheless and he sounds as though he has been influenced by the likes of Gil Evans and Stan Kenton on the jazz side and by the two Tito’s, Puente and Rodriguez on the Latin side. As ever with Malanga re-issues, extremely well presented inner sleeve notes that span sixteen pages with full original covers and notes.