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Various Artists, Ritmo De La Noche. The Very Best of Latin Jazz (Sony)
A much better album than the inane Very Best Of subtitle would suggest. Latin, Latin jazz, jazz fusion, jazz-rock, bossa nova and Afro Cuban music all get a look in. Santana, Ed Calle, Mongo Santamaria, Ray Barreto, Astrud Gilberto, Stan Getz, Jobim, Hank Crawford, David Sanchez, Arturo Sandaval, Paquito D'Rivera and so forth . . . it's a formidable line-up and the choice of tracks is representative but not too tired. Highlights include David Sanchez' meaty sax on "Street Scenes", a cleanly-remastered "Watermelon Man" from Mongo Santamaria, Antonio Carlos Jobim's cool "Stone Flower" and that perennial dancefloor favourite, Ray Barreto's "La Cuna". Herbie Mann, Stanley Turrentine and Hank Crawford remind us that the '60s wave of US Latin-influenced jazz was so much better than the critics then allowed and, to my surprise, Santana's "Samba de Sausalito" more than holds its own. Ideal for those dipping their toes into this rich multi-generic area but sufficiently well programmed to appeal even to those who will know everything on here like the back of their hand. Great summer music. Great music whatever the season, in fact. And as added bonus, the Astrud Gilberto track is not the ubiquitous "Girl From Ipanema" but the lesser known but equally charming, "Ponteio".