Concord Records has developed quite a series of CD’s devoted to Latin jazz under the Picante name, one of the offshoots of Concord’s recording activities after founder Carl Jefferson expanded the label beyond straightahead jazz work. Now the eleventh in its The Colors Of Latin Jazz
series, Cha Cha Soul!
celebrates a couple of the subgenres that became popular in the United States in the 1950’s, the chachachá and the guajira, both of Cuban origin and derived in parts from the danzón, the traditional dance born of Afro-Caribbean and European influences. The result, in spite of the form’s application to a variety of moods and melodies, is the infectious spirit of the music a spirit that gets into the souls of the listeners and breaks down their defenses. Once Poncho Sanchez starts into "One Mint Julep," a song usually associated with Ray Charles instead of Latin music despite its adaptability to various forms, the music’s ability to convert listeners into dancers starts.
Ahead of the curve, Concord reaches back into its archives of hours of available Latin recordings by artists who are belatedly receiving the recognition they long deserved for the complexity and cohesion of their music. Eddie Palmieri virtually dropped from public recognition until Concord helped to resurrect his career with the La Perfecta II
CD, reminding listeners of his signature sound of flute and trombone made famous in his first La Perfecta group. And Concord provided the platform for Ray Barretto’s New World Spirit group in the 1990’s, which may have been unrecorded otherwise. On Cha Cha Soul!
Barretto is represented by "Guaji-Rita," which infuses a jazz sensibility, particularly on saxophonist Adam Kolker’s solo, with the clavé.
In addition to the classic performances like Tito Puente’s "Oye Como Va," a few surprises occur, like Carmen McRae’s work with Cal Tjader on "Evil Ways" from their joint Heat Wave
album, recorded just four months before Tjader passed away in 1982. And there’s the Caribbean Jazz Project’s recent (2003) version of Herbie Hancock’s "Tell Me A Bedtime Story," trumpeter Ray Vega substituting on horn for the earlier work by Paquito D’Rivera while vibraphonist Dave Samuels remains the constant presence in the group. Cha Cha Soul!
is characterized not only by the Latin percussion, played so expertly by the likes of Tito Puente or Mongo Santamaria, but also by the sense of fun that makes the music so accessible.