Mark Gilbert, Jazz Journal UK

There’s huge variety and virtuosity in all departments in this typically bravura performance of New York “salsa dura” – in the writing, arranging, playing and singing. The forms are standard but beautifully executed, and try to guess where one is in instrumental breaks – I’ll warrant it will confound you more than any of Brubeck’s or Ellis’s games with irregular metre, and this is in 4/4. The displacements in the clave are so ingenious they never cease to deceive and excite the ear.

What else do we have? Rich, melodic harmonies, emotive, exuberant singing – solo and in chorus – and ever surprising variations that have at least the resourcefulness of the best improvisation. Then there are actual improvised breaks – trombone from Doug Beavers on Yo Te Prometo, flute from Jeremy Bosch on Goza El Ritmo and trumpet from Randy Brecker on Somos Uno: Like many jazz players in 60s/70s NY Randy and his brother spent some time in salsa bands – a great grounding for budding virtuosi, and as I suggest in my review of Tony Succar (see In brief…) quite likely, in its rhythmic diversions, detailed horn arrangements and dense post-bop harmony an influence on funk writing of the sort produced by the Breckers and others.

The Spanish Harlem Orchestra was formed 15 years ago (hence “Anniversary”) and this is their sixth studio album. It’s perhaps a little contained compared to Salsa Selecta, a very hot 2001 compilation of 70s NY salsa on Nascente but still, buy this one and enjoy more joyousness, extreme musicality and intriguing syncopation than any CD should decently hold.

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