World & Latin

VOICES Notes and news on World & Latin releases

Exploring The Picante Groove

22 OCT 07 JOHN C. BRUENING

More than any other musical component, the one element that distinguishes Latin jazz from any other branch of the jazz tradition is rhythm. That said, the music of past masters like Tito Puente, Poncho Sanchez, Cal Tjader, Tania Maria, Mongo Santamaria and other luminaries of the Picante label is ripe for reinterpretation in the age of hip-hop and digital dance beats. Explorations: Classic Picante Regrooved does just that by matching contemporary producers and artists with classic tracks from the Picante vault.

The set alternates between remixes of Picante classics by some of the most prominent producers on the current Latin scene -- Masters at Work, Hex Hector, Dan the Automator, Thunderball, Cut Chemist, Los Amigos Invisibles and others -- and reinterpretations by bands such as Yerba Buena, The Frequency and Ozomatli.

Hex Hector leads off with a remix of Tjader's "Mambo Mindoro" that is rhythmically churning and atmospheric at the same time. Further in, Yerba Buena sneaks its way into Mongo Santamaria's majestic "Afro Blue" with multiple layers of exotic percussion followed by full-bodied horn arrangements. In the home stretch, Cut Chemist injects Puente's "Machito Forever" with a throbbing backbeat and some complex horn/piano interplay.

In every instance on this 13-track set, the featured producers and bands capture the celebratory vibe of the source material, resulting in a party that marries the best elements of traditional Latin jazz and pop with fresh engineering and production values. In a single recording, young ears can hear where some of the best Latin jazz came from, and more seasoned ears can hear where it's going.