World & Latin

Heading South In Good Company


Percussionist and bandleader Pete Escovedo's virtuosity and versatility is such that even a small crew of session players will inevitably make for a fine recording. But the guest list on his 1997 release, Flying South, includes much more than a small crew. It amounts to a small army. And this is one of those instances where more is better.

The short list includes Gerald Albright, George Duke, Lalah Hatahway, Najee, Andy Narell, Rau Obeido, Pastiche, and just about every drummer/percussionist in the extended Escovedo family, including daughter Sheila Escovedo, better known as Sheila E. And bear in mind, that's just the short list.

There are plenty more here whose names may not be quite as prominent, but whose chops are no less impressive. The result is a seamless 12-song set that weaves together contemporary pop, urban, jazz and Latin grooves that will appeal to listeners in any hemisphere.

The title track opens the set with a gentle piano/bass configuration that gives way to a much more energized affair that sets the tone for everything to follow -- always buoyant, never heavy-handed. Other noteworthy moments along the way include Pastiche's silky vocals on "Cabo Frio," Gerald Albright's nuanced tenor sax lines on the stirring "Still Life," and Andy Narell's multi-layered steel pan work on the island-flavored "Leyte."

Escovedo assembled a flight crew for this late-'90s trip that's likely take you someplace warm and relaxing.