World & Latin

Heat Wave In New Yorkinos!

31 OCT 08 JOHN C. BRUENING

Los New Yorkinos!, the 2000 release on Milestone by percussionist Manny Oquendo and his versatile nine-piece unit known as Libre, features seven tracks that are polished versions of studio tracks that had been recorded several years earlier but never finished. "For the new century, we decided to improve the music by overdubbing and remixing it," says Libre bassist and musical director Andy Gonzalez. "Now we have a new Libre CD."

Despite its protracted genesis, there's nothing about this set that sounds remotely warmed over. Each of the tracks represents a different Latin style -- salsa, mambo, bolero and more -- and all of it feels fresh and lively, from the opening jam of "Oquendo y Libre" to the equally rousing closer, "Muevete un Poco." Along the way, the crew delivers an interesting Latin jazz take on the Lester Young classic "Lester Leaps In" with help from guest trumpeter Alex Norris, while "No Cuenetes" smolders with a taut, polyrhythmic rumba backbeat.

"Fans of Manny Oquendo on timbales and bongos will have a real aural feast with this CD," says Gonzalez. "Manny's impeccable taste in what to play -- and just as importantly, what not to play -- is evident on every track. There are vital lessons to be learned here by all students of percussion who take the time to listen, analyze and absorb."

But Los New Yorkinos! is much more than a merely academic recording. There's plenty here for those of us who just want to kick back and catch the groove.