First Class (Jalapeno) couldn’t be a more appropriate title for an album that sounds like it is taking the listener around the world, and you can thank Smoove for that. These dance grooves consists of remixes Smoove has done over the years, to demonstrate his capabilities and his way of making these good songs sound much better. Smoove takes various beats, breaks and samples, enhances them, and makes that a part of his gift bag to help create these mixes that touch on everything from soul and funk to disco and jazz, all while the hip-hop influences cannot be denied. Smoove is going in and out of the influences at a rapid pace, so some may hear this as something along the level of Beats International or Simon Harris, or perhaps the progression of what these two had started.
The entire album is very much First Class, figuratively and literally and I’m not afraid to say that these grooves are hotter than most people are able to endure. Take the test, and if it’s too hot, put it down. Then keep on returning, the heat is too good to resist.
Cult Cargo: Salsa Boricua De Chicago (The Numero Group) is a fantastic compilation that takes a look at the Puerto Rican music scene in Chicago on the Ebirac label, which may not have been as popular or known as Fania but does not lack the power or pride that the bigger label also celebrated.
Most of these artists will be unknown even by the most diehards, but when you hear groups like La Solucion. Tipica Leal ’79, and Under The Sun Orchestra, you know you’re getting the real deal. Unfortunately I only received a promo copy of the CD so I wasn’t able to read the liner notes or know more, but you may be able to do a search for this album and find some background information elsewhere. Musically, this wins for me.
Sofrito specializes in “Heavy Afro Latin Sounds”, and are a collective who do so through creating mixes and regular DJ sets. Their love of the music goes one step higher with the start of a new series of records called Sofrito Super Singles, and they’re digging deep with major rarities that haven’t been heard about in decades. The first release will be The Soweto Disco EP, featuring songs from Teaspoon & the Waves and The Nzimande Allstars, and you can sample the tracks from the EP here.
They only say the record is coming “very soon”, but this series looks like a winner.
The group are called Cracked Latin, and the cover photo is of barely concealed ass crack. Okay, maybe it’s more about butt cheeks. But upon first listen to The World Is Cracked Latin (Transparency), I wasn’t sure if I was listening to something good or something that was someone’s idea of a joke. It’s Latin jazz done with English lyrics, and while they were trying to be humorous, I at first was not sure if it was blasphemous. The only thing that saved it was the tight music of the band which includes Tony Musante (drums), Emila Sousa (percussion), Jose Reyes (saxophone), Renny Lopez (trombone), Edwin Perez (trumpet), and Elvin Carone (piano, vibes, keyboards, and horn arrangements). I mean damn, if these guys brought on some proper singers I would want to become a Cracked Head or something.
After a few listens, it seems a part of their allure and partial novelty value is the fact that the vocalists (Lane Steinberg and Luis Accorsi) off off a bit like tourists who came off the boat to a foreign land, fell in love with the music, wanted to bring hints of their home and passed it off as this. They mean well, but there’s a few things in the mix that remove them from having a true authentic feel. With that said, I listened to them without thinking of authenticity and it’s just a decent party album by a party band who love the spirit of Latin jazz and what it does to the people who listen.
What I found to be cool is when they bring in different elements that one would not expect to hear on a “Latin jazz” album. There are parts that sound sample-based, but I’m not sure if they just isolated that track and heavily compressed it. Then there are the mindblowing psychedelic bits. That might be too weird for the salsa purists, but trust me, if they did that more often I would have praised this album even more.