Tito Puente Live At The Playboy Jazz Festival 94

It's difficult to preach to the unconverted about Tito Puente. More than just a suspect in the "who shot Mr. Burns?" Simpsons episode, he was one of the foremost rhythmic innovators in music for over 50 years. The fluidity of his rhythmic phrasing lent anything he did a jazzy quality. By the late '70s, he was focussing on playing capital "J" jazz - not with a jazzy big band, but smaller units concentrating on improvising and solos. This disc dates from 1994, when Puente, well past 70, could still weave magic. For this performance at the Hollywood Bowl, Puente is joined by an all-star cast, including Andy Gonzales on bass, Dave Valentin (uncle of Little Louie Vega) on flute and Hilton Ruiz on piano. The tunes are bop and soul-jazz covers, and the band launches several variations on the tunes' basic structure once the overall themes are established. My favourite cut is the acid jazz classic by Freddie Hubbard "Little Sunflower," and its Coltrane-ish melody is a perfect springboard for Valentin's diving and swooping. In one sense this is easy-listening jazz, but listen even a little harder and the chops of these players are tremendous. Their ease with the rhythms and with each other more than overcomes the flat remastering of a radio broadcast source. (Playboy)