Francisco Aguabella Agua de Cuba

If textbook Afro-Cuban jazz is your taste, you can’t get much closer to the source than Francisco Aguabella, a highly influential percussionist whose mastery and innovative with the congas led to a steady gig with Dizzy Gillespie, in addition to work with Tito Puente, Carlos Santana and Eddie Palmieri. Agua de Cuba is Aguabella’s fourth album as a bandleader, which gives him the leeway to put his relentlessly pounding, yet supple rhythms in the spotlight. What really sets Aguabella apart, especially now that the master son generation of Ruben Gonzalez and Compay Segundo has finally received its belated due, and salsa knockoffs dominate the clubs, is Aguabella’s brilliant fusion of traditions. Soul rhythms infect the already infectious clave rhythms of big band mambo, while signatures and melodic sense derived from jazz and post-bop soloing (this has Cubanised versions of Miles Davis’s "Milestones" and Herbie Hancock’s "Watermelon Man") give plenty of evidence of the wealth of knowledge Aguabella has picked up since immigrating to the U.S. some 40 years ago. Moreover, this is one Latin jazz recording that retains the verve and passion of witnessing a live performance, and you could scarce pen a heartier endorsement than that. (Cubop)