Various Latin Jazz: La Combinacion Perfecta

You'd think there could have been a more compelling title to this compilation, as it's bound to get lost amongst similarly titled budget-priced Latin jazz comps. This is a project put together by the Smithsonian, in conjunction with a glossy coffee table book, à la Ken Burns, who completely ignored Latin jazz in his Jazz TV series. This task should be easier to get a handle on, but the compilers have come up with the most mainstream, yet still incomplete, history of Latin jazz. This compilation is all about Cuba, to the exclusion of the important influence of Puerto Rico in American-based Latin sounds. The early stuff on this disc is great and the biggest milestones of early Latin jazz are all here in their most vital recordings: Machito, Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Stan Kenton and Charlie Parker. But after ten tracks leading to the early ’60s, it fast forwards essentially to the present, making only one stop in the ’70s and two in the ’80s. There is no representation of any Fania artists whatsoever — Fania released some 500 albums from the ’60s to the ’80s — and the only shout out to the west coast is one track from the ’50s by Cal Tjader. You can't fault the early selections for content, but most of the newer selections, while representing well known artists, are pretty straight up. This compilation would have benefited with the inclusion of the experiments of Cubop/Ubiquity or American Clave, and to pay proper due to the New York street jazz of Eddie Palmieri, Tipica 73 or Conjunto Libre. Hopefully there will be another volume to set things right. (Smithsonian Folkways)