Afro-Latin Party (Putumayo PUT 235-2, 2005)
Lest anyone forget that Latin music has African rhythms at its core, there are plenty of recorded examples to serve as reminders. Putumayo’s latest is a hot one, featuring a few groovers from ultimate African salsa band Africando, characteristically fine offerings by vets Jose Mangual Jr. and Chico Alvarez that show how snugly the beats of the Motherland found homes in Puerto Rico and Cuba respectively and a salsa/rumba nugget courtesy of the always scorching Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loca. Plus the selections that are farther afield have likewise got the stuff. From the improbable location of Croatia come Cubismo with an accomplished salsa piece that rises well above mere imitation.
Similarly, Oregon’s Pepe and the Bottle Blondes give mambo more authenticity than their campy moniker might suggest while Ska Cubano live up to their name wielding a sharp combination of Jamaican and Cuban pulses on the familiar orisha ode “Babalu.”
This is a well-paced and well-rounded collection that not only reinforces the Latin/African connection but gives a taste of how far the influence of it has both come and gone.