Kenya + With Flute To Boot CD, Import
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Apart from the reliable Chano Pozo early Afro-Cuban jazz standard "Tin Tin Deo" written for Dizzy Gillespie - here featuring a superbly improvised trumpet solo by Doc Cheatham - "Kenya" contains nothing but new compositions by Machito regulars. The standout for me is "Congo Mulence," a more contemporary-sounding Latin-soul-jazz song with Cannonball Adderley and Joe Newman providing stellar solos. I sought this album out after hearing this track on the radio recently. (That it came as a Machito two-fer with Herbie Mann was a terrific bonus!) I also appreciate that there are three Latin-jazz/blues hybrid tracks - an appealing combo for me, and one I don't think have often heard before.)
Herbie Mann was my all-time favorite jazz musician for decades after I saw him live at the local college when I was a pre-adolescent. He not only produced and arranged "With Flute to Boot," he also composed all twelve songs, which is tremendously impressive given the sustained high quality. Working with fellow featured musicians of the caliber of Johnny Griffin and Curtis Fuller would enhance any material, of course. And in much more of a supporting role this time, principally providing the nonpareil Afro-Cuban rhythms and backing horns, are Machito and his orchestra. Standout tracks here are the lilting and mysterious-sounding "Bacao" and the zestful opener, "Brazilian Soft Shoe," combining Mann's penchant for Brazilian melody (as a North American jazz pioneer in Brazilian music) and Machito's Afro-Cuban rhythms (likely the first time this was ever attempted).
[Total CD running time: 76:47]
Superlative 24-bit digitally remastered stereo sound (prepare to be wowed!).
20-page booklet with both the original liner notes for both LPs, as well as five pages of brand-new ones; plus thorough musical credits. Some photos too; and the original album art.
The first album, "Kenya" was recorded in December 1957. Despite the presence of Adderley, trumpet player Joe Newman, and the acclaimed percussionists Candido and Carlos "Patato" Valdes, the material lacks the expected energy and vitality. One problem, as the liner notes say, was the over-reliance on "bombastic horns" and the fact that "the tight arrangements and rhythm are fine for ensemble playing but he horn solos fail to communicate the individualism and passion one expects from jazz."
The second album, "With Flute To Boot" was is notable for the fact that all the material was written and arranged by Herbie Mann. Keep in mind that this album was recorded in late 1958, before Mann made a name for himself as a recording artist in his own right. I found the material on this portion of the CD a bit more interesting (the arrangements aren't nearly as overwhelming as on the first album), but lacking the fire and passion that you can hear in the best Afro-Cuban jazz.
Overall, a moderately interesting collection of music, one that may appeal to fans of late 1950s Afro-Cuban jazz and flautists such as Herbie Mann, but don't expect anything groundbreaking.