Fans of Latin Jazz may have a new favorite CD for their collection. Mark Weinstein’s latest exploration is entitled Con Alma, and features the brilliantly creative work of Mark Levine on piano, bassist Santi Debriano, and percussionists Mauricio Herrera, and Pedrito Martinez. Weinstein’s work on multiple flutes is impressive to say the least, and the line up of tunes is a study in compositional mastery. Con Alma epitomizes the mature handling of great jazz blending the rhythmic, harmonic, and energetic stylings of Latin and African influences.

Starting with the first song “Santi’s Africaleidescope” by bassist Debriano, creativity abounds in the writing and soloing of the CD. “Broadway Local” is a Weinstein original, and flows smoothly through a river of great soloing. Dizzy Gillespie’s “Con Alma” steadily grooves and highlights more of Debriano’s solid playing. Coltrane’s “Crescent” begins slowly giving way to a lively Latin beat, over which Weinstein and Levine contribute beautiful solos. Wayne Shorter’s “Fee Fi Fo Fum” is given the Latin treatment and highlights the percussive prowess of Herrera and Martinez. “Evidence” by T. Monk is rhythmically complex, but again, the soloing here is outstanding. Levine contributed “La Coneja Loca”, and it speaks volumes of the pianist’s style and taste. Weinstein plays bass flute on the Bobby Hutcherson composition “Gotcha”, and creates a great effect when doubled with Debriano’s bass. “Soul-Leo” is by the amazing Mulgrew Miller, and as if to pay tribute to a fellow pianist, Levine takes a very tasty solo. “Monte Adentro” by Valle, and Victor Young’s “Stella by Starlight” round out the CD, and offer more great soloing particularly by the Herrera and Martinez.

Con Alma is one of many Latin tinged contributions by Mark Weinstein. His history with Afro-Cuban music goes back to 1967 with his Cuban Roots album, and more recently Cuban Roots Revisited from 2001, and many more. Weinstein is the real deal and has once again called on some of the finest musicians to make a truly fine collection of Latin jazz winners. Highly recommended.

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