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The Latin Bit (1962)

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Carlos "Patato" Valdes

Grant Green, being known mainly as a soul-jazz guitarist, eventually gravitated into the popular boogaloo sound, a derivation of Latin music. The Latin Bit is the natural bridge to that next phase, though a bit premature for most in 1961-1963, even relative to the subsequent bossa nova craze. Pianist Johnny Acea, long an underrated jazzman, is the nucleus of this session, grounding it with witty chops, chordal comping, and rhythmic meat. The Latino rhythm section of drummer Willie Bobo and conga player Carlos "Patato" Valdes personify authentic, seasoned spice, while at times the chekere sound of Garvin Masseaux makes the soup too thick. At its collective best, the group presents a steady, serene, and steamy "Besame Mucho" and the patient, slow, slinky, sultry "Tico Tico." Just a small step below is a classy take on Charlie Parker's "My Little Suede Shoes," a premier jazz bebop (emphasis) tune with a Latin undertow and Green's tiniest staccato phrases, slightly marred by the overbearing constant chekere, but still classic. "Mambo Inn" is played inaccurately, but forgivable. "Mama Inez" ranks high for its calypso-infused happy feeling and wry stop-start lines. The straight-ahead hard bopper "Brazil" and lone soul-jazz tune, "Blues for Juanita," display the single-note acumen that made Green's style instantly recognizable. Tacked on the end are two selections with pianist Sonny Clark and tenor saxophonist Ike Quebec. While Clark is not known for Latin or soul-jazz, he's quite good, while Quebec, who emphasized Brazilian rhythms in the last years of his life, plays hip secondary harmonies on the bossa nova-flavored "Granada," but is in the complete background and a non-factor on the pop tune "Hey There." This CD always yielded mixed results for staunch fans of Green, but a revisit shows it to be a credible effort, even if slightly flawed in part. The Latin Bit was remastered by Rudy Van Gelder in 2007.] ~ Michael G. Nastos