Album Remarks & Appraisals:
Latin jazz king, Arturo Sandoval returns with a stunningly sophisticated and elegant record named after his newest nightclub in Miami. Like the club, Rumba Palace displays plenty of fire, featuring ten new compositions that highlight the celebrated trumpeter's Latin side. Arturo Sandoval is the king of Latin jazz and one of the world's most dynamic performers. The Cuban trumpet virtuoso has won four GRAMMY Awards, six Billboard Awards and an Emmy Award. Sandoval was a founding member of the band Irakere and later worked with Dizzy Gillespie. After defecting to the United States in 1990, his dramatic life story was made into a movie. On May 22, 2007, Telarc releases Sandoval's 28th recording, Rumba Palace.
"Recording technology advances offer jazz musicians the choice between documenting a live performance and creating a product. The ability to record a solo several times means that musicians can produce exactly what they hear in their heads, albeit at the expense of spontaneity. In some cases, this can result in a finely tuned jazz release that sounds crystal clear. On the other hand, jazz musicians can abuse this technology, resulting in highly produced instrumental pop albums. Arturo Sandoval's Rumba Palace walks that line, and too often strays into the territory of overproduction.
Several technical issues blur the line between musicianship and commercial intention. The music is arranged for Latin big band, yet wind players overdub themselves several times to create the illusion of a large ensemble. Sandoval not only plays first trumpet, he also plays many of the supporting parts; the same process is used to record the trombones and saxophones. The resultantly thick texture becomes muddy through synthesized horn sounds added into the mix. "Peaceful and "Having Fun sound tailor-made for the smooth jazz crowd due to the ever-present synthesized pads and funk backbeats. These elements make for an uneven sound and an unbalanced feel.
Despite the production issues, the ensemble's wealth of musicianship creates several outstanding moments. "El Huracan del Caribe is a top-notch piece of Timba, so blistering hot that you can't help but dance. "A Gozar provides jazz harmonies for the big band sections as well as a repeated montuno for Sandoval's lip-splitting high note solos and vocal improvisations. The brass and saxophones syncopate rhythmic melodies on "Nouveau Cha Cha, finding a strong balance between jazz and Latin tradition. The rhythm changes stucture and bop-ish melodic lines on "Guarachando meld into a solid piece of Latin jazz. Sandoval's beautiful tone drives a softer groove on "Rumba Palace, also featuring a strong Fender Rhodes solo from Tony Perez. These moments save the album, creating several memorable highlights.
The shining musical moments are the most frustrating part of Rumba Palace - they show the musicians' hidden potential. The rhythm section contains some of Miami's strongest Cuban musicians that, left unrestrained, can light a fire under any band. Sandoval has prodigious musical skills as a trumpeter, a composer, and a bandleader. An all-out blowing session would bring out the best in these guys - it would balance the musical depth of jazz and the entertainment value of dance music. Rumba Palace contains a hint of this balance, but it would have been a bolder statement if the musicians' skills were not so buried in the production." -AllAboutJazz
"The influence of Latin jazz on adult contemporary and smooth jazz composition and recording cannot be over estimated. It is unfortunate that, more often than not, contemporary and smooth jazz fails to treat the Latin element with the necessary respect. It takes a sharply recorded example like Rumba Palace to bring the listener back into the fold of true Latin jazz in its entire splendor.
Promotional concerns depict Rumba Palace as Cuban expatriate trumpeter Arturo Sandoval showing his "Latin side. Sandoval is equally capable in all subclasses of jazz as well as classical music, but it could be suggested that his "Latin side is his most pronounced, making such rhetoric redundant. Sandoval met and toured with Dizzy Gillespie eventually seeking asylum in the United States and as a result, we are better for it.
"El Huracan Del Caribe is typical of the recording with that funky, sexy descending piano and Spanish vocal. Sandoval shows off his own chops and those of his sharp, brass-heavy band. His charts are razor sharp and his use of solo and chorus vocals comes off famously, leaving the listener wanting much more of this music.
If Rhumba Palace has any problems it is because it is a wee bit too slickly produced. It captures perfect the humid, infectious Latin rhythms, but it captures them perhaps too perfectly. That rhythm, that rhythm, is the piquant ingredient that increases the music's communicability toward radioactivity. The appeal of this music is the same as that of Shakira's Spanish language recordings. The crossover appeal is that potent." -AllAboutJazz
Down Beat (p.80) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "He mingles rippling horns with sticky rumba rhythms, the sing-song chanting of his homeland, speedy bebop riffs and brassy big-band blasts."
Global Rhythm (Publication) (p.55) - "The biggish band is consistently tight and swinging, but it's Sandoval's chops, undiminished by age, that are the selling point here."
Personnel: Arturo Sandoval (vocals, trumpet, bass trumpet, flugelhorn, bata); Arturo Sandoval; Armando Gola (bass instrument); Alexis "Pututi" Arce (bata); Cheito Quinones, Sr. (background vocals); Felipe Lamoglia (vocals, saxophone, tenor saxophone); Jason Carder (trumpet); Dante Luciani, Dana Teboe (trombone); Tony Perez (piano, keyboards); Tomás Cruz (bata, percussion).
Recording information: Turi's Music Recording Studio, Coral Gables, FL.
Photographer: Michael Kane.
Arranger: Felipe Lamoglia.
There's something about Cuban music that makes you wonder, whenever you listen to it, why it is that you spend so much of your life doing things other than listening to it. And the same goes for the great Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval -- whenever you hear him do something other than play Cuban music, you wonder why on Earth he's doing whatever that other thing is. On his latest album (named after a nightclub he owns in Miami), he gratefully spends most of his time focusing on what he and his band do best: huge horn arrangements, courtesy of Felipe Lamoglia, that not only amaze you with their complexity but also tickle your fancy with their melodic sweetness; richly multi-layered Cuban rhythms; call-and-response vocals; and an irrepressibly joyful ambience. Sandoval is equally impressive as a singer and a trumpeter, and the mix of vocal and instrumental numbers is one of the most enjoyable aspects of this fine album. Things only bog down when they start wearing their sophistication and complexity too heavily: "Having Fun" feels more abstract and musicianly than musical, and "21st Century" sounds like a tone poem trying too hard to evoke a mood rather than a piece of music enjoyable for its own sake. Overall, though, this album is a joy and a pleasure. ~ Rick Anderson