Latin dynamite on Soul Jazz

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Various – Nu Yorica Roots! The Rise of Latin Music in NY City in the 1960s (Soul Jazz Records)
Various – New York Latin Hustle! (Soul Jazz Records)
Various – Nu Yorica! Culture Clash in NY City: Experiments in Latin Music 1970-77 (Soul Jazz Records)

LIke, I suspect, many music fans of a certain age, my earliest are memories are becoming vague – more impressions than anything specific or precise.

No such problem with my discovery and deep, deep near-simultaneous plunge into the blessed waters of blues, old-time country and bluegrass, and soon thereafter all the various offshoots and related genres.

All that remains extremely vivid in my mind – though just how accurate or real those memories are is open to question.

How and when Latin music came to be part of my musical landscape is, however, a mystery to me – though it’s always seemed to be thereabouts.

Never as my main thing, but never far away.

From Jelly Roll Morton through to Dizzy Gillespie and even Blue Note, the Latin thing is a big thing in jazz – but my jazz jones is relatively young: maybe 25 years and counting.

So that doesn’t explain it.

In any case, my Latin leanings have become more pronounced in recent years as I have hoovered up Latin or related grooves from the US, Brazil, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Haiti, Cuba, Colombia and more.

But nothing has had the same momentous wall-to-wall impact on me as these mind-shredding compilations from Soul Jazz Records, the first a single disc, the other two doubles.

Here’s the thing about Soul Jazz anthologies – they cover a lot of history.

But they don’t profess to be comprehensive.

But what they deliver is impeccably chosen line-ups of tunes, each one a giant.

No filler, all killer, as the saying goes.



The three albums overlap and there’s many famous names involved – Tito Puente, Ray Barretto, Machito, Eddie Palmieri and many more .

But they are individually themed as well.

On the first album – Roots – there’s a bunch of more poppish stuff that wouldn’t sound out of place alongside Richie Valens, Los Lobos or the Young Rascals.

The second – Hustle – finds a heap of stuff that has a disco throb.

Much to my surprise, I find the disco beat combined with very human hands on drums utterly enthralling.

The 10 minutes of La Charanga 76’s “No Nos Pararan” is by no means taxing!

As per its subtitle, the third in the trilogy – Culture Clash – is the most far out.

It has heaps of wah-wah guitar and synth, many rock, funk and jazz influences, and longer track times.

A good argument could be made that these three releases constitute a perfect ready-made Latin collection.


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