Columbia/Legacy's four albums celebrating pivotal artists in the history of Latin music in this country are, simply put, a real treasure.

XAVIER CUGAT
The Original Latin Dance King
COMPILATION PRODUCER: Jerry Rappaport
ORIGINAL PRODUCER: Xavier Cugat
Columbia/Legacy CK 85341

VARIOUS ARTISTS
Ritmo de la Noche/Rhythm of the Night-The Very Best of Latin Jazz
COMPILATION PRODUCER: Jerry Rappaport
ORIGINAL PRODUCERS: various
Columbia/Legacy CK 63408

MACHITO & HIS AFRO-CUBAN ORCHESTRA
Mambo Mucho Mambo-The Complete Columbia Masters
COMPILATION PRODUCER: Jerry Rappaport
ORIGINAL PRODUCER: Machito
Columbia/Legacy CK 62097


Columbia/Legacy's four albums celebrating pivotal artists in the history of Latin music in this country are, simply put, a real treasure. Not only because of the quality of the music included in these collections but also because the discs serve as a reminder that Latin music is not simply today's fad—it's the result of decades of phenomenal musical groundwork that has too often been forgotten in the current flurry of interest. The power of the original big Latin dance band of the '40s and '50s is captured here in the work of Xavier Cugat, whose music has often been overlooked in favor of his legendary look (remember the maracas?) and wife No. 3 (Charo). Featuring a slew of his vocalists, including the legendary Migelido Valdés and Tito Rodríguez, Cugat's 26-track collection of mambos and other dance tracks kicks off with the original version of "Babalú." More big band, of a different sort, comes courtesy of Machito's more Afro-Cuban and jazz-oriented sound, the product of his work with Mario Bauza, also featured in this compilation. While it would be unfair to rate any of these discs above the other, the 13-track Fania All-Stars is particularly compelling, gathering, as it does, some of the most extraordinary salsa recordings ever achieved, from the big band/Latin jazz/Motown blend in such tracks as "Picadillo" and "Foofer Soofer" to the use of bilingual lyrics and such classics as "Juan Pachanga" (with a young Ruben Blades on vocals). The sign-off is Ritmo de la Noche/Rhythm of the Night, featuring Mongo Santamaría's historic recording of "Watermelon Man" and Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Stone Flower." All essential discs for those remotely serious about Latin music.—LC