Various Artists album

90 ͦ Degrees of Shade

(Soul Jazz)

Layout 1Islands foster not only unique fauna, but distinctive musical forms. This double-album compilation, subtitled Hot Jump-Up Island Sounds From the Caribbean, covers the vibrant output of Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and more – all sharing the collision of European, African and indigenous cultures – during the 1950s and ’60s.

Given the musical variety the quality is remarkably consistent, beginning with the stunning voice and improvising flair of Eloise Lewis offering the irresistible invitation to Come To The Caribbean. Cuba’s Cachao adds African elements to danzon to create mambo, and compatriot Jose Fajardo’s supple charanga band includes strings and flute. Trinidad’s Duke of Iron is one of several masters of the Caribbean’s most amusing idiom, calypso, while Count Lasher may have called his band the Calypsonians, but they were actually playing mento, the lively Jamaican variant. Haiti’s Guy du Rosier’s singing is as suave as his name, and although Tito Puente was born in New York his music championed his Puerto Rican heritage to thrilling effect, with Swingin’ Mambo a percussion classic.