Stan Getz, Tito Puente, Herb Alpert, others – It’s a Scream How Levine Does the Rhumba (2013)

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At first, this idea of Latin-Jewish music might seem exotic. Who mixes congas and kugels — much less bagels and bongos, right? The truth is, it’s been with us since at least the 1930s and, as even a glancing perusual of this two-disc set’s lineup confirms, there were some very big names involved. For years, they shared common dreams in a new world, lived in adjacent ghettos and suffered similar hardships. Today, they share an often overlooked musical heritage, belatedly showcased here.

It’s a Scream How Levine Does the Rhumba, due November 26, 2013 from the Idelsohn Society, explores this rich musical subset through the music of Stan Getz and Xavier Cugat, of Slim Gaillard and Ray Barretto, of Machito and Herb Alpert, of Eydie Gorme and Eddie Palmieri, of Mongo Santomaria and Carole King, and a dozen more who may have only been truly famous on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, but who now help connect the dots for those who tend to forget — or for those who never knew.

This project could be said to have grown out of a cross-cultural event the Idelsohn Society put on at the Lincoln Center in 2009, called Mazel Tov, Mis Amigos, which featured Arturo O’Farrill’s sextet exploring Yiddish and Latin American songs. O’Farrill has contributed informative new liner notes to this intriguing new set, along with Steve Berlin, saxist and producer with Los Lobos.

Taking its title from Ruth Wallis’ impishly hilarious 1953 single, It’s a Scream connects the dots between Puente and the Jewish pianist who wrote some of his concert staples, between Machito and the legendary Catskills performance spaces, between Alpert’s Tijuana Brass and his own Jewish heritage, between bands led by Palmieri and Santamaria and the talented Jewish sidemen who helped spark their sound.

Sequenced in chronological order, the set is stuffed with mambo-ready delights, cha-cha-cha grooves and sizzling salsa asides — all just as popular in one community, it turns out, as the other. It’s a Scream is as educational as it is fun.

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