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ALBUM REVIEW / JAZZ

Sunny Sounds From Caribbean : CARIBBEAN JAZZ PROJECT "Island Stories" Heads Up ** 1/2

March 26, 1997|DON HECKMAN

The combination of Dave Samuel's marimba and vibes with Andy Narell's steel pans and Paquito D'Rivera's saxes and clarinet makes for an unusually sunny kind of jazz, rich with buoyant rhythms and catchy melodies. D'Rivera, in particular, sounds in fine form, especially on clarinet, which he plays with an unusually appealing warmth and enthusiasm. And the front-line leaders of the Project are supported by ebullient rhythm accompaniment from pianist Dario Eskenazi, bassist Oscar Stagnaro, drummer Mark Walker and percussionist Pernell Saturnino.

In fact, the music is at its best when the rhythm section is cooking, the steel pans and the vibes are blending and D'Rivera--a world-class improviser--has a chance to stretch. On other occasions, however, the compositions become a bit too structured, allowing the easygoing Caribbean energy that is the heart and soul of this group to slip away.

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