OKAY, so Tito Puente, or El Rey ("The King") as he's known in salsa circles, has included his own "Lambada Timbales" on his new album "Goza Mi Timbal." No matter. Even Puente's tribute to the stillborn dance craze (at least stateside) packs an irresistibly festive punch.
Still, it's by no means the album's highlight. That honor could well be divided among the three jazz standards included here -- Sonny Rollins's "Airegin," a brash showcase for trumpet and reeds; Miles Davis's "All Blues," on which the familiar horn-inscribed melody is lightly shaded by Puente's chekere gourd shaker; and Thelonious Monk's "Straight, No Chaser," given a distinctly fresh Afro-Cuban twist here by Puente and fellow percussionist Johnny Rodriguez.
Puente doesn't confine himself to timbals and chekere -- he also plays marimba and vibraphone in a manner that is, somehow, at once vibrant and seductive. But more than any individual, what really makes the album click is a series of colorful and often infectiously percussive arrangements played by a 10-piece band that occasionally sounds almost twice its size.
TITO PUENTE -- "Goza Mi Timbal" (Concord). Appearing Sunday at Baird Auditorium in the National Museum of Natural History.