"New Horizons" is so named because the Caribbean Jazz Project has undergone a lot of personnel changes since its last release. Gone are reedman Paquito D' Rivera and steel drummer Andy Narell. New recruits include guitarist Steve Khan, flutist Dave Valentin and bassist John Benitez. The result? Different beach, same ocean.
Vibist and bandleader Dave Samuels has made sure that the level of musicianship remains impressive and the band's festive themes offer something more than just an idyllic brand of mood music.
While D'Rivera's absence is felt, Khan's sophisticated harmonic perspective offers plenty of compensation on his own pieces, "Descarga Canelon" and "Charanga Si Si." The latter tune is also an infectious example of how this piano-less ensemble can create a rhythmic weave that's at once percussive and flowing.
Credit that to the handiwork of percussionists Richie Flores and Robert Vilera, who, along with Samuels, are also responsible for making "A Night In Tunisia" sound as if it's truly worthy of yet another reprise.
Even so, the album's most alluring melody easily stands out. It's Alec Wilder's "Moon and Sand," which gives Khan (switching to acoustic guitar), Valentin and Samuels a chance to wax lyrical over the rhythm section's textured and softly undulating rhythms.
Like the recordings of the late Cal Tjader, Samuels's template for this band, there's almost always something interesting lurking beneath the music's obvious surface appeal.
Appearing Saturday at Blues Alley.
To hear a free Sound Bite from the Caribbean Jazz Project, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8123. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)