Alma Rosa
Latin Soul
Candela (

Alma Rosa's Latin Soul is based in the high-energy dance music of the Havana-Miami Cuban axis, but wanders freely, tastefully indulging in a variety of Latin styles. Liner notes are sparse, credits suggesting a French production, and the large instrumental ensemble supports Rosa's light, cheery vocals with enthusiastic precision.

"Color Café" is a dense, rhythmic big-band shuffle reminiscent of Jacqueline Castellanos dance numbers, cha-cha, salsa, and pop elements in evidence, showcasing the smoothness of Rosa's voice on the verses, its power as it stands out amidst backing vocals on the choruses. "Alla Tu" is very different, quiet and acoustic, a cross between trova and nuevo canción, demonstrating the alluring light and open color of Rosa's delivery. Both aspects appear in "Se Busca," which starts with quiet acoustic guitar, picking up pace along with piano, percussion, brass and a mixed chorus, Rosa's vocal adapting nicely as the dynamics of the music change. Fetching overlapping vocals, suggestive of echoes, add stylistic distinction to "Ocanasordi" before it develops into lively salsa, a dancer's challenge with its tightly arranged brass and percussion. "Aqui o Alla" presents Rosa in a jazzy mood, bouncy finger-picked guitar and cool saxophone conjuring sea breezes, palm trees, a Brazilian dream. "Guarapo de Caña" is cool of a different sort, a deliberate beat behind Rosa's vocal, delicate and breathy at the top of her range, punctuated by dramatic staccato brass. Latin Soul is fine summer music, as much at home at an idyllic seaside as on a hopping dance floor. - Jim Foley