With the album New Horizons, the Caribbean Jazz Project has been reborn, and the new band boasts a sound as clear and inviting as a white sandy beach disappearing into an azure sea. With its markedly different instrumentation, the new version of CJP has little in common with the old one, unless you count brilliant musicianship, a joyous sound and free flowing rhythmic dexterity coupled with probing improvisation.
Marimba and vibes virtuoso Dave Samuels, the sole holdover from the original CJP, knew the concept was too exciting to let it fade away when Paquito D'Rivera and Andy Narell moved on to new projects. While working on a tribute to Cal Tjader, he did some playing with guitar hero Steve Khan, flute master Dave Valentin and veteran Latin jazz bassist John Benitez. The chemistry was so combustible that he realized he just might have found a way to refashion the band along lines he was already contemplating.
The sextet's innovative instrumentation also draws upon Cal Tjader's old quintet, which featured Mongo Santamaria and Willie Bobo on percussion. For CJP, Samuels recruited the superb conguero Richie Flores and Venezuelan-born Robert Vilera on timbales. The absence of a trap set is one of the reasons the band's rhythmic textures feel so open and transparent. The band recorded New Horizons after a series of rigorous rehearsals and a four-night stand at Birdland in New York.