Alfredo “Chocolate” Armenteros, Rompiendo Hielo!

Charles Farrell

By Charles Farrell

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Rompiendo Hielo! translates to "breaking the ice," and there's certainly truth in advertising for this well-heated program. Chocolate is the name by which Cuban trumpeter Alfredo Armenteros has made his fame and fortune (he was once mistaken for featherweight boxer Kid Chocolate), and it's a delight to find his work presented on eMusic. With his titanic tone, emotionally direct approach to material and complete technical assurance, Chocolate has been a stalwart session player for fifty-plus years (with Beny More, Machito and Nat King Cole, among others.) Through Sergio George's arrangements, Rompiendo Hielo! recreates classic mid-1950s Cuban-jazz that starts with infectious percussion grooves and piano montunas, adds full-bodied sax charts, and uses those as the underpinning for the soloists (all good ones, with Chocolate himself as the standout). Mario Rivera's distinctive baritone sax contributes to providing funky ballast to the tunes.

The man they call Chocolate breaks the ice.

"Mack the Knife" may be an unlikely vehicle for a Latin album, but it's a beauty — two-and-a-half minutes of wistful trumpet and bongo before the band kicks in. Sergio George brings the classic "Siboney" in with reharmonized piano before Chocolate soars over a modified rumba. And all hands get in a good workout on "Por Ella."

Rompiendo Hielo! is very easy on the ears. It's the perfect album if you've got a mambo partner or want something with a little kick coming out of your speakers.