After a number of adventuresome jazz albums on Blue Note, the Miami-based trumpeter returns to his pre-Irakere roots on this disc. These original songs bear an Afro-Cuban feel not far from Buena Vista Social Club turf, with Sandoval even sporadically abandoning the mouthpiece to sing. His trademark high-register squeal is mostly absent here, but a fine example appears on one of the album's best tracks, "El Huracán del Caribe," also featuring the vocals of Cheito Quiñones Sr.
Sandoval veers from the dance floor on the syncopated "21st Century," which features complex solos from saxophonist Felipe Lamoglia and bassist Armando Gola, both members of the touring band.
Another notable moment is "Guaranchando," in which Sandoval steps aside to allow percussionists Alexis "Puti" Arce and Tomás Cruz to show their chops. On the beautiful ballad "Peaceful," the band scales back to a quartet (saxophone, keys, trumpet and bass), which gives Sandoval an opportunity to display his softer side.
Rumba Palace is thoroughly unpretentious. Sandoval shows he doesn't have anything to prove, allowing listeners to just kick back and enjoy the music. Jazz purists who expect him to constantly break musical barriers might be slightly disappointed, but listeners approaching the disc with an open mind are guaranteed to have a great time.
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