NOVA VIDA: ‘Ritmo Da Vida’ (CBI Recordings)

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After his critically lauded 2022 album Firebird lit up dancefloors, producer and Acid Jazz pioneer Chris Bangs returns fronting an excellent Latin jazz group called Nova Vida, serving up a cache of stylish reimagined cover versions. Championed by tastemaker DJs like Gilles Peterson and Perry Louis, Ritmo Da Vida (which translates to “Rhythm of Life”) begins in fine style track with a lovely take on Jose Feliciano’s ‘Affirmation,’ a tune that guitar maestro George Benson reworked for his killer album Breezin’ in the ‘70s. Bangs’ new version features tasteful fretwork by a guitarist simply listed in the credits as Tayh. The track is funky and fluid, setting the tone for an album whose warm summery vibe and sun-kissed grooves should chase away any lingering winter blues as Spring gets ever nearer.

The track that’s been getting all the attention from DJs is a reinvention of Milton Nascimento’s ‘Empty Faces (Vera Cruz),’ which receives a makeover defined by singer Astro Deniese’s ethereal vocals soaring over a gorgeous galloping samba groove. A different female singer, the sultry-voiced Sofia Carrique, fronts a tasty Latin-infused retread of ‘Stormy,’ a 1968 smash for the US group Classics IV, and also appears on a retread of the Gerry & The Pacemakers’ much-covered weepie, ‘Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying,’ transfigured into a head-nodding mid-tempo groove. In a surprise but pleasing move, Bangs and his cohorts put an uptempo spin on Todd Rundgren’s smoochy 1977 ballad ‘Love Is The Answer.’ Another commendable revamp is the band’s current single, a succulent remake of Everything But the Girl’s ‘Each And Every One,’ featuring Sarah’s beguiling vocals. Overall, Ritmo da Vida is a delightful collection of percolating Latin grooves – and it’s guaranteed to move the dancing feet while bringing much-needed summer warmth.

(CW) 4/5