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Rhythm of the Americas: Latin Drums, Volume 1 Anyone familiar with Sampleheads' sample CDs knows that they're meticulously recorded. The recently released
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Rhythm of the Americas: Latin Drums, Volume 1Anyone familiar with Sampleheads' sample CDs knows that they're meticulously recorded. The recently released Rhythm of the Americas: Latin Drums, volume 1, (audio CD, $99.95; CD-ROM, $149.95) lives up to that reputation, offering 72 minutes of crisp, consistent performances of popular Cuban and Brazilian rhythms played by drummer Mark Walker. These solid fills, grooves, and hits will lend a spicy flavor to your sampling.

Walker brings a relaxed, authoritative vibe to this effort, perhaps as a result of his work over the past decade with top-notch Latin ensembles including those of Paquito D'Rivera, Michel Camilo, and Claudio Roditi. His confidence and energy are evident throughout the CD.

!Saaaaabor!Latin Drums presents 99 concisely organized tracks, each containing multiple arrangements of a given rhythmic pattern. Samples on this disc range in tempo from 84 to 148 bpm.

The first five track groupings consist of Cuban rhythms-Songo, Funky Songo, Mambo, Cascara, and bell patterns. The Songo and Funky Songo grooves showcase the fusion of folk rhythms (found in traditional styles like rumba) with patterns inspired by the rock and funk that influenced Cuban musicians in the 1970s.

In the Mambo tracks, parts that are typically played on bongos, congas, and timbales are transferred seamlessly to the drum set. The cascara patterns are supporting rhythms that the timbalero plays on the side of a timbale drum during quieter passages. Walker plays cascara patterns on the side of the floor tom and on hi-hat. Variations on common bell patterns round out the first section. Walker's playing is lively and propulsive throughout.

The next three sections cover Brazilian rhythms, including Batucada, Samba, and funky Partido Alto. The Batucada examples evoke Carnaval's vibe with its large percussion ensembles, while the Samba selections have a cool bossa nova sensibility. The Samba section also includes a selection of useful snare and tom fills.

The Partido Alto rhythms sound the least Brazilian but actually come from variations on Samba rhythms. Partido alto (high part) refers to a rhythm practiced by a select group of players in the Escola de Samba, the Brazilian organization that puts on samba parades for Carnaval. The spirit here is loose and adventurous.

Cream of the CropThe CD concludes with a comprehensive "hits" section composed of kick, snare, tom, ride, hi-hat, crash, rim-shot, cross-stick, timbale, and cowbell samples. Flams, ruffs, and rolls are provided for added flexibility. This last section could have been a throwaway; instead, it's one of the CD's highlights, with a great assortment of sounds and dynamics. If you want to construct your own kit on a sampler, this disc will serve you well.

Latin Drums was recorded through a Neve Capricorn digital board into a Pro Tools/24 system, and the production values are fantastic. The documentation is excellent as well, providing detailed information such as a description of the clave's importance and implied presence in all the Cuban rhythms. Each rhythm group is briefly introduced, and a thorough track listing covers all the patterns played and their individual times.

I reviewed the audio-CD version, but Latin Drums is also available as a CD-ROM in Akai, E-mu, Roland, WAV, SampleCell, GigaSampler, and SoundFont formats. Unlike some sample CDs, this collection includes no MIDI files, but you won't miss them. The great playing, wide variety of material, and pristine sound quality make this disc a winner.

Overall EM Rating (1 through 5): 5