Latin-jazz percussionist Sammy Figueroa balances the sum of his influences on Imaginary World | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Latin-jazz percussionist Sammy Figueroa balances the sum of his influences on Imaginary World

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Veteran conguero Sammy Figueroa is steeped in the heritage of Latin music (he’s the son of 1940s Puerto Rican bolero singer Charlie Figueroa), but 50 percent of his sound is jazz. In that world, he’s worked with artists such as Miles Davis, Chet Baker, and Sonny Rollins as a sideman, and he’s made his mark on pop as well, providing persuasive percussion behind mainstream artists such as Mariah Carey and Dr. John. But even with all these bona fides in place, Latin percussion is always the backdrop, adding quite a bit to his sound. His most recent release, 2015’s Imaginary World (Savant), sometimes gets too slick, particularly on slower numbers such as “He Didn't Know,” but his band, the Latin Jazz Explosion, picks up steam on the burners, notably “Bittersweet.” In a live setting, thankfully, the group has extra intensity at any tempo.   v

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