Following a long-held (and arguably outdated) Cuban recording tradition, Cuban flute player Orlando "Maraca" Valle and his orchestra's previous albums have included a potpourri of styles from free-flowing Afro-jazz to traditional danzón as well as the energetic dance club son that is the band's true domain. Maraca may be partial to more esoteric jazz improvisation, but it's when he and his musicians put their conservatory training in the service of a good party that they shine as one of the island's most solid bands today.

As the name implies, The Best of Maraca's Bailables compiles tracks from the band's previous three discs and two live concert tracks to create the group's most consistently exciting album to date. Maraca crafts his upbeat music with an ear for export, penning accessible arrangements that various generations of Cubans, Latins, Anglos, and Europeans can sink their feet into. Though songs like "Descarga Total" feature the driving percussion and punchy brass of timba, Maraca's orchestra usually keeps it loose and welcoming. The layered production by Maraca and Jimmy Maslon showcases individual musicians rather than creating a wall of sound and highlights the crowd-pleasing talents of vocalist Wilfredo Campa, a master of the ecstatic Cuban call-and-response.

Incorporating a variety of Latin and Caribbean rhythms but solidly based on son, Maraca follows the lead of universally popular bandleaders like Beny Moré, Perez Prado, and sonero Adalberto Alvarez. Maraca's Bailables is nothing more than Cuban-style easy listening, which is to say it's irresistible dance music supported by a serious level of musicianship. This album proves why international audiences can always count on Cuban musicians for a good time.

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Judy Cantor