On paper, "Serengeti" has a diverse source of compositions penned by Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner, Joe Henderson, Stanley Turrentine as well as pieces from Cuban musicians, Tony Martinez and Jose Luis Cortes, and Brazilian Jose Miguel. By ear, the music has a generally uniform dance hall Afro-Cuban beat but without the horns. Some of the pieces can be heavily percussive, occasionally to the point of monotony.
While the persistent rhythm section can be overbearing, it is offset by pianist Mark Levine's playing which is crystalline clear and jewel shining bright. The strength of "Serengeti" is Levine's work that has touches of Bud Powell and Chucho Valdes. Levine's shows flashes of brilliance on Cortes' "Danzon Rio Sumida." It is a sublime rendition that is both intricate and delicate, like a swish of a lithe dancer's shimmering tight skirt. The Martinez piece, "Cha Cha Cha Para Mi Alma," is an absolute show stopping dance that combines Levine's beautiful precision that is fully in step with his percussive Latin Tinge. Stanley Turrentine's classic "Sugar" is an extravagantly rich excursion that seamlessly combines Brazilian beat with New York bop.
"Serengeti" has occasional flaws but overall it is a stunning piece of work.