Rumba Club didn't just hop on the latest Latin music bandwagon. The nine-member ensemble has been playing spirited jazz and salsa around the Baltimore area for over a decade. And with any luck, Espiritista
, their fine new release on the Palmetto label, will help win them more than a regional following.
With a three-horn front line and four percussionists, plus piano andbass, Rumba Club offers a funky, energetic blend of Afro-Caribbean and straight-ahead jazz that sounds about equal parts Tito Puente and Art Blakey. The group shows off its modern jazz chops on covers of two Wayne Shorter compositions ("Children of the Night" and "Infant Eyes"), plus a lively take on Cedar Walton's "Mosaic." They get deep into a deep Latin-soul groove on Chu Chu Valdes' "Cha Cha Cha," and breath new life into the familiar Ellington classic, "Things Ain't What They Used To Be."
Several group members also show promise as composers, most notably trumpeter Alexander Pope Norris who contributes two hard-driving numbers that wouldn't sound out of place in the Jazz Messengers songbook. Album producer Andy Gonzalez lends his prodigious talents on bass to several numbers including an exhilarating collaboration with percussionist Jim Hannah on the title tune.
Rumba Club is a Latin jazz group that's serious about jazz, but never sacrifices the dance rhythms at the root of all Afro-Caribbean music. They've made a vibrant, entertaining album that, if you're not careful, may just get you up on your feet.