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Members include Craig Considine, trombone, percussion; Orlando Cotto (born in Puerto Rico), percussion, marimba; Jim Hannah, percussion, vocals; Paul Hannah, saxophone, flute; Rudy Morales, percussion, vocals; Josh Schwartzman, bass, piano; Sam "Segundo" Turner, percussion. Addresses: Record company--Palmetto Records, 71 Washington Place #1A, New York, NY 10011, website: http://www.palmetto-records.com. Management--Michael Cherigo, 3039 North Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD 21218. Website--Rumba Club Official Website: http://www.rumbaclub.com.
As the group's seven consecutive Washington (D.C.) Area Music Association Awards for Best Latin Group demonstrate, Rumba Club has established a reputation as one of the East Coast's preeminent Latin jazz acts. Founded in 1986 and comprised of a mix of musicians trained at some of the world's leading music institutions, Rumba Club first made a name for itself as an energetic, yet musically exacting, live act. After nine years together, the group recorded its first album, Desde La Capital, with highly regarded Latin composer, arranger, and bassist Andy Gonzalez. In its subsequent three albums, Rumba Club has become a favorite of music critics. Its 2001 release, Radio Mundo, was hailed as "a recording of the highest caliber" by Latin Jazz Club reviewer Erik Chico Manqueros, who added that the group have "reached a level of excellence that most groups strive for."
The three founding members of Rumba Club--Josh Schwartzman, Craig Considine, and Jim Hannah--brought together diverse musical experiences when they formed the group in 1986 in Baltimore, Maryland. Schwartzman, a bassist and keyboardist, studied jazz at Towson State University in Baltimore and continued his studies at the Creative Music School in New York and at the Art Ensemble in Chicago. Trombonist and percussionist Craig Considine played with a number of diverse bands whose styles included Dixieland, blues, funk, and rock 'n' roll. Jim Hannah, a percussionist and vocalist, was first inspired to take up the drums as a Led Zeppelin and Santana fan; he later studied percussion instruments that included the conga drum, timbales, and marimba.
The rest of the lineup rounded out Rumba Club's Latin jazz sound. Orlando Cotto played the congas as a child and later studied at the Conservatory of Music in his native Puerto Rico. He later took graduate courses as a marimbist at the renowned Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, and studied at the Indiana University School of Music as well. Alto saxophonist and flutist Paul Hannah came from a more jazz-oriented background, including work with Jimmy McGriff and Freddie Hubbard; his experience, however, also included sessions with mambo great Tito Puente and jazz flutist Nestor Torres. Rudy Morales, a conga player, percussionist, and vocalist, studied Afro-Cuban music at American University in Washington, D.C. while playing with several Latin music groups around the capital. Sam "Segundo" Turner, a percussionist specializing in the congas and bongo drums, had perhaps the most extensive professional experience of any band member. In addition to appearing as a guest musician on dozens of albums, Turner also made numerous television and concert appearances. Active as both an educator and musician, he also received the Peace Award from the United Nations for his work.
Despite the band members' diverse backgrounds, they chose an unusual time and place to establish themselves as a Latin jazz ensemble. Although Baltimore had started to revitalize its waterfront as a tourist site in the 1980s, the city was often considered a cultural backwater in contrast to nearby Washington, D.C. With New York City not far to the northeast, many musicians departed for the opportunities there as well. Also, the mainstream popularity of Latin-themed music was several years away. Although Gloria Estefan had a number of hits with the Miami Sound Machine, the dedicated fan base for Latin music was still concentrated in the hot spots of Miami, Los Angeles, and New York City. Considering their years of professional training and work, however, Rumba Club's members took a long-range view of their prospects for success. As founder Schwartzman joked in an interview with the Baltimore City Paper in 1999, after the band had established a national following: "We've already been through a couple of Latin resurgences. When the Mambo Kings movie came out [in 1992], people were asking, 'Does this mean you'll really take off?' A few years before that, there was a world-beat resurgence, and there was the lambada thing." His bandmate Considine added, "Even the macarena caused a little ripple."
One of the advantages of slowly building its profile in Baltimore, however, was that the band could perfect its sound in the clubs of the Baltimore-Washington corridor. In 1989 the group was named by Baltimore Magazine as the area's best salsa/swing band. By 1993 the band won the first of its Washington Area Music Association Awards for Best Latin Group, a feat that it would duplicate for each of the next seven years. The group also added a number of other local music awards to its list of achievements. Baltimore City Paper named Rumba Club the best non-rock band in 1995, an honor that it gave to the group again in 1997.
Rumba Club did not enter the recording studio until the 1995 production of Desde La Capital, released on New York City-based Palmetto Records. For its producer, the group scored a coup when it enlisted talented bassist and arranger Andy Gonzalez, who had played with Latin music giants such as Tito Puente and Eddie Palmieri and jazz great Dizzy Gillespie. "I was drawn to the group because it showcases some very talented percussionists from Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic playing with these top-notch jazz performers," Gonzalez remarked in a profile listed on the band's website. Gonzalez expanded on the concept of Latin-jazz fusion in an interview with the Baltimore City Paper: "Latin jazz is a marriage of two cultures--jazz improvisation and Latin rhythms. What makes that marriage work is a dedication to both musics and how they fit together." The interaction of the Latin-jazz producer and musicians worked well, and Desde La Capital helped Rumba Club expand its concert schedule to include a nationwide audience.
The release of Desde La Capital and the group's sophomore effort, Mamacita!, in 1997 continued to burnish the band's reputation among both Latin and jazz fans. Mamacita! even climbed into the top ten on Latin album charts in cities such as San Francisco and Miami. With the success came a welcome dilemma for the group as they found that both audiences were welcoming its music. "We're always riding that line between Latin and jazz," said Jim Hannah in an interview with the Baltimore City Paper. Other band members joked that they played two kinds of concert dates, one for those who came to dance and another for those who came to listen to a more thoughtful, jazz-style concert. Typically, the results were impressive; one Los Angeles Times reviewer described a Rumba Club concert as a "spicy mixture" with "occasionally lush, frequently dissonant jazz harmonies and rhythmic references embracing everything from rumba and salsa to cha-cha and the Puerto Rican bomba."
For the group's third album, Espiritista, producer Gonzalez urged its members to bring their own compositions into the recording studio. On the group's first two albums, a majority of material consisted of Latin and jazz standards, with a few original compositions thrown into the mix. On Espiritista, however, Gonzalez "insisted" upon more original material, as he told the Baltimore City Paper, "Because they're good writers, good arrangers, and excellent musicians. I wanted them to craft more of an identity for themselves." With Gonzalez's encouragement, the band produced its most acclaimed release to date. The Descarga.com website called the album "near perfect," while All About Jazz labeled it "a vibrant, entertaining album that, if you're not careful, may just get you up on your feet." The 52nd Street website echoed the sentiments, with a review by J. Robert Bragonier calling it "a winner, bigtime," and Rumba Club "a dance band with swing, verve, polish, and confidence."
Rumba Club released its fourth album on Palmetto Records, Radio Mundo, in 2001. Calling the album "their strongest yet," a Latin Jazz Club reviewer applauded the way Rumba Club utilized "hard hitting Latin rhythms mixed with a strong be-bopish jazz to create a definitive sound all their own." Although most of Rumba Club's members continued to play with other lineups in their spare time, the band headlines small jazz and Latin music venues across the United States. After 15 years in existence, the band had enlarged its fan base far beyond its Baltimore origins.
by Timothy Borden
Rumba Club's Career
Group formed in Baltimore, MD, 1986; won first of seven consecutive Washington (D.C.) Area Music Association Awards for Best Latin Group, 1993; released first album, Desde La Capital, 1995; released Radio Mundo, 2001.
Rumba Club's Awards
Washington (D.C.) Area Music Association Award, Best Latin Group, 1993-99.
- Selected discography
- Desde La Capital Palmetto, 1995.
- Mamacita! Palmetto, 1997.
- Espiritista Palmetto, 1999.
- Radio Mundo Palmetto, 2001.
- Baltimore City Paper, November 3, 1999.
- Los Angeles Times, August 25, 2001.
- All About Jazz, http://www.allaboutjazz.com/REVIEWS/R1299_200.HTM (December 19, 2001).
- Descarga.com, http://www.descarga.com/cgi-bin/db/17782.10?UWdGQAuE;;182 (December 19, 2001).
- 52nd Street, http://www.52ndstreet.com/reviews/latin/rumba_club.html (December 19, 2001).
- Latin Jazz Club, http://www.latinjazzclub.com/RumbaClub.html (December 22, 2001).
- Palmetto Records, http://www.palmetto-records.com (December 19, 2001).
- Ratty Music, http://www.rattaymusic.de/releases/Palmetto/RumbaClub.Radio.html (December 22, 2001).
- Rumba Club Official Website, http://www.rumbaclub.com/rcband.htm (December 19, 2001).
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