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Contemporary Latin Jazz


Journal Newspapers - LISTEN UP
By Louis King

Three suburban-looking white guys start a jazz band called Ritmo Junction, claiming to base their songs on "authentic Cuban rhythms." Could this be some kind of salsified Spinal Tap, or are these guys for real? Well, one listen to the Maryland-based group's debut, self-titled effort ought to convince even the most skeptical of the latter.

The beauty and power behind most Latino, and certainly Cuban, music are derived from its large ensemble format, in which trumpets and saxophones vie with congas and timbales to generate a maelstrom to which even the most tempo-challenged can move their hips. Ritmo Junction recognizes this.

The "band" is actually a core of three players: keyboardist Stuart Ridgway, guitarist Rob Teegarden, and drummer Chris Webster, augmented by at least the three-piece Habañero Horns and usually a handful of brass blowers and percussionists. For relative unknowns, Ridgway, Teegarden, and Webster obviously have friends in high places, as the list of luminaries featured as soloists on each cut attests.

Marshall Keys, Tim Eyermann, Frankie Addison, David Sanchez, Larry Seals, Tom Williams and Brian Lynch all lend their talents to various outstanding cuts on the disc, with Addison's soprano saxophone on the funky "You'd Think" and Lynch's trumpet on "La Taberna" two of the most noteworthy. In perhaps the ultimate testament to Ritmo Junction's networking prowess, Spyro Gyra bassist Scott Ambush provides the bottom line on every cut but one.

For the record, the last song, "Pocket Change," is a trio-only snippet that proves the band can be-bop on command, and isn't a one-trick pony. Combined with the informative and not overly scholarly liner notes, the 14 songs on Ritmo Junction's debut should provide a nice primer for anyone who's wanted to head to an all-nighter in Adams Morgan but didn't know where to begin.
Ritmo Junction will perform Sept. 26th at Latin Jazz Alley, 1721 Columbia Rd N.W., Washington. Cover is $5. Call the club at (202) 328-6190 or the band at (301) 299-5650 for details.