Recommended: Ritmos Unidos – “Ritmos Unidos”


Ritmos Unidos - "Ritmos Unidos"An outstanding sophomore release from the Ritmos Unidos ensemble, who masterfully illustrate just how insufficient the tag Latin Jazz really is.  Combining influences of Afro-Caribbean, Cuban, Santeria, Yoruba, Portuguese, and the carnival of Trinidad & Tobago, the varied textures just explode from the speakers with a liveliness that is pretty damn addictive.  Comprised of members from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music and led by percussionist Michael Spiro, this is the kind of album that never gets old because it keeps revealing something new with each listen.

Renditions of Wes Montgomery’s “Road Song” and Wayne Shorter’s “Water Babies” are plenty nifty, but it’s the three-part “Ochun Suite” that is the real winner on this winning album.  It’s an impressive feat the way in which the ensemble bridges the divide between unconventional and traditional while also finding a way to slip in some catchy passages.  Part One of the suite, “Fragments,” expresses different facets of beauty as would a prism reflecting sunlight as it slowly turns in place.  Part Two “Chaweleke” switches between moody and cheerful expressions while riding an inviting groove.  Part Three “Iyese for Ochun” is the exclamation point, delivered direct.

The thing of it is, even with all the different influences and expressions, this album is supremely easy to connect with, and if you’re looking for a good entry point for exploring the general category of Latin Jazz, this is an excellent route to take.

Just a very strong album.

Your album personnel:  Michael Spiro (congas, bata, hand percussion), Jeremy Allen (upright & electric basses), Jamaal Baptiste (piano, keyboards), Joe Galvin (steel pans, bata, hand percussion, background vocals), Pat Harbison (trumpet), Nate Johnson (tenor sax, background vocals), Mike Mixtacki (drums, timbales, bata, lead vocals), Joel Tucker (guitar, tres guitar), and guests:  Wayne Wallace (trombone), Liam Teague (steel pan) and Kevin Bobo (marimba).

Released on Patois Records.

Jazz from the Bloomington, Indiana scene.

Available at:  eMusic | Amazon CD | Amazon MP3



Some of the opening paragraph was used originally in the weekly new jazz releases column I write for eMusic’s Wondering Sound, so here’s some language protecting their rights to the reprinted material as the one to hire me to write about new jazz arrivals to their site…

“New Arrivals Jazz Picks” reprints courtesy of, Inc.
© 2014, Inc.

As always, my sincere thanks to eMusic for the gig.