ORQUESTA RANURA HEATING UP CHICAGO

The dynamic Orquesta Ranura, an eight-piece Afro-Caribbean Latin jazz orchestra, was recently featured at Chicago's newest hip shaking, beat pounding club called Rhythm. Situated in the urban renewal district of the West Loop, and right around the corner from Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Studios, this club lends itself to the new experimental sounds, rhythms, and harmonies coming from the young generations of musicians who are studying the traditions of Afro-Cuban, jazz, African, and fusion.

When I first played here in Chicago in 1969 with Nina Simone, this area was strictly a meat-packing district and now it seems to pack in meat of a human variety--how exciting! In my recent travels to Chicago, I have performed at Rhythm twice with Orquesta Ranura and presented one workshop here as well. Orquesta Ranura is building its reputation not only at Club Rhythm but all around Chicago period!


Orquesta Ranura with Dr. Juma Santos
The band, headed up by conguero Paul Spata and trombonist Raphael Crawford is, for me, a fun-loving group of young musicians who are eager to learn and experiment with the technical as well as the soul and spiritual aspects of music making. Rob Haight rounds out the group on saxophones and flute with Tobias Kaemmerer on trumpet, Dylan Hicks on drums, Bryan Doherty on bass, Andrew Toombs on piano, and Jordan Lopez adds vocals and acts as multi-instrumentalist.

My experiences with the band started about two years ago when they were based up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. One night I sat in with them at Bell's Brewery and was totally amazed at how well these musicians were able to transform gravity and all of the people in the bar were trying to maintain it! I think their musical arrangements using popular forms along with traditional rhythm structures are more than welcome. Audiences can truly appreciate and feel their talent. In contrast to the number of times I have worked with these young brothers, the most uplifting experiences have been right here in Chicago at Rhythm Nightclub and Griffin's Public House; packed houses, everyone was dancing as well as listening.

At Rhythm on 12.18.03, we glided right into the night with an original tune by Raphael Crawford called "Final Fight," an Afro-Cuban guaguanco. The tune features Rob Haight as first soloist who has a sound somewhere in between Joe Henderson and Dave Liebman, early pioneers of the tenor fusion styles. Andrew Toombs was the second soloist and is definitely a son of my personal friend, pianist Chick Corea, flexing his harmonic sensibilities, phrasings, and voicings around thematic ideas of the trombonist Crawford's writing.

It is my pleasure to work with these musicians and I am looking forward to their continued development and a new release this year of all original tunes and some folkloric arrangements, which I will be a part of.

For further information about this band and its characters consult www.orquestaranura.com. I highly encourage you to seek them out so you can see and hear for yourself. Be sure to check out their all ages show at Old Town School of Folk Music on Wednesday February 4th.

Dr. Juma Santos
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Dr. Juma Santos Ayantola is a 40-year pioneer performer in African-Caribbean-Latin-jazz-R&B-fusion percussion styles and techniques. He has recorded on numerous hit records including Miles Davis' Bitches Brew, Nina Simone's Black Gold, Roy Ayers' Ubiquity, Taj Mahal and the International Rhythm Band's Rising Sun Collection, as well as David Sanborn's David Sanborn Band. Presently, he is a lecturer at The School Of Performing Arts, Department of Music at the University of Ghana, West Africa and a Fulbright Senior Specialist for the Council for International Exchange of Scholars.

For more information please visit www.jumasantos.com.

[Published on: 1/28/04]

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