In the Middle
Craig Russo Latin Jazz Project: "In the Middle" (Cagoots Records, 2007) This recording, In the Middle, has special meaning for me. Being in the middle of such an extraordinary group of musicians has brought my playing and concept of Latin jazz to it's next level. These musicians gave much more of themselves beyond what they played on their instruments. Their talent as players,as well as arrangers and composers, comes through in multiple ways, bringing us the full depth and breadth of their creativity. The music here comes from the middle of two related, but distinct music cultures, Jazz and Afro-Caribbean music. All of the musicians speak both music languages, and the symbiosis of styles results in compelling Afro-Cuban and Brazilian grooves combined with a thoroughly modern jazz sensibility. The playing here is spirited and adventuresome throughout. Even with the standards, we worked hard to present them with freshness and originality. This group is based in the middle of the country, in Central Illinois. To some people from other parts of the country, the Midwest may appear to be the middle of nowhere for an artistic/music community. This CD will surely put that misinformed stereotype to rest. This is a grass-roots project that shows that the "where" doesn't matter, it is the "who", the people, that make it happen. Craig Russo Review from Latin Beat Magazine, March 2008 Reviewer: Rudy Mangual The Craig Russo Latin Jazz Project In the Middle (Cagoots Records) The second production as a leader from drummer/percussionist Craig Russo features said Chicago-based musician and an outstanding cast of players in the middle region of the U.S., performing music from the middle ground of two related but distinct musical cultures, jazz and Afro-Caribbean music. Logically, the recording is titled In the Middle, yet the music is quite out there, to say the least. A total of ten tracks explore unlimited creative possibilities that fuse Afro-Caribbean rhythms with modern jazz sensibilities and masterful arrangements. Well-know standards get a rhythm lift, including the timeless Bésame Mucho (adapted instrumentally to the Cuban rhythms of the abakuá and guaguancó traditions), while the classic I'm Getting Sentimental Over You is transformed to an upbeat jazz-mambo. The Herbie Hancock composition Butterfly is interpreted to the beat of a Puerto Rican bomba with Cuban jazz-mambo interludes, and Duduka da Fonseca's score of Doña Maria goes from samba to songo to Latin jazz. In the end, the three original are the tracks that truly stand out in this production: Arrival, A Visit to the Bob, and Chip's Vision (composed by the group's pianist, John "Chip" Stephens). Correction note: Arrival and A Visit to the Bob are composed and arranged by Charles 'Chip' McNeill.