Rhubumba is the outgrowth of a 14-year collaboration between Paul De Castro and myself. It began inauspiciously with a performance of Paul’s tune Chick’s Delight sometime in 1990, when Paul was still a college student and I was in my first year as a professor at Cal State L.A. I was inspired both by Paul’s music and by his playing. Paul was (and still is) the most sensitive musician I had ever worked with, and I particularly enjoyed playing duets with him (as evidenced by the inclusion of Chick’s Delight on this recording). Improvisation is a very interactive endeavor – it is extraordinary to collaborate with a musician who listens and responds with such a high degree of acuity. Playing a duet with Paul is like having a really fabulous conversation – it expands and alters my thinking and my perspective. During my first years in L.A., I made an effort to perform with Paul whenever possible. When Paul finished his Masters degree at Cal State L.A., he moved to Austin, Texas to pursue a doctorate. Inspired by Paul, I dabbled in Latin music during his absence from L.A., and I wrote and recorded my first Latin piece which I entitled "Avenue 64," in reference to the fact that Paul had lived on Avenue 64 in L.A. Shortly thereafter, I was fortunate to come in contact with Paul Lopez, a brilliant composer and arranger of Latin Jazz, and was inspired to write the arrangement of Summertime included on this recording. I cannot possibly say enough about Paul Lopez – he is an inspiration to all who come in contact with him, and his music is extraordinary. Anything dazzling about my arranging on this recording is due to my ongoing association with him and my engagement with his music.
Rhubumba was begun in 1997, when Paul [De Castro] returned from his stint in Austin. Paul had been writing a lot of music and honing his playing while in the Lone Star State, and he returned home eager to make some music. Anxious to rekindle our musical collaboration, I suggested that we start "some kind of latin band," which required us to come up with a name. I suggested thhe name "Rhubumba," which is nonsense - when I was in junior high school, my friends and I adopted the term when were called upon by adults to explain senseless adolescent behavior. The question "What the hell is going on down there?" was answered glibly with "Why, we’re just playing the South American game of Rhubumba!" It was an ironclad defense for random trashing of the house (while the adults didn’t really buy it, it did buffalo them somewhat). This same spirit somehow seemed to fit the endeavor Paul and I were embarking upon. We didn’t quite know what we were getting into, but we intended to have a lot of fun doing it. Paul, of course, immediately began composing and arranging music for the band, and I did my best to keep up with him. Despite all of this creative work, however, the defining moment in the band’s history occurred when Paul went to Judy Green Music in Hollywood and had folders made for the music – beautiful red leatherette folders with "Rhubumba" stenciled in gold. The moment I saw the folders, I KNEW we would have a great band. We called our friends (they were the only people we could think of who would rehearse and perform for nothing more than the sheer joy of making music) and began a Latin-jazz "garage band." The instrumentation of the group was influenced by our friendships and by the people with whom we wanted to play. The electric guitar, for example, is an unusual instrument in this genre, but Dave Askren is such a great player (and one of our best friends), so we decided to include him as our third "horn."
We began by playing concerts at schools and gigs in out of the way places, and Paul and I kept writing music for the band. Jacques Voyemant joined the band the following year, adding a smooth and sophisticated touch. Jacques plays some of the intricate lines so smoothly you hardly know he’s playing (check out the melody on Mambo Influenciado). Our "garage band" took a quantum leap forward in 1999 with the addition of three world-class Latin musicians: Bob Fernandez (our "clave guru"), Rigoberto Lopez (the keeper of the groove), and Jimy Branly (we call him "Super-estrella"). However, the "piece de resistance" was the addition of Bobby Shew. He had played one gig with us, but we weren’t certain he would want to lend his good name to our recording project. To our surprise, Bobby not only agreed to do it, but he was wildly enthusiastic. His presence was inspirational; Bobby provides this recording with the requisite bravado for an authentic Latin recording. His solos on Man from Tanganyika, Shiny Stockings and Chinita Linda are simultaneously exquisitely passionate and blazingly pyrotechnic.
Speaking strictly for myself, the synergy of making music with these incredible group of players was a singularly inspirational experience. Speaking for all of us, I would like to thank Jill Askren for taking the photos of the session and for loaning us her beautiful piano to record Chick’s Delight and Besame Mucho, the Askren’s neighbors for not complaining when we recorded those tracks in their living room, and to the neighborhood kids for not riding their scooters by the house while we were recording. Thanks also to Danny Beher for believing enough in our project to include it in the Sea Breeze catalog. This project has truly been an endeavor of love – we hope that comes across, and that you enjoy listening tothis recording even half as much as we have enjoyed making it. - Jeff Benedict, Producer