Ritmos Unidos ensemble, directed by Michael Spiro, releases first CD

att_sm_Spiro_0224IU Jacobs School of Music professor Michael Spiro, a seven-time Grammy nominee, is having a huge impact on Bloomington’s local and regional music scene since being hired to teach at the school in 2011.

With the formation of the IU Latin Jazz Ensemble, the IU Hand Drumming Ensemble, and other musical projects, he has significantly changed the balance of experiences any percussion or jazz student can expect from their studies.

Audiences attending Jacobs School jazz events will have noticed changes this semester as well, with the inclusion of the Latin Jazz Ensemble, led by Spiro, on a rotating basis Monday nights in the Musical Arts Center.

Spiro’s impact took another leap forward recently with the forming of Ritmos Unidos, a high-energy ensemble comprised of Jacobs faculty and alumni that mixes Latin jazz, American funk, Brazilian pop, and other syncretic styles. Members of the ensemble, with a name that loosely translates as “rhythms together,” are Michael Spiro, Mike Mixtacki, Joe Galvin, Jamaal Baptiste, Pat Harbison, Nate Johnson, Joel Tucker, and Jeremy Allen.

Funklorico-CDThe ensemble released its first CD in January: iFunklorico!. The title is an amalgam of the words “funk” and “folkloric” and represents the fusion of different styles and influences in the group’s performances.

As word has spread about the band, audiences have grown significantly. A website and Facebook page have come to life as well.

“In my humble opinion, this project has a good deal of significance both to IU and to Bloomington in general,” said Spiro. “It may be the first band in the Jacobs School’s history that consists of just faculty, alumni, and current students of the school. I think that’s kind of a big deal, actually, in that it demonstrates how our music is supposed to be learned, taught, and, of course, performed — the older generation teaching and mentoring the younger generation, on the bandstand.

“Ritmos Unidos is fairly unique in that it plays music from throughout the Caribbean and South America, we don’t just play one style of Latin music. We sing in at least four languages (English, Yoruba, Portuguese, and Spanish), and our repertoire includes an enormous variety of different styles of Latin music, all of which we play with stylistic integrity and understanding. I don’t know if we are the only Latin band ever formed in Bloomington, but I am quite sure we are the first to play both Latin music for dancers (salsa), and Latin music for listeners (Latin Jazz).”

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