The Rita Collective is a chamber group from Rochester, NY that plays original and world music with a jazz slant. Performances by the Rita Collective include original compositions written for the group’s unusual instrumentation - bass clarinet, marimba, acoustic bass, and percussion - melodies from the Middle-East or Africa, re-invented jazz tunes from one of the masters like Miles, and re-imagined pop tunes from Rage Against the Machine or the Beatles. The unifying thread for this group is the improvisatory approach to the music, and the deft playfulness of the musicians that create it.
The group has a sound and feeling rarely found in the jazz world. The bass clarinet is at times hauntingly lyrical and at other times deeply sinister, a fascinating compliment to the beautiful woody tones of the marimba. Acoustic bass supports the melodies with a strength and warmth that rounds out the group, and an altered drum kit reaches beyond the traditional color pallet of drum set to infuse the music with a diverse world beat. Together, these wooden instruments resonate with a warmth and clarity that connects the listener to the music.
The idea to form an acoustic world jazz group sparked when bandleader, Dean Keller, heard The Astounding Eyes of Rita by Tunisian oud master, Anouar Brahem in 2010. “His disc has such an honesty, warmth, and grace that I had to listen to it over and over. I knew then that I needed to find the players to make music like that!”, says Dean. The search for the right players took 3 years, but finally in the fall of 2013, The Rita Collective found the right line up of Dean Keller (Dave Rivello Ensemble, Rick Holland Little Big Band) on bass clarinet, Kristen Shiner McGuire (RPO, Nazareth College) on marimba and vibes, and Kyle Vock (My Plastic Sun, The Mighty High and Dry) on bass. In 2015, the group welcomed percussionist Joe Parker to the group.
As individuals, these players have played it all, but as a Collective, they come together in a musical conversation that feels like tea with world leaders at the U.N. Drawing melody and language from Tunisia, Uganda, England, Cuba, United States, Ethiopia, and more, the improvisations of the Rita Collective are more than simply Jazz solos, they are melodic interplay, finding the common ground in the diverse music that inspires us. Come out to hear the big acoustic world jazz sound of the Rita Collective as they bring their musical journey to a live music venue near you soon.
To find out where you can hear the Rita Collective live, visit the Performances page.
Visit the Media page to hear recent recordings from The Rita Collective.
Forty-One Seconds is the first release from the Rita Collective, a chamber group from Rochester, NY that plays original and world music with a jazz slant. The music featured on this intimate recording is a collection of new and original works, plus select arrangements written for the group’s unusual instrumentation (bass clarinet, marimba, acoustic bass, and percussion). This recording captures the improvisatory interplay and dynamic sensitivity of the group, exploring film noir, tone poems, middle-eastern melodies, and even a little funk.
Thank you to all those who contributed their talent to the project:
The Musicians: Kristen Shiner McGuire, Kyle Vock, Matt Bevan-Perkins, and Mark Collins
The Recording Engineer: Jon Belec
The Art Director: Jeff Zielinski
The Photographer: Scott Hamilton
The Mastering Engineer: Dave Dusman
The Executive Producer: Ted Keller
Pentagonal Prism is an exploration two very different styles that have influenced my playing over the years: middle-eastern and funk. The melody is harmonically derived from the blues and rhythmically middle-eastern. I set it over two different roots and bass ostinatos to create a middle-eastern first half and a funky second half.
No Return is an original written for The Rita Collective by David McGuire. It is an uptempo swing piece that conjures film noir in a playful way and gives Kyle some room to stretch a bit.
Slow Snow is an original of mine built on three phrases: a meditation, an ostinato, and an angular melody. Each voice in the group gets to play all three parts as the ideas are layered together in the development of the piece. On a side note, this is the first piece of music that I wrote for the group...really the first piece I've ever written.
The Astounding Eyes of Rita is the title track from the ECM recording by Anouar Brahem. I included it on our first CD, not only because it is a great melody, but also as a way to say thank you to Mr. Brahem for inspiring the formation of the Rita Collective with his music.
Sky Sketches is a contrafact I wrote on Miles Davis’s Flamenco Sketches to feature the versatile flugelhorn playing of our friend Mark Collins.
Healing is an original tune I wrote after missing a gig and days of practice due to a split lip. It felt so great to play again after healing that the first six notes that came out that day became the beginning of this melody.
Dark Heart is a moody piece written by our good friend David McGuire, who describes the piece like this, “Dark Heart is a labyrinth where listeners can wander, be misled and encounter the unanticipated; contemplating the nature of irreconcilable or uncanny or impenetrable situations (that we may find ourselves suddenly implicated by or caught in) can be a somber affair—dark heart—but there is nothing necessarily fatalistic in this—labyrinths can be escaped—or evaded—or transcended”. Kyle always says it reminds him of the inner workings of a clock, with many little parts all ticking away, sometimes separately and other times together.
Dance with Waves was the first tune I discovered on Anouar Brahem’s disc. I stumbled across it on Youtube searching for “jazz bass clarinet.” Anouar’s group features the incredible bass clarinet playing of Klaus Gesing, whom I was fortunate enough to get a lesson with when he was in Rochester for the XRIJF in 2014 with Norma Winstone.
Killing in the Name might not seem to be the best fit to cover for a chamber music group, but with a few little twists, and some room for Matt to stretch out, it is an exciting addition to this recording.
Gotta Gig(ue) and Epilogue are movements from a suite that Kristen wrote many years before the formation of the Rita Collective, but seemed such a natural fit for us to open up a little bit and have some fun.
For those of you who made it this far, I'll reward you with the story behind the title. About the time we were making this recording, my daughter was two years old, and at bed time she liked to drink warm milk. Forty-One Seconds was the perfect amount of time to heat her milk in the microwave, and it also seemed the perfect title for the CD. ~DK
The Rita Collective - Forty-One Seconds
Dean Keller - bass clarinet
Kristen Shiner McGuire - marimba
Kyle Vock - acoustic bass
Matt Bevan-Perkins - percussion
Mark Collins - flugelhorn on “Sky Sketches”
01. Pentagonal Prism - Dean Keller 6:24
02. No Return - David McGuire 5:09
03. Slow Snow - Dean Keller 8:59
04. The Astounding Eyes of Rita - Anouar Brahem, arr. D. Keller 9:25
05. Sky Sketches - Dean Keller 3:38
06. Healing - Dean Keller 4:39
07. Dark Heart - David McGuire 6:21
08. Dance with Waves - Anouar Brahem, arr. D. Keller 4:25
09. Killing in the Name - B. Wilk, T. Morello, T. Commerford, and Z. De La Rocha, arr. D. Keller 5:40
10. Gotta Gig(ue) - Kristen Shiner McGuire 4:31
11. Epilogue - Kristen Shiner McGuire 3:09
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