The idea for the Rhythmagic Orchestra was born from a drinking session between Ben Lamdin of Nostalgia 77 fame and Latin music-spinning DJ Hugo Mendez (Sofrito) back in 2005. Their notion was to create a band whose members could perform their favorite moments of 20th century Latin music in the cultural context of the 21st. While the idea may have seemed pure fanboy nostalgia, it was eventually given birth and the result is anything but. Lamdin recruited members of his own session band and some of the U.K.'s session and club players, including bassist Riaan Vosloo, saxophonists Mark Hanslip, James Allsopp, and Jonny Spall (who also arranges), flutist Gareth Lockrane, trumpeters Fulvio Sigurta and Tom Allan, trombonists Trevor Mires and Nick Mills, pianist Ross Stanley, drummer Graham Fox, conguero Oreste E. Noda, bongo boss Randy Compadre, and timbaleros Oscar Martinez and Bartelemi. The set kicks off with a stellar Afro-Cuban read of Nina Simone's "African Mailman" featuring a tight, pounding montuno piano and beautiful flute fills and solo. Kenny Dorham's "Afrodisia" contains a rearrangement with a driving piano and hard-swinging baritone saxophone. While some tunes covered here are from the Latin jazz canon -- Art Blakey's "Sakeena" and the Dizzy Gillespie/Chano Pozo standard "Manteca" -- they are exceptionally well performed and arranged. That said, other tunes here, such as Gigi Gryce's "Tiajuana," A.K. Salim's wailing "Turuato," Cedar Walton's slow burning "Afreaka," a startling and sultry arrangement of Horace Silver's "Mary Lou," and the otherworldly rumba in Humberto Morales' "Gulli Gulli" are not necessarily from the canon but make for excellent additions to the program. To top it off, Lamdin and Spall added a pair of their own tunes to the mix, the brassy strut of "Cha Cha de Juventud" and the contrapuntal salsero "Fish Market Dance." Issued on Lamdin's Impossible Ark imprint, this date is a stunner from top to bottom, suitable for jazzheads to nod at for the hipness in its presentation and the excellence in its playing and arranging, and for club dancers to tear the floor to shreds to. What began as an in-the-moment idea in a state of partial drunkenness has paid off in musical spades: The Rhythmagic Orchestra is the authentic Afro-Latin jazz real deal.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek