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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.

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