Bio Ritmo is Richmond, Virginia's hottest salsa band, which may be damning it with faint praise since it's the city's only salsa band. They started playing together almost by accident when conguero
Gabo Tomasini, timbalero
Giustino Riccio, and singer Rei Alvarez put together a small group for a jam session at a local science fair. They were a hit and the loose group of friends subsequently evolved into what they have called in retrospect a "punk salsa combo," playing with more enthusiasm than chops. But their solid groove and dedication to old-school salsa was evident, even on their self-released debut, Que Siga La Musica
, and as their personnel has shifted over the years, they've grown into a top-notch outfit, with a solid New York sound that has attracted players from all over the East Coast and Cuba to their ranks.
On its self-titled fourth album, Bio Ritmo's hard edge gleams like a razor. "El Monte" kicks things off with a bracing blast of brass and an inspired vocal from Alvarez. "El Rayito" is a slow, simmering bolero accented by the subtle, soulful piano work of Marlysse Simmons and Bob Miller's subdued trumpet, while "Jabula" is a jubilant descarga with synth swoops, a duck call solo, and spirited coros from Alvarez -- reminiscent of the Nuyorican dance hits of the late Sixties.