Recordings / In The Middle

Cagoots Records, 2007

This recording, In the Middle, has special meaning for me.

Being in the middle of such an extraordinary group of musicians has brought my playing and concept of Latin jazz to its next level. These musicians gave much more of themselves beyond what they played on their instruments. Their talent as players, as well as arrangers and composers, comes through in multiple ways, bringing us the full depth and breadth of their creativity.

The music here comes from the middle of two related, but distinct music cultures, Jazz and Afro-Caribbean music. All of the musicians speak both music languages, and the symbiosis of styles results in compelling Afro-Cuban and Brazilian grooves combined with a thoroughly modern jazz sensibility. The playing here is spirited and adventuresome throughout. Even with the standards, we worked hard to present them with freshness and originality.

This group is based in the middle of the country, in Central Illinois. To some people from other parts of the country, the Midwest may appear to be the middle of nowhere for an artistic/music community. This CD will surely put that misinformed stereotype to rest. This is a grass-roots project that shows that the “where” doesn’t matter, it is the “who”, the people, that make it happen.

– Craig Russo


  1. Pent-up House
  2. Dona Maria
  3. Arrival
  4. Rumble, Young Man, Rumble
  5. Butterfly
  6. What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?
  7. Chip’s Vision
  8. A Visit to the Bob
  9. Besame Mucho
  10. I’m Getting Sentimental Over You


  1. Pent-Up House
  2. Dona Maria
  3. Arrival
  4. Rumble, Young Man, Rumble
  5. Butterfly
  6. Besame Mucho


Chip McNeill – tenor saxophone (1-3, 6-10), soprano saxophone (4,5)
Tito Carrillo – trumpet (2, 7-10)
Jeff Helgesen – trumpet (1, 3-6)
Chip Stephens – piano
Josh Walden – bass
Craig Russo – drums (2,5,6,9,10), congas (1-5,7-10), güiro, chékere, other percussion (1,3-10) bongo (6)
Jeff Magby – drums (1,3,4,7,8), congas (6), timbales (1,4)
Ricardo Flores – Brazilian percussion on Doña Maria (2)

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