In 2008, producer/musician, Johnny Bacolas, began auditioning musicians to form an original band to write and produce Mediterranean and Latin-style music, influenced by such artists as The Gipsy Kings and Yanni, and to assemble a world-class band to perform live concerts. From 2008 to 2015, Bacolas auditioned a myriad of musicians for the group. In May 2015, Bacolas met guitarist/songwriter George Stevens through a mutual friend soon after Stevens relocated to Seattle from Los Angeles, CA. and after a meeting in Bacolas' studio, the two musicians agreed to form their dream band.
In June 2015, Bacolas and Stevens began putting together the group, hand-picking several of the finest musicians from around the world to begin recording the songs for their debut double-disc album. Many of the recording sessions were International collaborations, working via Skype. "When we worked with the musicians overseas, we would have an iPad in the studio, siting on a chair next to the engineer. We would communicate with the artist in the recording booth this way, via the engineer and his talk-back mic. It's not the ideal way to track someone, but it worked," says Bacolas
Next, Bacolas and Stevens began auditions for the live performance group, which was a little different than the studio musician group. Within months they had created the first incarnation of the group, were in full-blown production on their record, and a set list was coming to fruition for their live shows. In April 2016, The Rumba Kings’ live band was officially formed, and the show was ready to hit the stage.(see the band's first promo video from June 2016 here)
At first, The Rumba Kings' planned to perform at local small bars and bistros around the greater Seattle area to iron out the kinks in their live show. By doing so they quickly built a strong fan base. As the word spread around the Seattle-area about the band’s passionate and energetic performances, the crowds began to grow larger, and the band began graduating to premier venues, ultimately leading to sold-out weekend shows throughout the Seattle-Bellevue area, including such venues as Seattle’s prestigious Triple Door, where the band is the only local group to be scheduled for entire weekends.
In February 2018, The Rumba Kings released their debut double-disc debut album titled, The Instrumental and Vocal Sessions, Vol. I. The album was engineered & produced by Johnny Bacolas and mixed and mastered by veteran mix engineer, Martin Feveyear. The record received a great deal of support from Seattle radio station KNKX, and The Rumba Kings performed several in-studio performances at KNKX’s studios, which were hosted by on-air personality, Robin Lloyd (listen to the full interviews and musical performances recorded in June 2017, February 2018, and April 2019 here). After the conclusion of band's April 2019 in-studio performance at KNKX, host Robin Lloyd finishes the segment by saying, "Happiness, that's what you spread whenever you play. You guys are just so wonderful. I've seen this. I've seen people.....who are these guys? And they leave with this big smile on their face." In June 2018, KNKX presented The Bellevue Jazz and Blues Festival, featuring The Rumba Kings as one of the headliners.
In 2019, The Rumba Kings released their sophomore full-length album, The Instrumental Sessions, Vol. II. The album was also engineered & produced by Johnny Bacolas and again, mixed and mastered by Martin Feveyear. Like the first album, it also received a great deal of support from KNKX, as well as Seattle Newspapers, notably, The Bellevue Reporter, which ran a front page story on the band in the paper’s live music section titled, “Eastside Scene,” in the January 25th, 2019 edition, written by Evan Pappas.
During the production of both records, Bacolas traveled to Greece on two occasions to record several of the country’s top studio musicians on songs for both of The Rumba Kings' albums, which included several musicians from the groups of such legendary Greek vocalist as Notis Sfakianakis and Pantelis Pantelidis. During these trips, Bacolas also filmed and directed eight music videos featuring vocalist, Sofi Alexandrou, in several locations throughout Greece, such as the islands of Mykonos and Santorini, as well as throughout the mainland of Greece. In a video podcast titled, A Conversation and a Scotch, Episode #4, Bacolas discusses the filming of the music video for the song, "Mila Mou," featuring Sofi Alexandrou, and states, "I want people to associate the song with the beautiful colors of Santorini, the blue roofs, the white stucco buildings, the blue sea, the blue sky." Building on Bacolas' decision to film the videos on the Greek islands, in an interview in The National Herald by Taso Mouhteros, Bacolas says, "My ultimate dream is to build a small villa in Santorini with a recording studio."
Critically acclaimed mixing engineer, Martin Feveyear, who’s mixed all of the band’s recordings to date, describes the band’s music as, "A bold, spirited, diverse and romantic blend of all that's great in Latin music, with an added twist of Mediterranean magic!"
In March 2020, utilizing the downtime from to the pandemic, The Rumba Kings began the long and arduous process of upgrading several aspects of their live show in a myriad of areas, including doubling the show's length. The band's acting music director, Johnny Bacolas, spearheaded the process by hiring a brilliant composer/transcriptionist, Seth-May Patterson, to fully-integrate one of the Pacific Northwest’s top string quartets, Arcobaleno Strings, into their repertoire. "Seth is one of the most talented musicians I've met. Working with him has taking our live show to another level. He's a valuable part of our team," says Bacolas.
The purpose of hiring the quartet was for the songs to be performed as accurately as possible with respect to their well-orchestrated recordings, and because as Stevens puts it, "They're just more beautiful that way; That's how they're supposed to sound live." Patterson scored and transcribed over two dozen works in preparation for the shows. Bacolas also hired four new musicians to fill out the stage, added four vocalists to the show, new dance segments, and added an additional nintey minutes of music to the performance, making the shows approximate three hours in length, with over thirty-three songs being performed. Bacolas says of the new show, “It now more closely resembles a Vegas production more than anything else. This is how George and I always envisioned our shows when we were planning them early-on. It's pure class. It's a night out at The Copacabana in the 40's, like in the movies. This is the ultimate get dress-up and have a classy night out show.”
KNKX 88.5 FM Seattle, presents the majority of the band’s shows in the Seattle area, and the band’s music is regularly played on the station.
The Rumba Kings on Allmusic Guide
The Rumba Kings' music is available on iTunes and Amazon.