The Band's Story

Danny Howard, a percussionist from the UK moved to Chicago in late 2008. With him he brought his passion for latin music and his desire to start a Latin band here in the States. Having worked in the music scene locally for 4 years he felt the time was right to put a latin band together. All the musicians that play in Contrabanda are working musicians and teachers in the city of Chicago. We strive to enjoy ourselves on stage, which should in turn make for an enjoyable outing with you. 

We can arrive in a vareity of sizes. Anything from a small Latin Jazz Trio up to a 10-piece Salsa Band with Vocals. We will always aim to work with in your budget or space requirements.

Please contact us for more info.

We love Latin Boogaloo, Latin Jazz, Salsa, Bossa Nova, Samba and many more styles.

Scroll Down to Meet the Band.............


Rich Lapka - Trombone

Rich Lapka is a native of Chicago who has played in many bands over the years. After graduating from Northern Illinois University where he played lead trombone in the acclaimed NIU Jazz Ensemble, he formed the Jazz Fusion group Juggular. From 1979-1991 Juggular played throughout the Midwest at clubs and festivals and their 1980 record Balls was played around the country and is currently available on iTunes. Rich has also played with the Pete Special Band, The Deja Vu Big Band, Bill O'Connell's Chicago Skyliners Big Band, the Pocket Fisherman and many other Chicago bands. Currently , besides having a blast playing in Contrabanda, Rich plays with the Jazz Consortium Big Band and the Reunion Jazz Orchestra.

Caleb Mitchell - Trumpet

Caleb moved from his hometown of Wichita, Kansas, to Chicago in 2008 to attend DePaul University, where he received his Bachelor’s in Trumpet Performance studying under Matt Lee and Tage Larsen. Since then, Caleb has picked up a variety of regular gigs across a wide spectrum of styles, genres, and types of events.

Caleb has played in horn sections for Latin, funk, and big-band jazz bands, as well as Afrobeat, indie rock, R&B/soul, and hip-hop/rap groups.

He has played principal trumpet in symphony orchestras, pit orchestras and in the DePaul Screamin’ Demons Pep Band at Madison Square Garden. Caleb also regularly lends his solo talents to wedding parties and church services, and is one-fourth of the Chicago for-hire horn section Revolution Horns. Other musical endeavors include playing at Chicago Blackhawk games, a performance on the Steve Harvey Show, playing trumpet for the Broadway musical I Love Lucy in downtown Chicago, and a coveted chance to perform in master classes for his idols Adolph “Bud” Herseth and Chris Martin.

Mark Nelson - Piano

Mark Nelson serves the Chicago scene as a music director, orchestrator, arranger, performer, and clinician. His compositions, ranging from strictly notated to highly improvisatory, have been performed and/or recorded by a variety of choral, vocal jazz and small instrumental ensembles.  His work as a pianist and keyboardist has been recorded for jazz, gospel, rock, and classical projects.

Currently, he serves as the chamber pianist for Pro Musica Strings, as keyboardist for Contrabanda, is Music Director for the wedding and event ensembles, No Reservations and the No Reservations Orchestra, heads his jazz piano trio, the Mark Nelson Trio, and works as a freelance musician for other ensembles.

Brett Benteler - Bass

BRETT BENTELER  is classically trained on the double bass, but his musical background includes Afro-Cuban, Brazilian and Jazz. He has traveled North and South America, as well as the Caribbean and Europe, as a performer and educator. In his native Chicago, Brett has earned the privilege of playing alongside many of the city’s finest musicians of all disciplines.

Jean-Christophe Leroy - Drums

Jean-Christophe Leroy educates and performs with musicians and dance companies throughout Canada and the U.S.. His strongest influences are West African music and styles resulting from the fusion of African and Western culture/art, such as the Afro-Caribbean folkloric and pop (specializing in Cuban and Brazilian traditions), and the Afro-American styles such as funk and jazz.

Danny Howard - Percussion

Grammy nominated in 2016 for his work with the New Budapest Orpheum Society, a percussionist since a very early age, Danny lived in the United Kingdom playing and teaching professionaly until 2008. He then moved to Chicago to further his career and studies. Backing such people as Pee Wee Ellis, & Cathy Dennis in the UK, he has since living in Chicago played regularly with The Opposition Party, ToqueChicago, and Charlie Baron y Grupo Gringo, and supporting such bands as Trombone Shorty & the Easy Star All Stars. In 2013, Danny completed a nine month stint as the primary drummer/percussionist playing for the award-winning "Smokey Joe's Cafe" at The Royal George Theater. He also works as a freelance percussionist with such groups as the Lakeside Singers, Bending Towards the Light, and the William Ferris Chorale. Currently Artiste in Residance at the University of Chicago with the New Budapest Orpheum Society, and teaching for Merit School of Music and the Ravinia Jazz Program as well as being a reguar accopanist for modern dance classes at Lou Conte/Hubbard Street, CDI, & Chicago Moving Company.


The band has a variety of rotating singers to suit every occasion.

Guest Musicians

Guests who have appeared with Contrabanda are.........We are very happy they agreed to fill in for us.


Luke Malewicz 
Dylan Rehm  
Andrew Zelm
Zach Ellerbrook

Victor Garcia           
Dave Katz          
Shane Jonas              
Ryan Adamsons            
Constantine Alexander
Robert Alonzo  
Fred Cantu
Jack Cassidy
Jim Gailoretto
Steve Eisen
Max Wassinger
Joshua Therriault
Artie Shaw
Roy McGrath
Joshua Shapiro

Jose Porcayo            
Martin Stonkis          
Alex Austin               
Stu Greenspan           
Mark Sonksen
Stacey McMichael
Freddy Quintero
Steve Hashimoto

Manases Rivera        
Adrian Ruiz                   
Stuart Mindeman      
Alo Cortes 
Alex English
Joaquin Garcia
Stuart Seale
Vijay Tellis Nayak

Jose Ormaza               
Bob Garrett                 
Vance Okraszewski  
Janet Cramer            
Eric Pancer 
Sam Werk
Juan Pastor

Steph Stahl                
Natalie Felix    
Lester Rey  
Sally Blandon  
Johnny Martinez  
Enrique Calderon
Stacie Sandoval
Alex Torres

Felipe Tobar  

Joe Sonnefeldt