Thom Rotella might not be a familiar name to the average jazz fan, but if you have a ear for jazz guitar you’ve probably enjoyed his music at some time over the past two decades. If so – or even if the multi-talented artist is unfamiliar to you – a new album on the Four-Bar Music label will give you the opportunity to hear him at his best.
Out Of The Blues is obviously a labor of love for the artist, representing not only his musical side but also his business sense, because Four-Bar Music is his creation. He formed it in partnership with industry veteran Donald Elfman, a long-time friend from their days together at Telarc.
On the musical side of the equation, Rotella has formed an outstanding quartet – or as he calls it, a 4-tet – consisting of himself, drummer Roy McCurdy, bassist Luther Hughes, and either Llew Matthews or Rich Eames on piano (varies by track). It’s a talented bunch of pros, with a strong background that in some cases includes service with Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Rollins, and Jackie McClean.
But Rotella is the star here, and the album leans to the bluesy side – hence the name – but still manages to provide listeners with a nice mix of traditional and newer sounds. With my built-in antenna for old standards fully operational, I found that three of the tracks qualify. Those include “My Foolish Heart” and “I Hear A Rhapsody,” both played pretty straight and nicely done, and “The Way You Look Tonight,” probably the best of the three. It begins traditionally and then segues into some nice improvisational play by both Rotella and drummer McCurdy.
The other seven tracks are all Rotella’s own compositions, and he’s very good indeed at writing music. There are several keepers here, chief among them probably “Bluze 4 Youze,” along with the soft ballad “Glimmer,” and a little something called “All Ways.” The latter was one of my favorites, an intoxicating Latin beat helping give the piece extra appeal.
A nice collection from Thom Rotella and his strangely-named ensemble.