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Rocket: Tipp-Topp (2012)

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Rocket: Tipp-Topp How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Rocket—led by writer and keyboardist Emanuel Ruffler
Emanuel Ruffler
b.1975
piano
—refers to the music on its debut, Tipp-Topp, as Disco Jazz. Lest such a description have too many people running for the hills to escape visions of big hair and bigger flares, it needs stating up front that the epithet fits in a good way. Disco was about having fun, creating danceable grooves that would fill a dance floor time and time again. That's what Rocket does with pretty much everything on this album.

Ruffler won the 1998 Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
1917 - 1982
piano
Composers Competition
and has worked as a sideman or writer with singer-songwriter, bassist and vocalist Meshell Ndegeocello and drummer Joe Chambers
Joe Chambers
Joe Chambers
b.1942
drums
, among others. Ruffler's first album as a leader, Nightflight (Pursuance Records, 2009), was similarly upbeat, but there's an increased confidence about the playing and writing on this album, a definite step up which fulfills the promise of that debut.

Apart from Ruffler, the only ever-present player is percussionist Jaz Sawyer
Jaz Sawyer
Jaz Sawyer

drums
, whose rhythmically strong playing is enhanced by some inventive touches. A series of guests join Ruffler and Sawyer across the album, ensuring variation in sound and mood. Trumpeters Duane Eubanks
Duane Eubanks
Duane Eubanks
b.1969
trumpet
and Vitaly Golovnev, and flautist Michel Gentile, who all joined Ruffler on Nightflight, are present on this album as well. Eubanks is an especially emphatic presence, notable for his intense upper register playing on "In Miraculous Ways" and his jauntier, warmer, tone on "Panda."

"Architectonics," a Ruffler solo performance, is a short amalgam of electronics and found sounds. It flows neatly into "Bahia," an irresistibly cheerful groove that combines the talents of Gentile, Golovnev, and bass clarinetist Sam Sadigursky
Sam Sadigursky
Sam Sadigursky
b.1979
saxophone
over a funky rhythm section featuring bassist Patrice Blanchard. Gentile adds a softer, more romantic sound to "Green Waterfalls." Ruffler clearly has a fondness for reggae, most obvious on the catchy "Little Reggae" but also apparent in the rhythms and percussion on the title track.

With a name that bears a close resemblance to a major Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
Herbie Hancock
b.1940
piano
hit and led by a keyboard player with a penchant for electronics, this band could be setting itself up for a fall. Rocket avoids the danger by virtue of sharp and fun tunes in addition to skilled and enthusiastic playing. Tipp-Topp is what it says it is.

Track Listing: Tipp-Topp; Panda; Miss Universe Japan; Green Waterfalls; I Enjoy Being A Star; Little Reggae; Architectonics; Bahia; Race Car '63; In Miraculous Ways.

Personnel: Emanuel Ruffler: organ, keyboards; Jaz Sawyer: drums, percussion; Duane Eubanks: trumpet (1-3, 5, 6, 10); Michel Gentile: flute (4, 8, 9); Vitaly Golovnev: trumpet (4, 8, 9); Adam Niewood: tenor saxophone (1-3, 5); Sam Sadigursky: bass clarinet: (1, 2, 8); Rashaan Carter: bass guitar (1, 2, 3, 5, 10); Patrice Blanchard: bass guitar (4, 8, 9).

Record Label: Pursuance Records


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