Norman Hedman is definitely not your typical Latin jazz percussionist. Well into his third decade as a professional musician, Hedman clearly got his start in the world of salsa rhythms and grooves from the Afro-Cuban tradition. Hedman got his start playing with percussionists including Olatunji and Chief Bey. But he's also worked in a variety of other musical styles, from his early recordings with avant-garde jazz artists Chico Freeman and Arthur Blythe to session work with R&B bands including Earth, Wind & Fire and The O'Jays, and contemporary hit makers like Alicia Keys and Des'Ree.
Hedman's own musical vision begins from that Latin foundation, but on Garden of Forbidden Fruit he spices things up with a definite smooth jazz vibe. The result is a sound that lives up to the name of Hedman's band, Tropique. There are plenty of interesting Caribbean rhythms mixed in with more than a touch of R&B throughout. In addition, Hedman and the members of TropiqueWillie Martinez on timbales, Ron Monroe on bass, Misha Tsiganov on piano and keyboards, Alexei Tsiganov on vibes, Craig Rivers on flute and Sam Furnace on alto saxcreate a full, nicely textured sound with enough instrumental versatility to move in a number of interesting directions.
The smooth, airy groove of "Rundadar Dance and the island rhythms on "Island Spice are prime examples of Tropique's more Latin-oriented sound. Hedman and the band's R&B side comes into play with the support of vocalists Ada Dyer ("Closer ), James "D Train Williams ("Angel of the Night ), Dani Stevenson ("Garden of Forbidden Fruit ) and Kendra Shank ("Wherever U R ). Alternating vocal tracks with instrumentals over the CD's first eight cuts, and using four different vocalists, adds plenty of variety to the music.
All in all, Garden of Forbidden Fruit is a strong effort by Norman Hedman and Tropiqueone that ranks up there with previous recordings like Taken By Surprise (Arabesque, 2000), Healing Hands (Monad, 1996) and Flight of the Spirit (Monad, 1994).
Track Listing: Rundadar Dance; Closer; Cuttin'; Loose; Angel of the Night; Because I Can; Garden of forbidden Fruit; It's Just Not the Same; Wherever U R; Walk In the Moonlight; Feeling my Way; Wait & See; Island Spice.
Personnel: Norman Hedman: congas & percussion; Willie Martinez: timbales; Ron Monroe: bass; Misha Tsiganov: piano & keyboards; Alexei Tsiganov: vibes; Craig Rivers: flute; Sam Furnace: alto sax; Ada Dyer: vocals; James