Although thirty-one musicians are listed, guitarist John Tropea's latest recording isn't strictly a big-band album, as the sidemen perform on assorted tracks in groups whose size varies from five to twelve. Tropea is always present, of course, as is his friend and fellow composer / arranger Chris Palmaro on the Hammond B3 organ or Fender Rhodes keyboard (Palmaro also plays bass, drums, strings and percussion). As the album's title denotes, rhythm is always present as well, much of it a soul-blues-funk-R&B-based farrago as envisioned by Tropea and Palmaro who wrote or co-wrote all save one of the session's thirteen numbers (the lone exception is Leon Pendarvis' "Black Eyed G's").
While there is some improvisation, by Tropea, Palmaro and others, as jazz this would barely produce a blip on the radar screen. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as the listener is aware in advance of what to expect. What Tropea and Palmaro have spliced together is a series of funk-drenched (and manifestly rhythmic) themes that would not be out of place on any R&B radio station from coast to coast. The session's sizable number of well-known guests play their parts well but serve by and large as no more than cogs in the wheel. They include trumpeters Bob Millikan, Glenn Drewes, Randy Brecker and the late Lew Soloff; saxophonists Lou Marini, Bob Malach, Roger Rosenberg, Scott Robinson and Dave Riekenberg; trombonist Larry Farrell, guitarist Hanan Rubinstein and drummer Steve Gadd. Tenor Dave Mann manages to squeeze in a respectable solo on "Bikini Beach" (whose nostalgic title is emblematic of the album as a whole), as do Brecker on "NYC Direct 2014" and Farrell on the spirited finale, "Boulevard Strut."
Most of the solos, however, are taken by Tropea, and they are always appropriate if less than groundbreaking. There's no point in dissecting every number; suffice to say each one flows easily along in a sturdy rhythmic groove that sets toes to tapping without leaving much lyrical residue. "Boulevard Strut," marked as a bonus track, could have been imported straight from Havana, and includes a brief rap vocal, the only one on the album (kudos for that). In sum, Tropea (and Palmaro) knew what they wanted and set about to make it happen. That they "gotcha rhythm" is obvious; whether the rest of what they've got is auspicious is for the listener to decide.
Gotcha Rhythm Right Here, Part 1; Black Eyed G’s; Soul Surfin’; 7th Avenue South; Chili Wa Man; Always in My Heart; Side By Two; Bikini Beach; Les Is Moe’; NCY Direct 2014; Hip to the Hips; Gotcha Rhythm Right Here, Part 2; Boulevard Strut (bonus track)..
Personnel (collective) – John Tropea: leader, composer, arranger, guitars; Chris Palmaro: Hammond B3 organ, piano, Fender Rhodes, bass, drums, strings, percussion; Bob Millikan: trumpet; Glenn Drewes: trumpet; Lew Soloff: trumpet, flugelhorn; Don Harris: trumpet; Randy Brecker: trumpet; Lou Marini: alto sax, flutes; Dave Mann: tenor sax; Bob Malach: tenor sax; Bill Harris: tenor, baritone sax; Roger Rosenberg: baritone sax; Dave Riekenberg: baritone sax; Scott Robinson: bass sax; Larry Farrell: trombone; Hanan Rubinstein: guitar; Neil Jason: bass; Will Lee: bass; Eric Udel: bass; Zev Katz: bass; Shawn Pelton: drums; Clint de Ganon: drums; Lee Finkelstein: drums; Cliff Almond: drums; Steve Gadd: drums; Keith Karlock: drums; Roger Squitero: percussion; Duke Gadd: percussion; Tommy McDonnell: percussion; James “D-Train” Williams: vocal (12); Rallybop: vocal (13).
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