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Latin percussionist and revered New York City-based session artist, Norman Hedman along with his “Tropique” outfit, present us with their inaugural recording for the burgeoning “Palmetto-Records” label. With Taken By Surprise, the percussionist also enlists the estimable talents of the great yet shamefully under recognized pianist, George Cables who lends his artistry to two compositions.
Basically, Hedman & “Tropique” serve up a bubbly brew consisting of spacious yet often grooving Afro-Cuban induced themes and rhythms on pieces such as “That Unpredictable Eugene” and “Taken By Surprise”. Here and throughout this entire affair you can easily visualize a bright sunny day, on the sands, somewhere near the aquamarine waters of the Caribbean. Furthermore, Hedman’s music is marked by precisely organized charts to coincide with fruitful and emotive soloing by pianist Misha Tsyganov, flutist Craig Rivers, vibraphonist AJ Mantis, saxophonist Roger Byam and others. Yet Hedman and timbales ace Willie Martinez keep this train on track.
The band excels at producing pumping Afro-Cuban style rhythms and attaining a harmonious group sound atop all the nuances, accents and altogether tight arrangements. On “Light At The End Of The Tunnel”, Craig Rivers, performing on piccolo flute, renders lush yet fervent lines in support of peppery rhythms and atmospheric themes, while “Just For Ruby” is all about poignant yet enticingly sonorous melodies and an inspiring piano solo by Tsyganov. Overall, Taken By Surprise is a stylish foray into previously investigated territories whereas, Norman Hedman’s “Tropique” have discovered the winning formula in a rather huge way!
Personnel: Roger Byam; sax: AJ Mantis; vibes: Craig Rivers; flute: Ron Monroe; bass & kalimba: Misha Tsyganov; piano: Norman Hedman; congas: Willie Martinez; timbales: Special Guests; George Cables; piano: Sam Furnace; alto sax: Ahmad Alaadeen; soprano sax: Joe Gonzalez; bongos & shekere: Chris Hernandez; maraca: Ronnie Buttacavoli; flugelhorn