USA: Trumpeter/Composer Jim Rotondi Explores the Many Places He Calls Home on Dark Blue
Trumpeter/Composer Jim Rotondi Explores
the Many Places He Calls Home on Dark Blue
Available March 4 on Smoke Sessions Records
Album Release Celebration Friday, March 4Through
Sunday, March 6 at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club
The life of a jazz musician tends to be an itinerant one. While
traveling the world over the past three decades, trumpeter/composer Jim Rotondi
has formed a tenuous definition of the word "home" - sometimes it can
mean a permanent residence, sometimes just a welcoming room for a few
nights' performances once or twice a year. On his latest album, Dark Blue, (due out March 4 via Smoke Sessions Records), Rotondi offers a musical travelogue of some of the places he's been privileged to call home.
"I find new homes all the time," Rotondi says. "New places that
I end up revisiting a lot, where I get very close to the people there.
It's a very rewarding thing that musicians get to enjoy that people in
other walks of life usually don't, unfortunately."
the title track doesn't refer to any place in particular, it's a vivid
description of one of the ever-changing locations where Rotondi feels
most at home: his band. "Dark Blue" evokes the mood of this particular
quintet, a first-time conglomeration that brings together collaborators
both old and new. The all-star line-up of hard-bop stalwarts includes
old friends David Hazeltine (piano) and Joe Locke (vibes) as well as new additions to Rotondi's discography in David Wong (bass) and Carl Allen (drums).
refers to Hazeltine as "my brother," a close collaborator throughout
many of the trumpeter's bands, including the collective sextet One For
All. The versatile Locke has also been a frequent sideman, who Rotondi
praises as being able to "do so many different things that when you ask
him to be a part of a project, you get three people for the price of
Photo Credit: John Abbott
Allen's involvement realizes a long-time dream for Rotondi, who first
heard the veteran drummer playing with two of his heroes, Freddie
Hubbard and Woody Shaw. Wong, while younger than his bandmates, has been
recognized as a torchbearer for the tradition by his involvement with
Jimmy Heath and the Heath Brothers, Benny Green, and the Vanguard Jazz
The grand tour begins with the bright, darting
melody of "In Graz," written in honor of the city where Rotondi has
lived for the past five years, since being named a Professor of Jazz
Trumpet at the University of Music and Dramatic Arts in Graz, Austria.
Upon his arrival, the faculty asked him to perform a concert of his own
music, inspiring this piece. "I wanted it to have a lot of energy to
commemorate my change in locale and life direction," Rotondi explains.
"Needless to say I was sad about leaving my musical brothers and sisters
and the vibe of New York City, but my arrival here in Graz was a very
positive change in my life."
European roots have grown deeper recently, since he and his wife
purchased a home in the small French town which gives its name to the
tune "Le Crest." The song is a stealthy blues that only gradually
reveals itself, prompted by their yearlong search for the perfect house.
"We got to this place and looked out on the valley from the balcony and
knew that was it right," Rotondi recalls.
How much time
Rotondi will be able to spend in either of these homes is always up in
the air given his busy touring schedule. Two of his homes away from home
are memorialized in "B.C." and "Biru Kurasai." The former refers to the
Canadian province of British Columbia, for which Rotondi holds
especially warm memories. His first visit to the city of Vancouver was
scheduled for the days just after the tragic events of September 11,
2001. Despite the uncertainty of the time and the sudden changes in air
travel, Rotondi decided to take the trip anyway. "It turned out to be
such a great experience on so many levels: the people were so happy that
I went and gave me such a great welcome that I ended up going back once
or twice a year for many years."
"Biru Kurasai" pays
homage to another friendly audience: Japanese jazz fans. As memorable as
it is, the tune had a hurried birth: Rotondi and saxophonist Eric
Alexander huddled in a recording studio break room, trying to come up
with one more composition for a session led by drummer Joe Farnsworth.
The result became a bandstand favorite, and translates as "I would like a
beer please" - perhaps an apt sentiment for its against-the-clock
"Going to the Sun" looks farther back, to
Rotondi's childhood in Montana, where he was raised by a piano teacher
mother who insisted that each of her five children learn an instrument.
When not practicing, the family spent their summers on a lake near
Glacial National Park. Going-to-the-Sun Road winds through the park's
scenic interior for more than 50 miles, crossing the Continental Divide.
studying at the University of North Texas, Rotondi made his way to New
York City in 1987, embarking on a fruitful 23-year career on the city's
hectic jazz scene. That home receives a nod via Hazeltine's "Highline,"
named for the vibrant park built on the remains of an abandoned elevated
rail line. Hazeltine also provided the arrangement for "Our Day Will
Come," a version of the '60s pop hit that Rotondi remembers the pianist
calling during one of their earliest engagements together.
album is filled out by two other covers: Leslie Bricusse and Anthony
Newley's "Pure Imagination," from "Willy Wonka & The Chocolate
Factory," and "Monk's Mood." The latter can be seen as a stop on the
album's tour only in the sense that Monk is a creative island unto
himself, and Rotondi offers a gorgeous read of one of the legendary
pianist's most beloved compositions; while the former offers an abstract
stop in the realm of the imaginary, a place that all of the music on
Rotondi's scintillating and engaging new album Dark Blue can safely call home.
"Dark Blue" was recorded live in New York at Sear Sound's Studio C
on a Sear-Avalon custom console at 96KHz/24bit and mixed to ½" analog tape
using a Studer mastering deck. Available in audiophile HD format.
Jim Rotondi · Dark Blue
Smoke Sessions Records · Release Date:March 4, 2016