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Jim Rotondi - 1000 Rainbows (2010)

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By Pico

It must have been quite a journey for a life that started out in the wide open ranges of Montana and ended up in the hustle and bustle of the New York jazz scene, but trumpet player Jim Rotondi got there with an assist from the late, great trumpet player Clifford Brown. Playing at first the piano at age eight and then the trumpet at age twelve, when Rotondi got his first taste of the sweet sounds of Clifford a couple of years later, his life's calling was cast. Having attended the highly regarded music program at the University of North Texas, Rotondi went on to win competitions and play in the bands of Ray Charles, Bob Mintzer, Lionel Hampton, Lou Donaldson, Charles Earland, Joe Chambers and Curtis Fuller. Nowadays, Rotondi leads his own group. Actually, two groups: an acoustic quintet featuring vibes player Joe Locke and an electric group. Rotondi also help to create the supergroup sextet One For All, where he shares a front line with Steve Davis and Eric Alexander.

Rotondi has been recording as a leader starting in 1997 and has released around a dozen albums. Next week comes his third for Posi-Tone Records, 1000 Rainbows. Rotondi goes with the quintet getup for this date, with Locke on vibes, Danny Grissett on piano, Barak Mori on bass and one of John Scofield's favorite drummers, Bill Stewart, manning the kit. The mission for this record is not complicated: they are playing undiluted mainstream jazz in a tasteful, virtuosic fashion, using both Rotondi originals and some standards from a wide cross section of sources.

“Bizarro World" gets the proceedings off to a brisk start, where Rotondi's polished and distinctive trumpet playing style is evident in both the theme and solo breaks. The 1965 Beatles hit “We Can Work It Out" is completely overhauled into a nice, mid-tempo groover, so much so that it's not recognizable. Stewart's drum work is exemplary throughout, and his shuffling, subtle multi-rhythms on this song exemplify why. The Buddy Montgomery tune “1000 Rainbows" is worth listening to for Rotondi's warm, inviting tone alone.

On the quicker “Crescent Street," Rotondi shows of some fleckless chops without pouring on too much flash, and for the evergreen Mel Tormé ballad “Born To Be Blue," he plays with a cool sensibility that dances around the lyric lines in a fanciful way. In “Gravitude," Rotondi engages in some lively call-and response with Locke, one of the rare instances I've heard one between a trumpeter and and vibraphonist. For “49th Street," Rotondi, Grissett and Locke play the long, snaky bop line in unison, a startling display of unity. For the duo performance of “Not Like This," Locke's impressionistic vibes pulses are used as a backdrop for Rotondi's inviting intonations.

With the introduction of 1000 Rainbows next Tuesday, Jim Rotondi gives us another reason to follow the career of this accomplished performer, composer and educator. This is a solid effort worthy of several spins.

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