Norman Hedman’s Tropique – Taken By Surprise
Taken By Surprise
Norman Hedman’s Tropique
(Palmetto – 2000)
by John Barrett
This band is breezy but strong think of Pucho, or a tougher version of Cal Tjader. This comes naturally to Norman Hedman; the conguero patterns his sound after Tjader’s man Armando Peraza. Craig Rivers’ flute whistles on “Unpredictable Eugene”, backed by agentle-toned tenor. Don’t forget the vibes: A. J. Mantas stays on the quiet side, with glassy chords when needed. His mallets open “Pa’ Bailar”, and a crazy montuno ensues. The sax is good, the tune is fine … but you remember the rhythm. Rudy’s Mambo” glows from a slow heat: Rivers purrs, Mantas chimes, and the piano has elegant force. This sound requires you to dance, and rarely slows down though “Soft Serenade” is a great exception. My feet were tapping the whole time I listened … you don’t hear this music, you feel it.
Horns take the prize on “Can’t Sella Secret”: Roger Byam’s alto hollers a little, and the band slides along. George Cables stops by for two tunes: his music-box beauty works on “Rags to Riches”. (Special honors to Ronnie Buttacavoli, whose flugelhorn lights up the place.) If you like your bolero thoughtful, try “Just for Ruby” the vibes dance as the reeds wander slowly. “Maurice” is earthy, fueled by kalimba and big wiry bass. Hedman is alone for the encore, in a minute building a wall of irresistible sound. I think you will enjoy this album; if not, I’d be taken by surprise.