What's Hot with Jazz Guitar: Thom Rotella

This week we feature LA guitarist Thom Rotella.

Online Bio

When Thom Rotella started recording his first solo album in the
mid-Eighties, he was simply looking for a creative outlet apart from his
busy career as a session player and jingle writer. In fact, the
guitarist was completely unaware of the emerging New Adult Contemporary
radio format that would soon make him one of its core artists, with his
three recordings for DMP--The Thom Rotella Band (1987), Home Again
(1989) and Without Words (1990)-topping play lists and sales charts
across the country. These days, the terminology for his blend of melodic
jazz, funk and soul is "smooth jazz," and Rotella is once again at the
top of his game with the extraordinary radio and retail successes of How
My Heart Beats (1995) and Can't Stop (1997).

Just as his recordings have been well received both critically and
commercially over the years, Rotella's live show has become one of
smooth jazz's most exciting and dynamic attractions. In 1998, Rotella
and his core band -- keyboardist Chris Rhyne, bassist Vail Johnson,
saxman Michael Lington, drummer Land Richards and percussionist Arno
Lucas-played some of the best attended shows and festivals in the genre:
radio station festival celebrations for The Oasis in Dallas, KIFM in San
Diego and Santa Rosa's KJZY; the Newport Beach Jazz Festival, and the
94.7 The Wave stage at Taste of Orange County, among others.

"There is nothing more fun than playing live," Rotella says, "because
I'm able to get an instantaneous response to what we're doing as a band
and to see how that moves people emotionally. The interplay between
these musicians is incredible, and always leads to surprises, taking
tunes to places that were unscripted, previously unexplored, bringing
our music to a whole new level. It's very inspiring."

Thom Rotella may be best known to longtime smooth jazz listeners for his
five popular releases since 1987, but they only tell part of his story.
One of the most renowned session guitarists on both coasts, he's
performed or recorded with a wide variety of well known artists both in
jazz and mainstream pop music. Over the years, he's worked with Rick
Braun, Keiko Matsui, Doc Powell, Stanley Turrentine, Kirk Whalum, Tom
Scott, Eric Marienthal, Bob Mamet, Michael Paulo, Gerald Albright and
Gregg Karukas, as well as pop stars Donna Summer, Cher, The Beach Boys,
Lionel Richie, Bette Midler and (last but hardly least) Frank Sinatra.

His multi-faceted composing talents have taken him far beyond NAC radio
as well, as he has written music for shows like "Santa Barbara" and
"China Beach"; in recent years, he has also been busy creating TV
commercial jingles and underscore music for a wide variety of accounts,
including Ford, Cadillac, Goodyear, Chevrolet and Northwest Airlines. In
addition, Rotella has also performed on "The Tonight Show," "The Tracey
Ullman Show" and numerous movie soundtracks, including; Same Time, Next
Year, The Gods Must Be Crazy and Mississippi Masala.

Aside from completing work on his next release All B Cause of You,
Rotella is currently involved in a wide variety of other projects. His
acoustic guitar will be featured on the soundtrack to the upcoming
Lifetime TV movie "Invisible Child", and he recently began producing for
other artists, beginning with tracks for harpist Cheryl Gallagher. Fans
of Rotella's graceful 1996 Christmas release Spirit of the Carols will
be glad to hear he's now working on a sequel. Finally, he recently
formed an organ based trio with master jazz keyboardist Bill Cunliffe
and legendary drummer Roy McCurdy.

Born and raised by a very musical family in Niagara Falls, NY Rotella
set his sights on a musical career by the age of eight and began jamming
with rock bands in high school before enrolling at Ithaca College (as a
Radio & TV major) and then transferring to Berklee College of Music,
where his focus was on performance and improvisation. "I was inspired by
a wide range of electric and acoustic guitarists, from Wes Montgomery
and George Benson, to Eric Clapton and classical virtuoso Andres
Segovia," he says.

With the help of mentor Tommy Tedesco, Rotella quickly established
himself as a top call studio musician in Los Angeles. He soon realized
that he needed something more creatively fulfilling to balance that
aspect of his burgeoning career.

"All my life, I wanted to be a studio musician," he says. "It's
rewarding work, but I knew I wanted to be a solo artist. So I put
together a band, started playing clubs and pursued that avenue as well."

For a time during his years with DMP, Rotella moved back to New York and
became a fixture in the studios and on the club scene as well. The
jingle business brought him back to L.A., where he built a home studio
and began retooling his sound in anticipation of the next phase of his
solo career.

Thom Rotella has been an integral part of the smooth jazz world ever
since, with recordings and a live show that have made him one of
contemporary music's most popular composers and guitarists.

-- courtesy Jonathan Widran, Jazziz Magazine

Thom Rotella's website

Doc Dosco is a jazz guitarist, composer and audio consultant living in Los Angeles, CA. His website is located at http://www.docdosco.com , where you can find more information on the 'What's Hot with Jazz Guitar' columns, audio clips of Doc's playing, and many additional features. Doc endorse Heritage Guitars and is a featured artist on their website. He also endorses the new Pignose Valve Tube Amps -- great for jazz (and anything else!)

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