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    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 , 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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