Thom Rotella

How My Heart Beats

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It's always encouraging to find a musician using his downtime wisely. And judging from the fanciful string spins on How My Heart Beats, it seems that AWOL guitarist Thom Rotella has spent his six years of label limbo mastering a cool, hip-hop-meets-fusion-meets-traditional sound that rings fresh. In addition to perfecting a whimsical series of twists on the ultra-cool Metheny-Montgomery-Benson classroom procedure, he surrounds his incisive melodies with an inventive mix of machine- and live-generated percussion sounds. Think Marc Antoine's urban gypsy ideas, with a little more history and focus on the electric. As if he needed more texturing and influences in the mix, Rotella pays homage to blues with the help of Larry Cohn's keyboards, and even a bit of Miles with the help of Ralf Rickert's muted trumpet innuendos. A lesser artist might get lost behind this wall of picture-perfect melodies (including a take on James Taylor's mellow rockfest "Fire and Rain") and production values, but Rotella makes sure that we're screaming for even more guitarisma by the end.

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