Norman Hedman

Taken By Surprise

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Percussionist Norman Hedman's medium-sized combo is well named; it plays an engaging blend of salsa, Latin jazz, bomba, samba, and just about any other warm-climate dance idiom you can think of. The flute occasionally has a hard time getting in tune with the brass but, other than that, the sound is lush, sweet, and gently, percolatingly funky -- less a musical stew than a fruit salad. Hedman's influences include Cal Tjader and Armando Peraza, and while he also owes a clear debt to the big salsa bands, he deliberately avoids overwhelming the listener with too many layers of percussive polyrhythm. On tracks like "Pa' Bailar" and "Felicidad," Hedman effectively combines that strong sense of discipline with hot Cuban rhythms, and the result is all the more compelling for his ability to rein in the extravagance that sometimes mars other Latin jazz projects. Other highlights include the sweet and lovely "Soft Serenade" (which has a background rhythm that hints at the Bahian drumming style) and bassist/kalimba player Ron Monroe's deeply funky composition "Maurice." A must for fans of Latin jazz.

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