2020
Jun 6 Studio City, CA LiveStream from the Baked Potato
Buy $6 Ticket
Thom Rotella 4tet
Mitchel Forman (piano), Kendall Kay (drums), Kevin Axt (bass), and special guest, Ernie Watts (sax)
7pm PST
Review
Thom Rotella@SamFirst Bar 01.08.20
George W. Harris, JazzWeekly.com
09 January 2020

One of the benefits of living in Los Angeles was on display at SamFIrst Bar on a cool and crispy Wednesday night. Near LAX, the club featured some of the best studio musicians in the world, taking some time to stretch out and play the music that they, and the audience, fell in love with.

Guitarist Thom Rotella featured songs from his most recent album, the swinging Storyline, teaming up with premier pianist Tom Ranier, drummer Kendall Kay and bassist/proprieter David Robaire. All of these cats are highly in demand both for recording sessions and in teaching environs, but this night they had a chance to stretch out and relax.

Rotella opened things up with his patented tasty mix of Wes Montgomery chords and Kenny Burrell single line clarity as his thumb stroked out a gorgeously easy bounce to the the bluesy "Who Dat"" The guitar lines were classy and sleek as Kay provided crisp snare and Ranier skated over the ivories before Robaire laid out an adroit solo of his own.

From there, material from Rotella's album featured a gospel drenched "Storyline" that had the leader dig deep and preach with his strings as Ranier provided full-fisted waltzing strides before delivering a tender "When I Fall In Love" that had Rotella patiently mix space and tones, creating droplets of notes alongside Kendall's dainty cymbal and Ranier's delicate ivories. Likewise, tender chords sparkled on "Stella By Starlight" with Robaire and Kendall softly bouncing along and Ranier intuitively touching the piano keys like a phrenologist before Rotella gave a genteel close.

The team went into a funky mode as Rotella gave a hip solo intro to a bossa nova'd "Take It With You" that had him thumbing through his guitar like a pit boss flipping through a roll of $100 bills. The mix of guitar picking and thumb strumming was in delicious juxtaposition as Rotella popped the clutch and went into overdrive with the shuffling Kay on the blues drenched "Back At The Chicken Shack" as the team built up to a volcanic climax.

After the tune, Robaire noted to Rotella that he'd played enough for the first set, to which the guitarist replied "I feel like I've been up here only 20 minutes!" Time passed quickly when there is fun music for both musicians and appreciative audience a stone's throw from LAX.

Reprinted with permission from JazzWeekly.com, January 2020 issue