Norman Hedman
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Norman Hedman

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The cover of Norman Hedman’s new CD, Garden of Forbidden Fruit, features a bold, colorful illustration of a woman in a lush tropical setting, but there’s an unexpected city skyline in the background, signaling the meeting of an island paradise and an urban jungle. This captures a little bit of what’s inside.
The CD proves that percussionist and composer Hedman is as comfortable performing breezy island-inspired tunes and Latin grooves as he is with jazz and rhythm and blues. For other artists, this diversity would be schizophrenic, but it works for Hedman, whose precise playing and creative rhythms thread through each song, tying the pieces together. It also helps that Hedman is joined by his longtime band, Tropique. The familiarity allows the musicians to interject strong solos into the music and then fall right back into working as an ensemble.

Hedman, who has worked with Alicia Keys and Roy Hargrove, has writing credits on 10 of the 12 songs. Four of the tunes feature vocals by four different singers – Ada Dyer, James D-Train Williams, Dani Stevenson, and Kendra Shank. Williams does an especially good job on the R&B tune “Angel Of The Night.” His silky vocals dominate the song, but Hedman’s congas and percussions are right there throughout the number, giving it wings. Alexei Tsiganov’s vibes add a splash of freshness to the song.

The CD features a variety of material, ranging from the funky opener “Rundadar Dance” to the island-inspired closer “Island Spice.” There’s a lot to like about Tropique and Garden of Forbidden Fruit.

Tracks: Rundadar Dance, Closer, Cutting Loose, Angel Of The Night, Because I Can, Garden Of Forbidden Fruit, It’s Just Not The Same, Wherever U R, Walk In The Moonlight, Feeling My Way, Wait & See, and Island Spice

Musicians: Norman Hedman (congas and percussion), Willie Martinez (timbales), Misha Tsiganov (piano), Alexei Tsiganov (vibes), Ron Monroe (bass), Craig Rivers (flute), Sam Furnace (alto sax), Ada Dyer (vocals), James D-Train Williams (vocals), Dani Stevenson (vocals), Brad Mason (flugelhorn), Kendra Shank (vocals), Robert Aron (piano), A.J. Mantas (vibes), and Joe Gonzalez (bongos)
- - Donna Kimura, JazzReview.com


Five summers ago I went to a local park concert that advertised a Latin jazz band. When the music started I was quite surprised to find that it was a reasonable facsimile of the Cal Tjader/Mongo Santamaria combo of the late ‘50s. That was my first experience with Norman Hedman's Tropique. The group that night, specifically Hedman's conga work, the musician on timbales and the Afro-Cuban vibes of A.J.Mantas were the core of the music and I have seen them four times since.

Norman Hedman is one of those ubiquitous musicians who has seemingly played with everyone. Having worked with Latin jazz legends as well as performing on R&B and hip hop recordings over the decades has left the conguero with a world of experience but very little public acknowledgement. West Indian-born, Hedman was a graduate of Brooklyn's Wingate High School and then Brooklyn College. As a young man he got out to the clubs to see the jazzmen that he would later perform with. Working with such percussion luminaries of the ‘60s as Olatunji and Chief Bey, he left Latin jazz on several occasions for more lucrative experiences serving as Jean Carne's musical director for four years in the ‘70s and then with The Main Ingredient (”Everybody Plays the Fool”) for three years.

Tropique has been an entity for the past twelve years and has evolved as a cooperative with an ever-changing list of personnel. Vibraphonist Mantas appears to have departed, although his one appearance on this album (”Island Spice”) is clearly the best Afro-Cuban tune on the album. Alexei Tisganov plays vibes on the other tracks and the result is clearly less Latin jazz. I once saw Bryan Carrott sit in on vibes as a last minute replacement and, while his four mallet work is always impressive, he was the wrong man for this job.

The collective personnel of Tropique seem to reflect Hedman's pan-universal approach, bringing in R&B vocalists James “D Train” Williams, Ada Dyer, Kendra Shank and Dani Stevenson. Craig Rivers remains as the flutist who adds much to the Afro-Cuban aspect of the group, and one of the finest timbales players in the New York area, Willie Martinez, brings the heat (a la Willie Bobo) to his drum set. Misha Tisganov has been the consistent pianist over the past few years.

This is the sixth album recorded by Tropique but it has been six years since its last one. The dozen tunes are almost all Hedman originals, with two co-written with Williams, one from pianist Tisganov, and one from Martinez. “Rundadar Dance” leads, off done in a straight-up Afro-Cuban style. “Closer” is also up-tempo, but comes with an Ada Dyer vocal that is influenced more by R&B jazz. “Cutting Loose” is a mid-tempo riff propelled by Hedman's conga, River's flute and Sam Furnace's alto sax. The pace continues with that sort of pattern, (Afro-Cuban, R&B vocal, mid-tempo groove), with the exception of the attractive bolero, “Wait & See.”


Track listing: Rundadar Dance; Closer; Cutting Loose; Angel Of The Night; Because I Can; Garden of Forbidden Fruit; It's Just Not the Same; Wherever U R; Walk In the Moonlight; Feeling My Way; Wait & See; Island Spice.

Personnel: Norman Hedman: congas, percussion; Willie Martinez: timbales; Ron Monroe: bass; Misha Tisganov: piano, keyboards; Robert Aron: piano; Alexei Tisganov: flute; A.J.Mantas: vibes; Craig Rivers: flute; Sam Furnace: alto sax; Brad Mason: flugelhorn; Joe Gonzales: congas; Ada Dyer: vocals; James D Train Williams: vocals; Dani Stevenson: vocals; Kendra Shank: vocals. - - Michael P. Gladstone, AllAboutJazz.com


Walking in the brisk fall New York air and entering "Starry Nights" at the Natural History Museum, all the stars were aligned in the Norman Hedman universe. The Rose Center Conservatory, cavernous in scope, seemed to transport one back to the Palladium or the St. George, where Latin and Latin jazz music first held court. The stars of this universe were Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Ray Barretto and Joe Cuba to name but a few. As soon as you walked into this huge ballroom, you could feel the pulsing of the bass and the pounding ring of the percussion. Ah, I was home again courtesy of Norman Hedman and Tropique. And they were taking flight on a tune called "Flight of the Spirit," a piece in 6/8 reminiscent of the Tito/Mongo/Bobo groove. It proved to be a perfect vehiclefor this setting. Smooth, flowing, clean and tight the transformation was complete. I was in Latin jazz and Latin soul heaven. The band's funky solos showed off this wonderful unit's cohesiveness and polish, signaling what was yet to come.

Hedman is a Renaissance Man if ever there was one: musician, composer, producer, and scholar; a hands-on-player who makes his own percussion instruments. With a polished attitude yet humble demeanor, Hedman allows you readily into his universe and says, "Welcome and enjoy the ride." The next selection up was "Rundadar Dance," written by vibraphonist Alexei Tsiganov. The percussion at first traded licks with pianist Misha Tsiganov, the other half of this brother team, and urged the band along. As they broke into a funky mambo jazz, flutist Craig Rivers took a tasty solo, followed by Alexei on vibes showcasing his tune. This is a cat that definitely has his clave together. A Latin-piano vamp followed, introducing us to Hedman on congas. His riffs, slaps and rolls grooved in the pocket and made for a smoking tune. "Walk in the Moonlight," a piece written by Hedman in a bolera jazz groove with the flute and sax blowing the harmonious rhythm, took the tempo down. A seque into a slow guaracha and back to bolero provided ample space for the vibes and piano to lay down flowing textured solos, meeting again for the melody to cap off this relaxing and beautiful arrangement. Hedman and the members of Tropique set the pace perfectly, constantly mindful of their audience while moving from one chart to the other. In return, an eclectic crowd of all ages and backgrounds applauded in all the right places. On "Cutting Loose," bassist Ron Monroe and Hedman on congas laid down funky rhythms before the rest of the group joined in to create a melange of Latin soul, jazz, and Caribbean funk highlighting the piano and vibes. This, I learned later, is what separates and defines Norman Hedman's Tropique - his ability and willingness to incorporate different rhythms, genres and cultures into his music.

The last selection of the evening was the self-titled "Hed-Theme," inspired by Hedman's travels, observations and daily rituals of living. The chart began with shades of the "I Love Lucy" theme something Hedman remembers as one of his first personal experiences that has remained with him. The band heated up on this one as Norman laid down that Latin tumbao, followed by Willie Martinez - one of the hottest drummers on the scene today - on timbales. This lead into a ripping piano solo by Misha Tsiganov that flowed like a rhumba, transitioning into a fiery sax solo courtesy of Rober Byam while Monroe laid down the foundation and kept it going. As for the percussion, Martinez led the way. Demonstrating his funkiness and dexterity on timbales, rolls, flams, rimshots, and various combinations thereof erupted out of the drums all placed perfectly on the 2-3 clave. The band was bounding along to a heavy descarga finish. As Hedman's turn came to put his tag on the chart, he exemplified a command of the rhumba with a round of slaps and beats before riffing in a cohesive and exhilarating flurry reminiscent of his early mentor, Mongo Satamaria. The mark of a true drummer. Hedman made the drum talk in his own unique musical language.

Norman Hedman & Tropique are a unit whose time has come. His ability to fuse different genres - Latin jazz, R&B, Latin soul - makes for an exciting yet unique style. If you run across this exciting group, don't pass it up. Stay and enjoy the ride; you won't regret it. - - Harry Maisonette, Jazz Improv Magazine


Friday evening we were treated to two excellent performances at Heritage Park from percussionist Norman Hedman's ensemble Tropique and smooth jazz saxophonist Dave Koz and his first-rate band. Hedman was born in Jamaica and arrived in the United States when he was seven years old. He's been a member of the jazz units of Arthur Blythe, Chico Freeman and trumpeter Roy Hargrove. Hedman and company traced the sensual side of Latin, jazz, and all that's in between. - - Bill King, The Jazz Report Magazine


Norman Hedman and Tropique the act which preceded Dave Koz was the biggest surprise to the Festival attendees. He was not listed on any of the literature about the Festival and one would think that the fact that his latest CD is named Taken By Surprise was more than coincidental. Well known to fans of percussion, Mr. Hedman has been in the business for more than 20 years (he was coy about the exact number) and started playing the drums from he was seven and rescued his first drum from a garbage heap when his parents couldn't afford to buy him one. He used to play the mouth organ in Jamaica, but moved onto percussion and it became his first love after he moved to New York when he was seven. He has been playing with his band for three years, but played with Bill White and his band at the Jazz Festival in 1999. His bandmembers are: A.J. Mantas on Vibes, Misha Tsiganov on Keyboards, Ron Monroe on the Kalimba, Willie Martinez on the Timbales, Craig Rivin on the Flute and Roger Byam on the Alto Sax. He has recorded four albums so far: Flight of the Spirit, Healing Hands and One Step Closer with the Arabesque label and Taken By Surprise is with Palmetto his current label. He was enjoying the festival and hoped that he would be invited back. He also said that Tropique's music is not only music for the mind, but also healing music to take the pressure off of people's everyday lives and to help them relax. He is absolutely right, most people asked found the music to be at once soothing and yet invigorating and would love to hear more from Norman Hedman and Tropique. Article by Jacqueline Smartt, MS.Ed.

Copyright 1999-2001 Caribwaves, Inc. - - Caribwaves


Norman Hedman can turn lunch into an improvisational jazz performance.

"Even this is percussion," said Hedman, making a soft shuck shuck shuck with a salt shaker. "There's rhythm in everything. There's music in everything."

In his pinstripe shirt and tortoiseshell glasses, the mild-mannererd Hedman looks more like the corporate suit he nearly became. But when he starts talking about jazz, the musician-composer-producer lets loose his passion for percussion.

"Like a lot of young kids, I started banging pts and pans because I like the rhythm," said Hedman, punctuating his words with beats - the fwip, fwip of a sugar packet on a thumbnail and the ping of a soup spoon against a bowl. "My parents wanted me to do the traditional West Indian things: lawyer, doctor, Indian chief. But I didn't choose percussion. It chose me."

That choice has taken Hedman to the heights of jazz, R&B and pop.

His diverse career has included stints with the Spinners, Chico Freeman, Daryl Hall, New Kids on the Block, Alicia Keys and Maia.

For 20 years, his band performed with the legendary Cuba Gooding and The Main Ingredient. Not bad for a Jamaican immigrant who got his first album from a Brooklyn garbage can.

Hedman got hooked on jazz as an adolescent, drumming to records by legends like Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. He first took the stage as a calypsonian, performing at Caribbean events in Brooklyn.

But over the years, he gravitated towards other styles of music from the African Diaspora, fascinated by their individual yet closely related rhythms. His style reflects the culmination of his years of experimentation. With his band, Tropique, Hedman performs what is usually described as Latin jazz, though it encompasses a broad range of African, African-American and Caribbean rhythms.

His new album, due out next year, blends traditional Latin jazz with everything from calypso and go-go to soul, R&B and hip hop. "I'm not the traditional Latin jazz performer," he said. "I incorporate different styles so that the music touches all ages. The tropical rhythms are clearly there. But you hear all this other stuff on top of that you wouldn't expect to hear."

That "stuff" includes the diverse rhythms and the range of percussion sounds in Hedman's arsenal. He uses everything from cowrie bells and shakers to homemade tools - crumpled bits of paper, gourds and even Evian bottles - in his quest for the perfect beat.

"It's the rhythm that I love," explained Hedman with a final rat a tat tat on the table. "Finding the perfect sound to round out a song; fusing all the different elements to create a unique sound. It's the best high."

For information about Norman Hedman, visit his Web site: www.normanhedman.com.

- - Kellie Magnus, New York Daily News


Critics, radio programmers and record industry analysts agree, the most exciting sound to come out in Latin Jazz in quite some time is Norman Hedman & Tropique. This combination of top jazz stars, veteran and skilled Latin percussionists and bright up-and-coming featured performers fuses high energy and excitement with authentic Latin, Jazz, and Afro-Cuban backgrounds. The band, and the concept, are taking everyone by storm: The group's first CD, HEALING HANDS, spent an unprecedented two months on the straight-ahead jazz charts, and the group's 1999 release (on Arabesque), ONE STEP CLOSER, cracked the Gavin Jazz Top Ten chart in the summer of that year.

As an inventive and tasteful percussionist, Norman Hedman has combined his command of diverse musical styles with an understanding of the traditional roles of Latin sounds. As an assertive and original leader, Mr. Hedman has combined a roster of talent who infuse the traditions of Latin Jazz with new and inventive concepts, clean, tight lines and original compositions. The seven-piece touring line-up is comprised of Norman Hedman on congas and percussion accents, Misha Tsiganov on keyboards, Roger Byam on saxophones, Craig Rivers on flute, Ron Monroe on bass, Willie Martinez on timbales and drums, and A.J. Mantas on vibes.

With the 1997 release of Healing Hands, Norman Hedman's TROPIQUE has stepped to the forefront of Latin Jazz. With his cultural background and genuine understanding of the music, it is translated for the public in an accessible way. Traditional instrumentation is used in non-traditional ways, revealing the authority of one of the most versatile percussionist-composer-producers on the contemporary music scene.

The release, One Step Closer, produced in association with the Berman Foundation, reached number 10 on the Gavin Jazz charts in 1999. The album marked another phase in the evolution of Norman's conceptual approach to Latin jazz. In contrast to the brass-laden "wall of sound" typical of Latin jazz, Norman opts for more laid-back arrangements, focusing on the softer woodwinds (flute, sax), and a percussive emphasis on the vibraphone, timbali, and congas.

In November 2000, Tropique released its third CD, TAKEN BY SURPRISE, on Palmetto Records. The CD-release gig at New York City's Jazz Standard club was a near-capacity event...So successful, in fact, that the group already returns to the Standard for three consecutive nights in April 2001. And while Tropique's first two releases received a great deal of attention and radio play, TAKEN BY SURPRISE has so far taken no one by surprise, entering the Gavin Jazz Top Ten a mere five weeks after its release.

Buzz & excitement continue to grow on this contemporary Latin Jazz septet led by one of ALL music's most incendiary and inventive, rock-solid congueros, the indeed "formidable" Norman Hedman. - - www.allmusic.com


Norman Hedman is definitely not your typical Latin jazz percussionist. Well into his third decade as a professional musician, Hedman clearly got his start in the world of salsa rhythms and grooves from the Afro-Cuban tradition. Hedman got his start playing with percussionists including Olatunji and Chief Bey. But he’s also worked in a variety of other musical styles, from his early recordings with avant-garde jazz artists Chico Freeman and Arthur Blythe to session work with R&B bands including Earth, Wind & Fire and The O’Jays, and contemporary hit makers like Alicia Keys and Des’Ree.
Hedman’s own musical vision begins from that Latin foundation, but on Garden of Forbidden Fruit he spices things up with a definite smooth jazz vibe. The result is a sound that lives up to the name of Hedman’s band, Tropique. There are plenty of interesting Caribbean rhythms mixed in with more than a touch of R&B throughout. In addition, Hedman and the members of Tropique—Willie Martinez on timbales, Ron Monroe on bass, Misha Tsiganov on piano and keyboards, Alexei Tsiganov on vibes, Craig Rivers on flute and Sam Furnace on alto sax—create a full, nicely textured sound with enough instrumental versatility to move in a number of interesting directions.

The smooth, airy groove of “Rundadar Dance” and the island rhythms on “Island Spice” are prime examples of Tropique’s more Latin-oriented sound. Hedman and the band’s R&B side comes into play with the support of vocalists Ada Dyer (“Closer”), James “D Train” Williams (“Angel of the Night”), Dani Stevenson (“Garden of Forbidden Fruit”) and Kendra Shank (“Wherever U R”). Alternating vocal tracks with instrumentals over the CD’s first eight cuts, and using four different vocalists, adds plenty of variety to the music.

All in all, Garden of Forbidden Fruit is a strong effort by Norman Hedman and Tropique—one that ranks up there with previous recordings like Taken By Surprise (Arabesque, 2000), Healing Hands (Monad, 1996) and Flight of the Spirit (Monad, 1994).

Visit Norman Hedman's Tropique on the web.


Track listing: Rundadar Dance; Closer; Cuttin'; Loose; Angel of the Night; Because I Can; Garden of forbidden Fruit; It's Just Not the Same; Wherever U R; Walk In the Moonlight; Feeling my Way; Wait & See; Island Spice.

Personnel: Norman Hedman: congas & percussion; Willie Martinez: timbales; Ron Monroe: bass; Misha Tsiganov: piano & keyboards; Alexei Tsiganov: vibes; Craig Rivers: flute; Sam Furnace: alto sax; Ada Dyer: vocals; James “D Train” Williams: vocals; Dani Stevenson: vocals; Kendra Shank: vocals; Brad Mason: flugelhorn; Robert Aron: piano: A.J. Mantas: vibes; Joe Gonzalez: bongos; - Terry Perkins, AllAboutJazz.com


Discography

Garden of Forbidden Fruit - Release Date: 2006, PowerLight Media

Taken By Surprise - Release Date: 2000, Palmetto Records

One Step Closer - Release Date: 1999, Arabesque Records

Healing Hands - Release Date: 1996, Monad Records

Flight of the Spirit - Release Date: 1994, Monad Records

Photos

Bio

One Line Bio: Percussionist, Producer, Composer, Solo Artist

One man's trash is another man's treasure. Nothing could be truer for Norman Hedman and the discovery of his first hand drum, a conga, he rescued from a Brooklyn garbage can. A native of the West Indies, Hedman instinctively knew how to repair the conga at age 12 and has been playing music ever since.

Background

Today, the music of this first call percussionist, solo artist, producer, and composer, gathers multi-genre music connoisseurs around the globe. Attracted to Hedmans number one hits with broad appeal, audiences discover his passion for accessible music. "I think music heals, and Tropiques music falls into that category; whether youre a teen or 80 years old," says Hedman. From Latin Jazz to R&B and Pop, Hedmans commercial recognition is widespread. His extensive product pedigree includes a variety of hit projects:

Music Accomplishments

Number One Hit Performances
1. Songs in A Minor, Alicia Keys (5 GRAMMY ® Awards)
2. Fear of Flying, Mya (Platinum Album)
3. I Ain't Movin, Des¡'ree (Multi-Platinum Album)
4. Brass Construction, Brass Construction (Gold)
5. Walkin - the Line, Brass Construction (Gold)

Movie Soundtracks
1. Ali: "Fight"
2. Shaft: "Rock wit You"
3. Dr. Doolittle 2: "Rearview Mirror"

GRAMMY ® Nomination List - Best Latin Jazz Album
1. Taken By Surprise (Tropique)
2. One Step Closer (Tropique)

Norman Hedman's Tropique

After accumulating much of his own material, Norman Hedman founded Tropique in 1995. His percussion instruments continue to lend themselves to Latin jazz and island flavors. This dance-based genre makes use of percussion instruments such as timbales, cowbells and congas. Even though several band members play horns, the focus is on percussion.

Hedman and his accomplices captured the attention of the Recording Academy in recent years on two albums. "Taken By Surprise" and "Healing Hands" were both on the nomination list for a GRAMMY ® Award.

Hedman Defies Boundaries of Musical Categories

Chances are if you migrate to more than just one musical genre, then you will love Norman Hedman. A world-class conguero since the early 1980s, the rhythms of studio extraordinaire, Norman Hedman, cross breezy island grooves infused with Latin jazz traditions. Often times, Hedmans music is also characterized as world or alternative music. "That's what Tropique is all about - a lot of different styles rolled into one," Hedman says with excitement. New and inventive concepts, clean, tight lines and original compositions are now his irresistible hallmark of success.

Its difficult to put Hedmans music into just one category, yet he has not abandoned his heritage. Hedman maintains the rhythmic value of Latin music. "I'm a player first. I like rhythms and melodies," he remarked. There is no doubt Norman sets the pace for Latin induced rhythms.

Traditional Instruments Used in Non-Traditional Ways

Although Tropiques rhythmic structure is considered typical Latin, Hedman presents his music with R&B at the core. The percussive parts continue to carry a traditional approach to tropical music with Latin sensibilities. This unconventional fusion of multi-cultural rhythmic structures earns Norman Hedman even broader appreciation. As a result of his association with great jazz artists, and through his own use of the rhythmic and harmonic influences from Africa, Hedman brings his use of Afro-Latin idioms together with a fresh twist. Clearly, this Latin jazz band sets the standard in exciting performances and ground breaking recordings.

Benefits

Norman Hedmans music makes you feel good. Imagine blue skies, and a music that enables you to forget your troubles and release stress. Not only did Hedman identify a multi-genre music void with tropical influences, but he continually delivers quality music for the masses. Through focus, determination, and teamwork, Hedman found his passion and built a business around it.

Before forming Tropique in 1995, Hedman found work as a studio musician after leaving the military service. For two years while in the service, Hedman played with the Third U.S. Army Soldier Show in South Carolina. And just one year prior to entering the military, Hedman graduated from Brooklyn College with a business major in marketing.

Guilty By Association

Over the past 25 years, Norman Hedman has worked with many world-class artists in the multiple genres listed below:

Jazz
Arturo Sandoval; Nancy Wilson; Bobby Watson; Grady Tate; Pat Martino; Chico & Vaughn Freeman; Arthur Blythe; George Cables; John Hicks; Gary Bartz; Ahmad Alladeen; Giovannie Hidalgo; Hilton Ruiz; Arthur Blythe, Horacee Arnold; Airto Moreira; Grady Tate; Monguito Santamaria; Delmar Brown; Lew Soloff and Marcus Miller.

R&B / Pop
Alicia Keys; Main Ingredient; The Jacksons; New Kids on the Block; Daryl Hall; Luther Vandross; The Spinners; Des¡ree; Mya; Sister Sledge; J