Guitarist Thom Rotella has achieved success – both critical and commercial – as a talented instrumentalist and composer. He has made a series of engaging recordings that have attracted listeners on radio throughout America and has also had a thriving career playing and writing for television and films.
Rotella has performed or recorded with a wide variety of well-known artists both in jazz and mainstream pop music. That list includes Herbie Hancock, Stanley Turrentine, David Foster, Kirk Whalum, Tom Scott, Rick Braun, Keiko Matsui, Eric Marienthal, Gerald Albright and Gregg Karukas, as well as pop stars Donna Summer, Cher, The Beach Boys, Lionel Richie, Bette Midler, Luciano Pavarotti and (last but hardly least) Frank Sinatra.
As a composer, Thom has written music for the shows “Extra,” "Sex and the City,” "Santa Barbara” and "China Beach,” and for programs on The Biography Channel, The Food Network and TV Land. He has created TV commercial jingles and underscore music for Ford, Cadillac, Goodyear, Chevrolet and Northwest Airlines. In addition, Rotella has also performed on “The Simpsons,” “Family Guy,” “American Dad,” "The Tonight Show” and "The Tracey Ullman Show," and on numerous movie soundtracks, including; “Same Time, Next Year,” “The Gods Must Be Crazy,” “Rumblefish” and “Mississippi Masala.”
Thom Rotella was born in Niagara Falls, New York and raised by a very musical family. By the age of eight, he knew he wanted to have a music career and began jamming with rock bands in high school. Thom enrolled at Ithaca College (as a Radio & TV major) and then transferred 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 Andrés Segovia," he says.
Back in Los Angeles Thom found a mentor in the legendary Tommy Tedesco, and Rotella quickly established himself as a top call studio musician. He became connected with the pioneer digital recording company DMP (Digital Music Products) and recorded three sessions, all of which were among the most frequently played on the radio and commercially successful. No matter how formatted these recordings ever seemed (it was called “smooth jazz”), Rotella’s music and his heart always found – and continue to find - imaginative approaches to improvising.
As a complement to his recordings, the guitarist has always enjoyed playing live and his with his new group – the 4-tet – that special magic is once again present. "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.”
The Thom Rotella 4-tet is a band that celebrates the spirit of the best modern jazz on the leader’s eighth CD, Out of the Blues. In some ways its main influence is the late Wes Montgomery, an early hero to Rotella. “Wes played music that found its way to the heart and soul. It was based in the simple yet eloquent expression of the blues and it was truly beautiful.” The new group includes drummer Roy McCurdy who for many years played with Cannonball Adderley (it was Cannonball who brought Wes to Riverside Records) and who has been for years working with Nancy Wilson. The other members of the group – bassist Luther Hughes and pianists Llew Matthews and Rich Eames – have also worked with Wilson and they all bring a solid sense of professionalism as well as a true joy in creating to the very solidly musical world of Thom Rotella.