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Roto

Roto

Roto


It’s tempting to describe guitarist, pianist and songwriter James Rotondi--aka ROTO--as a “journeyman” musician, due to his lengthy stints with the French group Air, Mike Patton’s Mr. Bungle, jazz-hop pioneers The Grassy Knoll, and other groundbreaking bands. Still, the Brooklyn-based performer would insist that the title of his first solo album, Summer Home, aptly suggests the sense of homecoming that the record represents; a laid-back, free-spirited musical home base Read more on Last.fm
It’s tempting to describe guitarist, pianist and songwriter James Rotondi--aka ROTO--as a “journeyman” musician, due to his lengthy stints with the French group Air, Mike Patton’s Mr. Bungle, jazz-hop pioneers The Grassy Knoll, and other groundbreaking bands. Still, the Brooklyn-based performer would insist that the title of his first solo album, Summer Home, aptly suggests the sense of homecoming that the record represents; a laid-back, free-spirited musical home base, rooted in power-pop, psychedelic folk and jazz-rock, that he’s never really left. “This is the record I’ve been carrying around in my head and in notebooks and on dirty cassette tapes for the last several years, while on the road with other bands,” says Rotondi (better known by the nickname “Roto,” given to him during his West Coast years by bands like Bungle, Garaj Mahal and Critters Buggin’). Since the album’s early 2009 release, Roto has been performing Summer Home’s sounds at the cream of NYC songwriter clubs, including the Living Room, the Rockwood Music Hall, The National Underground, and Pete’s Candy Store, playing in solo, duo, and full-band settings, all of which, he says, he’s “quite at home with.” “The title Summer Home, on one level, speaks to that place you go where you leave the working world behind, and rediscover all the things that you connected with as a kid.” For Roto, those touchstones include his older sister’s vinyl copies of CSNY’s Déjà Vu and the Beatles’ Revolver; his big brother’s Jeff Beck and Led Zeppelin records; and his Mom’s penchant for Astrud Gilberto, French crooners like Gilbert Becaud, and the smokier side of John Coltrane. But while the album boasts head-buzzing synths and trippy guitars, it’s Roto’s thoughtful and multi-layered lyrics that provide the most cerebral thrills.

The title track, for instance, is less an homage to the sunny American Dream than it is a critique of wealth’s insulating effects: “I don’t want to know about those good citizens/And their sad innocence,” declares the song’s narrator. “Just let me cynical, even clinical/In my indifference/It’s just good common sense.” (Rotondi brings a similar kind of satiric bite to his regular column for The Huffington Post, and his many past articles and reviews for Spin, Guitar Player, The Boston Phoenix and other magazines and blogs.) With a stunning cast of musicians fleshing out these pop novelettes—including keyboardist Didi Gutman (Brazilian Girls, Bebel Gilberto), drummer Shawn Pelton (Sheryl Crow, Bob Dylan), guitarist Joe Gore (Tom Waits, Tracy Chapman), and acoustic bassist Jeff Eyrich (Tim Buckley, Kelly Flint)—Summer Home is more than just the sunny sum of its musical parts. Produced by Roto with engineer Steve Rossiter at Axis Sound in Hell’s Kitchen, New York, it’s a collection of urban—even urbane—folk tales in which romanticism and sarcasm happily coexist, and where the French chanson of “Collette” and the pop-tropicalia of “Baby, You’re the Man,” seem entirely of a piece. Welcome to your new Summer Home.

Have some taffy. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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