Tropical Nites

by Roman Angelos

Track listing: Motorbike Journey, Regretful Echoes, Secret Officers Meeting, Tropical Nites, Bella in Nighttown, Breezeway, Lady of Singapore, Dark Night at the Tiki Bar, Pages and Palm Leaves, Unwritten Letters,

There aren't enough vibraphones in music today. 

If you're musically inclined, you know the name "Lionel Hampton." He was a badass vibes player, among many other things. And if you're more into music you may be familiar with Milt Jackson. But vibes players just don't get the same love as the Charlie Parkers and Miles Davises of the Jazz world. Not that NY-based Roman Angelos is set out to change the music scene, but it's a choice to make vibraphone a prominent instrument in your band.

Well, Roman Angelos has done just that and a whole lot more on their latest release Tropical Nights. Artist/Educator Ari Joshua and his label Music Factory Records has put out an absolutely gorgeous record. Silky smooth trombone features, flute, grooving drums/percussion/bass throughout... Tropical Nights is essentially a soundtrack for your next tropical vacation. Take a look at the "Motorbike Journey" video when you get a chance. So very enjoyable. The record was actually written during a holiday in the Florida Keys--just picture it: you're a songwriter on a hotel balcony after a couple mojitos, listening to the waves crashing on the beach below, the moon moving slowly across the sky...

Roman Angelos--for the sake of clarity--is the pen name of Brooklyn-based producer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Rich Bennett, "developed as a vehicle to explore his obsession with library recordings of the 60's and 70s, muzak and exotica. Exotic, moody, and wistful, this is a classic septet sound." And what a sound it is! "Motorbike Journey" is a great lead-off single. Mellow, comforting. Reminds me of "Skating" by The Vince Guaraldi Trio of Peanuts fame. You've got a catchy melody line, strolling backbeat, moving bass line, and again with the trombone/flute conversation that acts as a sweet icing on the sonic cake. Bennett says of the song, "Motorbike Journey is about our tendency to always look back on past experiences and focus on them in place of what is presently going on. Often it doesn’t seem to matter if we’re in the middle of a sublime experience or a high point of life, sometimes we’re always stuck looking in the rearview mirror on times past."

"Regretful Echoes" is a full-bodied groove, heavy on all sorts of percussion, with a flood of chords behind a beautiful flute lead and rhythmic guitar arpeggio helping move things along. "Bella in Nighttown" gets a little aggressive and spicy compared to the rest of the record. I recommend sitting with it, living with it for a few listens, to let the record soak into your being. You have tracks like "Breezeway" that feature the guitar, while the closing track "Unwritten Letters" pares things down to simply guitar, flute, and trombone.

Producer Shawn Lee (Young Gun Silver Fox, Ping Pong Orchestra) kept things very honest on Tropical Nights. There is no "post-production magic" to be found. The record is simply a group of skilled musicians feeling their vibe together to create a 10-track series of emotions. If anything, Lee stayed out of the way to let the instrumentalists shine doing what they do best. You don't always have a producer like that, so enjoy the raw musicality of Tropical Nights--we don't get many recordings that are this authentic in 2024.

For now, go check out Roman Angelos at the variety of social and streaming platforms they live on: The record dropped TODAY so take a moment, take a listen, and enjoy your own version of a tropical night from the comfort of your own home.

Posted on 6/28/24