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Crosses Three Decades of Music Genres & Generationsby Dawn K. DeBlaze
Copyright © 2009 Dawn K. DeBlaze
Norman Hedman, whose mastery of crossing more than three decades of music genres and generations, died at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York on Monday, September 29 at the age of 63. Causes included Acute Myeloid Leukemia and Pneumonia.
A West Indies native, Hedman is distinguished by having brought the black American sound experience to Afro-Caribbean rhythms. With a brand of tropical jazz very different from other congueros, the signature of Norman Hedman's Tropique included the merger of many styles in his music. His organic approach gathered sounds utilizing unique instruments such as the vibraphone, flute and alto saxophone. He is also known as the first conga player to have his photograph placed on his congas; an effort to deter thieves.
Before forming Tropique in 1995, Hedman worked as a studio musician after leaving the U.S. Army. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Brooklyn College with a business major in marketing. Years later Norman would use his business acumen to develop the PowerLight Media label as a vehicle to market Tropique and other peer albums.
For 30 years Hedman remarkably affected the top echelon of popular music, without ever touching jazz. He performed in a broad range of music genres that included The Main Ingredient, New Kids on the Block, Daryl Hall and Alicia Keys. All together he accumulated performance achievements of five number one hits, three movie soundtracks, and led his own shows at Jazz Standard, Bluenote, the American Museum of Natural History, and other top venues.
Norman Hedman was gifted in discovering and nurturing talent, especially vocalists. Eleven-time Grammy Award Winner Alicia Keys said, "Norman is one of the greatest musicians of all time. His passion and love for music, art and teaching inspire me endlessly." Hedman worked and performed with Keys on her first album, and numerous other projects. Had it not been for the untimely onset of leukemia, he would have performed on Keys' 2008 world tour. Norman is also responsible for helping to develop the career of his niece Erika Rose, nurturing the talent in Luther Vandross as a peer, along with hand-picked musicians in his own band.
Norman embodied the qualities most admired in the human spirit. His reputation for integrity, honesty, and self-expression defined him as the consummate professional that will endure in his memory and music. Both in his professional and private lives, he was a loyal and dedicated friend, and had the tenacity to persevere in the pursuit of the righteous path. His overriding spirit was of caring and the desire to see those around him thrive. Norman will be desperately missed. His spirit will forever light the path of the lives he touched.
Fiercely devoted to his family and friends, Norman is survived by his loving wife of 36 years, Michelline Hedman, beloved mother Ruby Hedman, son Norjon Hedman, and daughter Misha Hedman; brother Tony Hedman; sister Barbara Codrington and two grandchildren, Norjon Hedman, and Taija Law.